The non-stop togetherness of households in the pandemic is causing extra stress, experts say. For nearly a year now, members of the same households have been working, learning and living in the same shared space. If that’s true for you, it may be time to create a quiet space in your home.
“We forget about our need to just be quiet,” said Angela Fileccia, social worker and manager of Northern Light Acadia Hospital’s healthy life resources program. “Particularly since the start of the pandemic because we all seem to be constantly bombarded at home with other people, screens or some sort of device.”
But how can you start creating that space?
What is a quiet room?
According to Rachel Cannon, a Louisiana-based interior design consultant, having a quiet place in the home means just that — a physical space where you can be alone. Ideally, this should be a room with a door that can be closed.
“It’s a place you can walk into, sit down and close the door,” Cannon said. “Look for low traffic areas in your house where you can build your nest of solitude.”
The space, however, doesn’t have to be something new. A seldom used guest room or even a large closet can be transformed into a quiet space.
“Once you start looking, you’ll probably find a small area in your home you can carve out for yourself,” Cannon said. “Just make sure you clean it out of all clutter because clutter and be a distraction and distractions are not welcome in a quiet room.”
Make it about you
A quiet room should reflect your personality and design aesthetic. Cannon encourages people to furnish their quiet room with things that hold great meaning, like a grandmother’s afghan or a souvenir from a dream trip.
“Don’t worry about what others think,” Cannon said. “This is your space and designing and decorating it around what you love means you’ll feel like you’re walking into a hug every time you open the door.”
Comfort is also important. Whether your idea of comfort is a tidy desk for doing puzzles or a recliner in which to read or nap, put in the furnishings to meet your comfort needs.
Cannon recommends using soft textures like carpet, textiles and drapes and even upholstering the walls to dampen sound.
“Think of a recording booth — they are so insulated it’s almost like you are in a vacuum,” Cannon said. “You don’t have to go to that extreme, but following that concept will help you achieve peace and quiet.”
How to use your quiet room
Solitary peace and quiet can be a bit scary for some people at first, according to Fileccia.
Fileccia recommends starting off slow with quiet room time. Try turning off all your devices and just sitting alone for 60 seconds and see what that feels like. Incorporate some simple breathing methods and just be quiet paying attention to your own breath.
“Being quiet and concentrating on your breathing actually elicits a relaxation response in your body that can bring down stress levels,” Fileccia said. “But it can be hard to do unless you have that quiet space.”
Along with relaxing with your thoughts and breathing, your quiet room can also be a place for you to read, do crafts or catch a nap.
“It’s the perfect place to give yourself a mental reboot and recharge,” Fileccia said. “It’s restorative as we go back to buzzing about for the next thing in our day.”
Nothing to feel guilty about.
It can be very easy to feel guilty or shame in wanting to escape from your family for even a little bit of time. But having a quiet room is one of the best things you can do for yourself and family, according to Cannon.
“It might sound selfish at first but it is quite literally a room to get away from your surroundings so you can recover, process and recharge,” Cannon said. “This actually helps you show up as the best version of yourself in your job and with your family and friends.”
Fileccia said self-care strategies, like quiet rooms, are analogous to when flight attendants instruct passengers to put on their own oxygen masks before helping others.
“If we take care of ourselves we have more capacity to take care of others,” Fileccia said.
It’s also important to set boundaries and stick to them, Cannon said.
“Decide on the rules for your quiet room,” Cannon said. “If the door is shut, does that mean ‘don’t bother me now?’ Make sure your family understands the sanctity of your quiet room so it doesn’t devolve into another family hangout space.”
At some point, the pandemic, and non-stop togetherness will end. But that does not mean your quiet room should turn back into a guest room or closet. The pandemic and associated lockdowns have only amplified an already existing need for that quiet space.
“Our phones are constant distractions, social media has conditioned us to constantly check to see if we’ve missed something and the news cycle never stops — we are all running on fumes trying to function, [and] it’s incredibly exhausting,” Cannon said. “While COVID has certainly brought its own, previously unknown level of annoyances within our homes, the importance of a quiet room will live on long after we return to our work environments.”