Q I live in an apartment and my neighbours are very noisy. Under normal circumstances I can cope fine as I am out at work and the noise dies down around seven when the two kids who live there go to bed. But now I’m at home during the day working. Obviously there is very little that the parents can do so with the current restrictions so I wouldn’t complain but I am going out of my mind. Can you give me some strategies to cope?
A There is a lot to cope with right now. With so much uncertainty, it is naturally leaving many feeling that they are not in control of the normal world we knew and lived in. Acknowledging this first, is really important.
Noise that you can’t control is very distressing and the more you try to ignore it, the louder it can be. There are different strategies you can try. Perception will be your reality so one possibility is to re-frame the situation.
When you are on holidays, say on the beach or by a pool, do you like the sound of children ‘playing’? I have ‘playing’ in inverted commas as it can also be just noisy. I’m just wondering how you find it when you are away?
If you don’t have children, or even if you do, could you take some time during the day wearing noise-cancelling headphones? When my husband was in hospital in a very busy ward last year he said it was the best gift I ever gave him. Sometimes for your own sanity and wellbeing you do need to shut out the sounds of others.
The goal right now is to help you find ways that will help you through this situation as it is. Being aware that the noise is impacting you, and finding ways to control what you can control, will appease the build-up.
Soothing your mind with mindful walks can be a good antidote. At the noisiest times of the day go out for a walk. If at all possible find somewhere that is quiet, nature is really healing and even though you are restricted to the permitted 2km radius, think of the nicest place you can go to get some peace.
If possible, do some stretches whilst outside. When you breathe in, imagine filling your body and mind with quietness and a sense of space. As you breathe out imagine releasing any frustration, upset, fear and stress.
Listen to the birds, look up to the sky, feel your feet on the ground. Breathe in again for five, imagine each cell in your body feeling rejuvenated and soothed by each breath. As you do a deep, loud exhale perhaps you can let a scream out (best done with no one around), as you let go of the pent-up frustration of having to quietly endure noise all day long.
When you get home write out how you are feeling. Note each emotion. Physically connect to each one and identify what is there. Let the emotion come up and give yourself permission to have a cathartic and releasing cry.
Check out simplynoise.com – there are some free soundscapes such as white noise, or sea-waves or Binaural beats that are supposed to be helpful and calming to your brain. This could be your background noise, or your favourite music or guided meditation.
Whatever you choose to listen to, this can bring back the feeling of being in control within your own home. Noise you haven’t chosen feels invasive.
List all the things you can control within your life right now, some of it might seem basic, but you have access to breathing and what you choose to eat and drink.
Nourish all your senses right now. Soothe your senses with water in a bath or shower. Close the door, light some candles and if you can still hear the noise play some music or sounds that you have chosen.
Learn about and practise polyvagal breathing, which can reduce stress, anxiety, anger and inflammation by activating the relaxation response of your parasympathetic nervous system.
Getting you started is beautifully simple, all you have to do is hum your favourite song. When activating the vagus nerve with conscious breathing, breath in for five, hold briefly, and as you release, do so for 10 seconds with a ‘hhhh’ sound as if you are trying to fog up a window.
This puts the brake on your fight or flight response and moves you to the rest and digest mode which is a much more relaxing experience. By slowing your breath down from 10-14 breaths per minute to 5-7 breaths it changes the tone of the vagus.
This deep slow diaphragmatic breathing will be a great tool to help you in your current situation. As you breathe in, imagine filling up the lower part of your lungs just above your belly button like a balloon and then exhale slowly. That is all you need as you stimulate your vagus nerve and soothe and bathe your parasympathetic nervous system.
I hope these are helpful and if it gets too much you could talk with your neighbour in a very nice way – she mightn’t be aware of how much you can hear.
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