How to Create a Mentally Healthy Home Environment to Reduce Stress
Mental health is top of mind for many these days and it has become an agenda priority whether you are in government, at work, in school or at home. With the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic seeming to stretch endlessly before us, many mental health organisations are experiencing unprecedented levels of engagement and requests for assistance. But no matter how much help is out there, we all need to take responsibility for our own mental health, and that of our children if we have any at home with us. Before situations deteriorate to the point where we need to seek outside help, we can all take measures at home to reduce our stress levels and mind our mental health. In today’s blog post, therapist Teyhou Smyth looks at ways that we can reduce stress by creating a mentally healthy home environment. Small, simple steps are sometimes the easiest to implement and stick to, and can have large, long term impacts.
The world is stressful, so when we come home, it should be our haven away from the madness. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t work that way, as our homes can bring an entirely different set of stressors, from household obligations and bills to family discord. Creating an environment that fosters mental health and wellness is an important part of reclaiming your space.
Sorting Out the Problem Areas
When living in an environment every day we can become so accustomed to the problem areas that our awareness of them becomes deeply marinated in our psyche. When this happens, we can become blind to the problems or feel as though they are just aspects of daily life. Sometimes the stressors become so familiar they begin to feel inevitable and insurmountable, and this is when mental health can be affected.
Think about the aspects of home that are stressful. Try to approach your space with “new” eyes to get a fresh perspective on the areas that are causing you stress. Imagine you are someone else, looking at your home from an omniscient point of view. What aspects of home life would likely cause stress?
Common sources of home stress can include:
- Clutter and disorganisation
- Stressful relationships with loved ones
- Financial problems
- Home repair needs
If you were looking at your home situation with fresh eyes, what sorts of stressful circumstances would you observe? Taking an inventory of your home stressors is a good first step in understanding what needs to change. Some of the problem areas may jump out at you immediately, while others may be so ingrained that they feel permanent. Some of these deeper challenges are spin-offs of routine stressors, and may include:
- Excessive amounts of “stuff” that may indicate you are trying to fill a void in your life.
- Unhealthy relationships that have caused you to retreat within yourself and not be “you.”
- Crippling debt that has become significant enough that you are avoiding opening mail or dread answering the phone.
- Chores that have been neglected because of depressive symptoms and have become overwhelming.
Challenges like this can leave you feeling lonely and hopeless. These symptoms are more common than you would think and are often related to difficulties with depression and anxiety. It is important to remember you are not alone and help is available.
Here is an article that will explain the difference between horizontal and vertical stressors.
Hitting Reset on Home Stress
When thinking about how to destress your home, it may help to create a three-column to-do list.
The first column:
List tasks that you can do independently (eg. open and sort mail, fold the laundry, clean out and organise a closet).
The second column:
For tasks you need help with (maybe it requires a specialised skill like home repairs, etc.).
The third column:
For issues beyond your immediate control or that may require a longer-term fix with assistance from others (relationship stressors or financial issues may fall under this category).
Not all home stressors are created equal, which is why it is important to focus on the ones that are within your control first. Sorting them out in this way is like untangling them from one another. Rather than experiencing your home stressors as insurmountable, they can be addressed one at a time.
As you tackle the items in your first column, consider narrowing them down as specifically as you can. For example, if one of your home stressors is “clutter”, take on one area at a time and create a system for yourself to sort stuff into “keep”, “toss,” and “donate.”
If you have several problem areas related to clutter, commit to tackling at least one per day. To maintain it, make an agreement with yourself to sort mail and other items that come into your home as soon as it comes in. Try to avoid setting something down unless you are coming right back to it or you are placing it where it belongs in your home.
For items in your second category, elicit help from others. If possible, set a date for each item in column two, requesting help from the people who can help solve the issue. Setting a date for the fix establishes a deadline which legitimises it and makes it a priority.
Column three contains the topics are likely the issues that cause you pain. Those aspects of home stress, whether they are financial stressors or relationship discord, are the deeper challenges that can impact quality of life most significantly. These types of stress may require professional intervention, depending on the topic. Assistance from a financial advisor, attorney or another trained professional may be practical to help resolve these types of difficulties. Talking with a therapist or mental health provider can help sort relationship challenges that impact your stress levels at home.
Stress can be detrimental in so many ways, and home should be a place where stress is at a minimum. As you sort and conquer your home stressors, think about what you want to replace it with. When you flush away stress it creates space for better energy and a haven for comfort.
[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website www.livingwithfinesse.com ~ some content may have been modified for the UK/Irish context.]