Our world and lives have significantly changed.
Due to the current health crisis of covid-19 we are now all spending most of our time in our homes, and significantly more time with partners, children, housemates, or alone, than most of us are used to. Our home should always feel like a calm, safe space, and the environment we live in is now more important than ever. Who we live with, clutter, increased noise from house members being together more, and lack of personal space, may all be impacting our mood and overall well being.
While what is happening outside in the world around us right now feels mostly out of our control, there are many things we can still focus on and control inside our home to help create structure and minimise stress.
Here are some ideas in setting up your home to help create a greater sense of calm and wellbeing.
1. Maximise natural light. Open up all the blinds in your house on waking. Exposure to sunlight is important for regulating mood, insufficient exposure to daylight can contribute to low mood and feelings of depression.
2. Open the windows! Let fresh air circulate throughout your home. Take some deep breaths. Breath in the fresh air! Breath work is great for calming the brain and nervous system.
3. Get organised. Make your bed. Put items away after you use them. Have a place for important items such as your keys, wallet, bag, mobile phone. (Not being able to locate important items you need each day can trigger feelings of stress and agitation and cause unnecessary rushing and running late). Clean as you go. Don’t leave the dinner dishes for the next day. Waking up to a clean organised house is a lot more calming than waking up to mess and clutter.
4. Dim the lights (if you have dimmers installed) or switch off brighter overhead lighting and turn lamps on around your house when the sun goes down. Our brains can have difficulty producing adequate melatonin levels required for sleep if we are exposed to bright lights at night.
5. Think of colours, sounds, images that soothe you. Introduce those into your home in your furnishings, art work, the background music you play. Scents can also invoke a feeling of calm, use essential oils in a diffuser or scented candles.
6. Install black out blinds in your bedroom to help reduce street lights and noise to assist getting to sleep, staying asleep, and minimise waking too early.
7. Plants, plants, plants! Being surrounded by nature is calming and house plants can help improve air quality. Consider installing a water feature in your outdoor space. Listening to the sound of water flowing can help induce a state of relaxation. Plant greenery outside your windows. Gardening can be a great relaxing activity and you are also exercising and moving your body while you garden-great for mental health!
If you are currently experiencing elevated anxiety and feelings of overwhelm in the midst of this pandemic you are not alone. Here are some rituals to practice at home (that we practice ourselves) that can reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety,
1.Meditation and Breath Work are simple, and very effective techniques you can utilise any time you begin to feel overwhelmed, stressed or anxious. These techniques are great for improving mental health and wellbeing by helping calm the brain and nervous system. Youtube is a great resource for free guided meditation. 10 mins is enough time for meditating if you have children or are busy juggling working from home at the moment. 20 minutes at the beginning or end of your day is ideal, and significantly helps to reduce anxiety and overwhelm by calming your brain and nervous system.
2. Create a room or outdoor space that you can take some time out in to relax in or enjoy a personal hobby. Creating a personal space is particularly important if you live with housemates or have a young family.
3. Set up a daily routine. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Eat your meals, plan home based activities, call/face time friends and family around the same time each day. Having a sense of time and control over what is happening to you in your day is very important for good mental health right now.
4. Put phones, iPads, laptops away at 8pm. Play music, read a book instead to start winding down for sleep.
5. Get adequate sleep. This is vital for our mental and physical health. Insomnia is a risk factor and exacerbates many mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. If you are having difficulty falling asleep the following activities before bed may assist:
Close the blinds and dim the lights as the sun goes down;
Put your mobile phone on silent, out of reach, and out of the bedroom;
Take a bath;
Read a book;
Make a cup of herbal tea; Try not to consume caffeine after midday;
Exercise for 30-40 minutes/day and no more than 2 hours before bed;
Reduce or cut out alcohol and sugary foods. Alcohol significantly interferes with sleep quality. Drinking alcohol can cause you to fall asleep more quickly but can also make sleep more restless and increase the likelihood of waking throughout the night;
Turn the TV off and play music or read an hour before bed;
Practice deep breathing or meditate 30 minutes before bed;
Set up your bedroom to be a space that you want to sleep in. Invest in a good quality bed, mattress, pillows, duvet, bed linen and sheets that help your bed feel soft, warm, comfortable, and a place you want to to sleep in;
Try a weighted blanket. These can help soothe the nervous system by delivering deep touch pressure evenly over the body.
**The people that we live with is also a very important factor in our mental health and wellbeing. Safe respectful relationships between partners, parents and children, and between housemates is crucial for our mental health. If you require assistance with relationship or parenting issues, that may have become heightened due to the many stressors resulting from covid-19, please reach out to a mental health professional for support.
Stay Safe. Stay Home.
Live Well + Be Well.
Vanessa + Jahnna x
Images from Bed Threads