As we all know, stress takes a major toll on one’s health. Increased risks of heart disease, depression, and obesity are all consequences of an over-stressed lifstyle—not to mention aggravated chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, and insomnia.
There is an overwhelming amount of research proving the negative health-impacts of stress—yet the problem is getting getting worse. Polls show that Americans are more stressed out then ever—and milder symptoms such as heartburn, interrupted sleep, muscle soreness, and clouded thinking are considered an average aspect of everyday life.
While you can’t change the world we live in, you can get better at dealing with stress, especially when it comes to those stressors that have their root right in your home. These easy tips will help you get from overloaded and overwhelmed to calm zen master without moving heaven and earth in between.
1. Open the blinds A little sunlight in an otherwise dim apartment or home can significantly boost your health and outlook, according to a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. They cite a study performed on prison inmates where a control group was allowed access to natural light and a nice view. The result? Dramatically fewer calls to the infirmary. While your home isn’t exactly a prison (at least, one hopes not!), a little sunlight should help quell feelings of frustration that can metastasize in a dark space.
2. Go on a digital diet I’m as guilty of overindulging in social media as anyone—the stack of books on my dresser often sits gathering dust, scrapped in favor of a few late-night gifs or Facebook quizzes. But pre-bedtime web surfing can get you into trouble: screen light prohibits melatonin production, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy. That means that your eight hours a night may be harder to come by, and the less sleep you get, the more susceptible you are to stress and anxiety. To break the habit, stop using digital devices an hour before bed, and place them away from your bedside so that you won’t be tempted to pick up your phone before dozing off.
3. Invest in some comfy bedding Speaking of sleep and how important it is, you’ll get a lot more of it if you like where you’re doing it. Clean, breathable, Egyptian cotton is ideal for bedding, with a soft, comfortable duvet for chillier nights. As for your mattress, it should be firm enough to hold your weight without being too stiff or resistant. Give yours a test by stripping off the pillows and lying on it in a fetal position on your nondominant side (so if you’re right-handed, you’d lay on your left side). You should feel supported and comfortable, even without pillows—if not, then it may be time to invest in a new mattress.
4. Buy a plant (or two!) Houseplants do more than just look pretty. They demonstrated stress-relieving benefits in one Dutch study of hospital rooms—plus, certain species are natural air purifiers that can reduce the level of harmful toxins throughout the home. For the black thumbs out there, spider plants and peace lilies in particular make a great choice. They both clear the air and are easy, low-maintenance plants that do well in partial sunlight or shade.
5. Take it one step at a time Advice urging a deep clean or decluttering falls deaf on the ears of the overstressed. Another huge project to add to an already massive to-do list? No thank you. But a messy, disorganized space has been shown to have negative benefits on your psyche. Physical clutter competes for your attention, drawing focus off the task at hand—in fact, it may be just as bad for your brain as multitasking. Instead of trying to conquer your home in one day, divide your decluttering into manageable tasks or “zones” that you can tackle over time. If you find the idea of cleaning less than thrilling, you’ll love the app Unfilth Your Habitat. It’s like a motivational coach for house chores, and it includes built-in break time—a must for those of us with too much to do.
6. Practice mindfulness while cleaning Routine tasks like dishes or folding laundry make the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness, which has been shown to reduce stress and contribute to overall feelings of well-being, as well as help with emotional regulation, so you’ll be able to better deal with stress triggers in the future. In order to deal with problems that cause stress, we tend to ruminate, running the issues over and over in our minds, which tires out our brains. Mindfulness teaches us to focus and direct attention onto the task at hand, leading to clarity and calm. That’s not just a benefit to your space—it’s a life-changer.
For more helpful tips on home improvement, visit Modernize.
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