Why your home could be stressing you out (and what to do about it)
Many of us have experienced stress of some form or another at some stage in our lives.
While you may have developed techniques and coping mechanisms which help you to manage it, those who suffer from stress will know just how debilitating it can be.
Even though today’s hectic family schedules take their toll on our lives, it’s the pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture which is one of the biggest issues when it comes to mental health, with many people struggling to achieve a work-life balance.
In a lot of cases, the cost of success at work may come in the form of poor health, stress, and burnout.
Figures from the Mental Health Foundation suggest one in six of us will experience a mental health problem in any given week.
17% of employees are ‘seriously stressed’ at work and feel ‘significant levels of stress’ on a day-to-day basis, according to further research.
Fortunately, Stress Awareness Month - which happens every April - will see healthcare professionals and health promotion experts across the country join forces to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.
To coincide with Stress Awareness Month, we decided to take a look at some of the causes and potential solutions to stress at home.
Stress and the home
While leaving stress behind at work may seem hard, having a peaceful and positive life at home can have a real impact on our happiness levels.
The problem is, although our homes are supposed to be a place of calm, they can often be the source of stress, rather than the rejuvenation we frequently need.
If, for example, your home is cluttered and untidy, this can make you feel on edge at the start of the day. You may also feel reluctant to return home to a flat or house that’s disorderly and chaotic.
When your space is overly full, your life is overly full. New findings from Gumtree reveal that almost three quarters of Brits say that having items they no longer need makes them feel stressed and disorganised.
Clutter distracts us and makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.
It frustrates us by preventing us from finding things quickly.
It reminds us of all the things we have to do.
It’s exhausting just thinking about it.
It’s not only a drain on energy, but also a drain on time.
Four steps to create a stress-free home
By contrast, creating an ordered, peaceful home means you can start the day from a place of calm.
And, at the end of a hard day’s work, your flat or house can be the sanctuary that you want to escape home to.
The good news is, just a few small steps could make a real difference.
Declutter: A few hours spent decluttering will mean you have more time, more energy – and potentially even more money if you sell the stuff you no longer need or use. While you might not feel motivated to declutter, it’s a bit like going to the gym: once you do, you feel so much better.
Redecorate: A little time devoted to changing the way your home looks could also go a long way. Decorating your home with colours and themes that you – and your family – love, can help you feel relaxed. Research studies reveal that, for example, rooms with bright light can improve depression and anxiety.
Furnish: Adding a few nice touches – such as house-plants, flowers, personal photographs, a music system, and aromatherapy candles – can also make your home more of a haven.
Organise: There’s a lot to be said for the principles of ‘feng shui’ – the ancient art of placement – where you decorate your home in a way that will reduce stress and allow energy to flow freely.
The key is to try and make your home a peaceful and enjoyable place to be – so you can love your home life. This, in turn, will help you to be happier in your life, not just in your space.
Once you’ve created your stress-free home, you’ll be able to relax so much more with your family; you’ll also feel happy about inviting friends and guests over.
All of this can be invaluable, as time spent socialising and chatting with friends is a simple but sure-fire way to lower your stress levels.
Find space to relax at home
Another good way to cope with stress is by making time – and space – at home to relax when you need to.
Having a dedicated area where you can kick back can really help with this. Your bedroom, a study, or simply a comfortable chair to curl up in are perfect places to relax.
You might go to this place each day to meditate, jot down a few thoughts, read a book, or listen to music. All of these activities can have a soothing effect.
Whatever you do, make sure you draw a line between work and home. This will help you relax in your home space, rather than have a mind still occupied with work thoughts.
If you do need to bring work back with you, only work in a certain area of your home – away from the place where you relax – and make sure you can close the door on it.
Another important step in decreasing stress at home involves putting tech away.
According to Ofcom, eight out of ten of us keep our mobiles on overnight, and around half use our phone as an alarm clock.
Shutting our tech in a drawer is a tough rule to follow, but one that can really help you turn your home into somewhere sacrosanct – both for you, and for the people who share your home with you.
Talk to your neighbours
While clutter and disorganisation may be some of the key contributors to stress at home, all sorts of things can have an impact on your mood and health; another key factor can be noisy neighbours.
If you’re struggling with an issue like this, try talking to the person concerned. While you may hate the idea of any sort of confrontation, people are sometimes unaware that they’re causing a problem – especially when it comes to noise.
By speaking directly with your neighbour, you may find the problem can be resolved quite quickly.
Equally, if you’re genuinely worried about talking to your neighbour, you can contact your local authority’s antisocial behaviour team or your local police. They have powers to take again against people if behaviour is unacceptable.
If an issue can’t be resolved amicably, one further option you have is mediation. This will come at a cost – but the cost is likely to be a lot cheaper than hiring a solicitor – and will hopefully help you to improve your overall level of happiness.
Take control of your finances
Finally, finances can also be a huge cause of stress. One in two Brits have found it hard to concentrate or make decisions at work because of money worries, while 19% have lost sleep, according to research.
One simple way to keep stress levels under control is by staying on top of your financial paperwork.
After all, if you’re disorganised, bills can get lost – meaning you may get hit with late fees. This, in turn, could have an impact on your credit record – and could affect your ability to apply for credit in the future.
The good news is, there are simple steps you can take which can reduce stress levels significantly.
Open your post as soon as you receive it.
Pay any bills straight away.
Have a well thought-out filing system.
Equally, right at the start of the home-buying process, this means managing the paperwork that comes with taking out a mortgage.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. A quick win here involves looking for an online mortgage brokerthat will handle your application digitally and give you easy online access to key information.
This could cut out many stress-inducing delays to the mortgage process, giving you more time to kick back and relax in the comfort of the new-found sanctuary that is your home.
This article was written by Esther Shaw, an award-winning financial and property journalist who’s written for The Independent, The Mail on Sunday, The Telegraph, and Good Housekeeping.