Your home should be a place to relax and recover from a stressful day of work, school or being out and about. But unfortunately, stress doesn’t magically go away when you walk through your front door.
Chances are the day’s activities are still on your mind. Plus, there’s now a whole new set of stressors at home. What’s for dinner? Will I need to help my child with their homework? How will I finish those six loads of laundry – and that work report – before bed? How can I relax myself at home?
While it would be great to hand off your responsibilities to a robot version of yourself, the technology isn’t there yet. There’s also no way to get more hours in the day (we already asked). So, what’s the alternative?
Fortunately, there are countless ways to manage stress. Below, we share nine ways you can make your home less stressful for you and your family.
But first, why is stress relief important?
When you keep your stress bottled up inside, it can affect all aspects of your health – mental, physical and emotional. High levels of stress cause problems with sleep, digestive health, obesity and thinking, plus increase your chances of medical conditions like diabetes. Plus, stress affects the heart, increasing your heart rate, and chances of high blood pressure and heart disease.
By managing stressors at home and finding ways to relax, you can boost your overall health. And since your mood will likely improve, life may be more enjoyable – both for you and those around you.
10 tips for reducing stress at home
So how can you make your living space more relaxing for you and your family? And how can you do it without piling on even more stress?
It starts by identifying how your home makes you feel, and how you want to feel. Think about how each room is currently being used and if there are opportunities for improvement. Then come up with a plan that works best for you and those you live with.
1. Set the right vibes with relaxing and positive music
A great soundtrack makes everything better – movies, television and even life. Music has a positive effect on your emotional well-being, is a good way to relax and can reduce stress and anxiety.
Research shows that music boosts dopamine and oxytocin, brain chemicals that are linked to feelings of pleasure and love. Music may even reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
In general, the music that you love is usually best for improving your mood. The exception is sad music which may make you feel worse. But it’s also good to give different playlists a try – listening to new tunes is a great way to expand your mind. Plus, you might just find music that both you and the whole household can agree on.
2. Surround yourself with your favorite things
Here’s the thing: smiling during trying times can reduce your stress levels. So, why not give yourself a reason to smile every time you walk into a room?
Photographs are generally great at getting you to grin. That picture of the family trip to the Grand Canyon can remind you of the people and places you love – and help you remember the awe you felt at gazing at this wonder of nature. Another possibility might be favorite gifts such as a warm, snuggly blanket from Grandma which feels like a big hug.
Of course, it’s easy to stop seeing things that are right in front of you. So, when you’re feeling stress at home, be mindful of the items around you and seek out the ones that bring you joy.
3. Use essential oils for your home and self-care
Smells matter! For example, fresh-baked cookies can remind you of good times with your family – plus they can cover up any funky smells like your son’s super-stinky socks.
Of course, whipping up a daily batch of cookies is unlikely to fit into your busy schedule or a healthy diet. Easier ways to use scents to boost your mood include lighting scented candles or using essential oils. Some of the best essential oils for stress relief are lavender, rosemary, jasmine, bergamot, lemongrass and neroli.
If you’re interested in using essential oils for your home, try an aromatherapy diffuser or a room spray. Or put a drop or two of your favorite oil in your bath for some great self-care.
4. Pick up some plants
There’s a reason why you’re told to stop and smell the roses. There are benefits in slowing down and taking time to relax. Plus, spending time outdoors is great for mental health.
The good news is that you can get some of the same mood-lifting and stress-busting benefits of nature with indoor plants. And because most houseplants don’t produce much pollen, they’re unlikely to bother people who have allergies or asthma.
Still, some houseplants can be dangerous when eaten, so if you have pets and kids in your house, make sure you’re choosing nontoxic plants such as parlor palms, spider plants, prayer plants, succulents or peperomia.
5. Decorate with calming colors
A lot has been said about the impact of color on a person’s mood. Perhaps you’ve heard that red makes you hungry, orange makes you excited and black dulls emotions. But the truth is that how you respond to color is affected by your life experiences and culture. So, what you and others find relaxing may differ.
Still, there’s no denying that colors can affect how you feel, so take time to figure out how color influences your mood. Do you find green soothing? Does blue calm your nerves? Does pink make you feel peaceful? Does yellow bring a smile to your face?
Once you know which colors make you feel calm and peaceful, try to incorporate those shades and hues into your paint colors and room design.
6. Rethink the family room
Does your family room cause you home stress? You’re not alone. In many homes, this is the room that’s used the most, which means there may be Legos on the floor, dishes scattered around the room and pillows everywhere except on the couch where they belong.
There are things you can do to make this room more relaxing. For example, it’s really valuable to have enough storage space for toys and games, and to clear out the dishes at the end of the day.
But it can also be helpful to remember the purpose of a family room – which is to have fun with your loved ones. So if want to play Monopoly with your kiddo, it’s okay to say “sorry” to an evening of chores.
The truth is that having fun with your family is likely to do more for your mental health than straightened pillows could. Plus, you may be able to get your child or roommate to help clean up the room – especially if you lose Monopoly on purpose (not that you’d ever do that).
7. Make space for exercise and meditation
Exercise is good for your body and can help loosen those too-tight jeans of yours. And, there are amazing mental health benefits with exercise and meditation, too.
Any type of exercise can help you feel less stressed and more relaxed. But many people find success with a combination of cardio and yoga, progressive muscle relaxation and meditation.
The best part is that you can do these activities at home. You don’t need much to start working out – a corner of a room and an exercise mat are often enough. For meditation, you just need a space that’s mostly quiet and comfortable (if all else fails, there’s always the bathroom).
There are different ways to meditate. With concentrative meditation, you focus your attention on a single sensation (something you hear, smell or feel) or by holding a particular thought in your mind (a mental image, thought, word or phrase). Focusing all your mental energy on one thing helps nudge distracting thoughts out of the way, increasing feelings of calm and control.
Finding time for exercise and meditation may feel like added stress in the beginning. But once you’re doing these activities regularly, you’re sure to notice a big difference in your stress levels and how relaxed you feel.
8. Set up your bedroom for healthy sleep
Sleep plays a huge role in emotional and mental health. Getting a good night’s sleep helps your mind and body recover from the day, making it easier to learn, remember and deal with stressful situations. Of course, sleep doesn’t come easily to everyone. Tips to help you sleep if you have anxiety or stress include:
- Decorating with the colors that you find especially relaxing
- Lowering lights as it gets closer to bedtime
- Limiting the use of screens (phones, tablets and television) 1-2 hours before you try to sleep
- Keeping the room at a comfortable temperature – for most people this is between 60-71 degrees Fahrenheit
9. Create healthy boundaries and behaviors
In an ideal world, you should be able to leave work at the office, but in the real world this doesn’t always happen. A work-life balance when you work from home can be especially tough – after all, your computer is always there, waiting for you. Putting your computer in a separate room and following a regular work schedule can be helpful. If you feel the need to check in after regular hours, limit it to a couple times a night.
Setting boundaries can also improve relationships with family members. A common (and effective) rule is no phones or television during dinner. That’s because if everyone is staring at a screen while chowing down on chow mein, you miss an opportunity for meaningful conversations that can feed your soul. Plus, you may be too distracted to fully enjoy your meal – which is hopefully filled with mood-boosting foods like carbs and veggies.
10. Clean and organize your home
Regular cleaning is important to remove germs in your home, and decrease the chance that someone gets a cold or flu. You can make it easy by keeping disinfecting wipes in the germiest areas of your house – such as the kitchen and bathroom.
But to be clear, it’s totally fine if your house isn’t organized. People can manage different levels of clutter – and in many cases, it’s not a big deal. If a messy living room doesn’t bother you, there’s no need to bump couch cleanup to the top of your priority list (of course, if there are half-eaten tacos in the cushions, that’s another story).
On the other hand, if a cluttered kitchen cabinet bugs you, it’s important to organize it. The challenge is to find a way to squeeze in decluttering and still have time for other valuable activities that help keep stress under control, such as family time, exercise and sleep. Creating a schedule can be an effective way to manage home cleanup and decluttering.
Sample home organization schedule
It can be helpful to bucket your tasks and set a schedule for what needs to be done daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. For example:
- Daily – Make the bed and do the dishes. Both tasks can help you feel fresh, organized and accomplished.
- Weekly – Organize one space. This can be a drawer, cabinet or shelf. Doing a small task can break up a larger project. And that makes the bigger job more manageable. Plus, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of a cleaner space.
- Monthly – Rearrange furniture or décor in one of your rooms. This refreshes and rejuvenates your home. And you’ll likely feel the same way.
- Yearly – Go through closets and storage areas to remove what’s no longer needed or used. Donate or give away items you no longer use to someone who may appreciate them more. A good rule of thumb? If you haven’t used something in over a year, it’s likely you no longer need it.
Creating a calm, happy environment is a start. But how you spend your time can reduce home stress even more.
Sometimes, the laundry needs to get done. And sometimes you’ll need to stay up late helping your child (or boss) on a report. But, when you have a choice, focus on activities that will reduce stress, make you feel more relaxed, and allow you to connect with others or bring you joy.
If stress is affecting your physical or mental health, talking with your primary care doctor can be a great first step. Or if you already work with a mental health specialist, you can reach out to them too. They’ll be able to help you understand the source of your stress and develop a plan to improve your situation.
Though when it comes to picking out your paint colors, you’re on your own.