Our home impacts our mental well-being. This is important when stress levels are high, there is uncertainty in the world and some individuals are isolated from their supports in the community.
Mental wellness is the ability to adapt to changes in the environment using one’s own coping skills to be flexible, accept the change, take control of things we can and accept the rest.
Sounds simple enough, but is it? Flexibility is difficult at times when unexpected things happen, but there are ways to prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally to deal with stress, changes, isolation and even a pandemic. Managing stress requires self-care through exercise, healthy diet and getting enough sleep.
Being in our home, apartment or living quarters for the past year has been difficult for many people. How do we maintain our living area so it doesn’t feel like we are in confinement? When everyone is able to go out to work, stores and events without fear, there will be some who avoid going home to the place they associate with the struggles of the past year. Some people will move, others may not be able to because of circumstances.
Changing an environment can help us emotionally change feelings initiated by a negative event, trauma or loss. If we can afford to, we can redecorate the home—but it’s not really necessary. The brain makes associations through our senses, memory and elicited emotions.
Vision: Color can change emotions. If the walls are white, gray or beige, paint one accent wall a brighter or richer color. Change the color of furniture with different pillows or covers on couches. Spatial changes can alter mood, so move furniture around in the room.
Smell: When walking into a room, try to identify what causes an emotional change. Maybe we need to add a scent that brings up good memories, like grandma’s apple pie.
Hearing: Close to a major road or highway, the sounds of alarms, police and fire trucks can trigger fear or anger. Use a timer to start a TV, radio or tablet to sounds that are soothing or relaxing.
Touch: Add more textures to an environment by painting the end tables with texture paint, adding decorative tiles or adding a few fidget toys around the house. Reuse old, unwanted clothes to make a hand-tied blanket or pillow with different materials. Collect some wild flowers or succulents from the desert that are safe to touch.
Try new recipes, or eat a new fruit, vegetable or food.
These simple activities can give our home environment or office a renewed or better feeling. Individuals are continuing to spend significant amounts of time at home, so we should make it our sanctuary—not solitary confinement.
Clarese M. Basile is a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and counselor in Tucson. She offers compassionate individualized care that includes medication, individual and group therapy, as well as couples counseling. Connect at 520-349-1781, [email protected] or OwlCUBH.org. See ad. page 8.