Fix Your Environment: The 12 Days to Lower Stress Levels
Right now, Ravi and I are in the process of moving from an 800 square foot apartment into a 4500 square foot home. We're going from 1 bedroom/1 bathroom to 4 bedrooms/4 bathrooms + a media room, pool table, pool, and hot tub.
We've been in this apartment just over a year and it's very pretty. The complex is in a safe location, has a community saltwater pool, pool table, and a restaurant/bar that delivers to our door for free. It's nice, but it's small.
He and I have grown out of this space. Our closet doesn't fit our collections of shoes. The bedroom doesn't have space to add nightstands to our king sized poster bed. We don't have room for both my office setup (since I work from home) and a dining table.
With all of our stuff, organization is a big issue. I don't have room in the kitchen for all of my baking supplies, so they get packed into the same cabinet as my serveware. Extra batteries don't have a place to live. I don't technically have a pantry, so one of my cupboards is overwhelmed with different kinds of rice. Where do I pack up summer clothes for the winter?
As the nooks and crannies of our apartment started to fill, I started noticing that I was spending more and more time alone. Ravi would come home after work, change into jeans, and immediately run back out the door. "I'm just going to go say hi really quick" would last until 10:30 or 11:00 at night. It began to effect our relationship a bit. Anytime I wanted to spend time him, I'd have to put it on the calendar to go somewhere or I'd have to tack myself onto his friends group for the night.
I became a little bit volatile. We'd have a raging fight and I'd break down. I'd spend the whole next day cleaning instead of working. I would resent it, but he would be so thankful and we'd find peace again. I started to realize that not only was he avoiding the house because it was a visually frustrating place, but I had just as much stress from being in a place that never looks finished as I did from him escaping it.
Your environment can make you a peaceful, productive person or it can making you an anxious, crazy asshole.
Let's look at potential environmental issues that may be causing you more stress than you realize. Once you identify a problem, you can address it in a more productive way.
1. Obviously, clutter.
I'm not going to lecture you on cleaning your space. I'll let Marie Kondo help you purge your wardrobe and tidy up. Fix up your desk, get the dishes done regularly, and make your bed in the morning. Tidy up your mind by tidying up for your space.
A little dog lives in the apartment above me and it loses its mind, barking and throwing itself up against its cage repetitively for hours a day.
I've found that the worst times are between 9:30 and 11:30 am and between 1:00 and 3:00 pm. It's clearly in distress and it's distracting, but I have done everything I can to have the leasing office address it with no resolve. When it impedes my ability to work, I try changing my environment. The coffee shop is sometimes a welcome change of scenery.
Improving your environment is about adding or subtracting. If the ticking of clock on the wall is getting on your nerves, you can subtract the clock from the space. Alternatively, you can play Sungha Jung's beautiful guitar tracks or turn on a fan with a pleasant vibrating sound. Both help.
Remember those Febreze commercials about nose blindness? I feel like your subconscious still responds to scents, even when you don't notice them. If your house smells like dog or dirty bathroom, I think you get stressed out without even knowing it.
Alternatively, if your house smells like Christmas trees or white tea candles (my fave!), even when you're not paying attention to it, I think it helps your brain chill out.
Some lighting is really aggressive. The light at Walmart would be an example of really aggressive light. Then, some light is kind of depressing. I would argue Hollister stores have depressing light, since it's so dim that it's hard to see. I actually worked at Hollister and am 100% sure the lighting is so dark so you can't see the quarter inch of dust that accumulates every 3-5 days on every single surface of the store.
Find lightbulbs that meet the needs of your space. The kitchen can be brighter. Your bedroom should be a little softer.
Natural light makes a huge difference too. Opening up the blinds makes the room look and feel larger. It also exposes you to the glory of sunshine. When my blinds are open and my room fills with sunlight, I get so much more done. I ultimately end up lowering stress on multiple planes just by fixing the lighting.
It's an itchy feeling that says 'there's an emotion here we don't want to address.' It's thick and uncomfortable and damages relationship. Tension can be awkwardness, mourning, insecurity, or anger.
Tension lives in the air and suffocates the positive vibrations that exist in the space.
Again, we look at the idea of adding or subtracting. We can add something, like an apology or a gentle gesture (flowers often work). We can add a smile or a joke. Conversation, whether about the tension or not, can also be an addition with potential to fix the environment.
It can also requires a subtraction. If the tension is coming from a momento you've kept that creates tension between you and someone else, subtracting it from the environment will improve it. Sometimes it's a shitty friend you have or relative that just brings negativity into your home and, as hard as it is, consider whether subtracting an individual from your environment would improve it.
I pick yoga studios based on mood lighting, the music, and the energy. I'm so picky about yoga studios, but I know now that I should pay just as much attention to the vibrations in my own home.
I have to say that feng shui and vastu shastra are such strong, inspiring concepts. Both help you channel the energies of your environment to ultimately improve your life. It's not science, but if dictating that your family photos be located on a particular wall to keep you prosperous, only good can come from that.
You are in control of your environment. Make sure it's a fulfilling, productive environment. It should soothe you and comfort you.
I am proud to say that my spouse is much more comfortable with the amount of space in our new home and that he's present, helpful, and engaged in our new environment. That takes stress out of our relationship, which removes stress as an inhibitor to my productiveness. It's cyclical!