I recently had one of those weeks so stressful that I would rather have juggled flaming power saws.
It started with Hurricane Isaac.
Next my 90-year-old father, who was recently sprung from the hospital where he’d spent three weeks fighting pneumonia, was readmitted.
Then a dentist, while replacing an old filling, cracked my molar. Now I need a crown.
But each day, after the world had had its bullying way with me, what got me through was my home. I love coming home.
Friends, pets, an understanding mate, a large pour of wine, and a long run have pulled me out of past slumps, but this week my house restored me.
I looked around and asked why.
Because I move so much, I’ve pared down my furnishings to only those I love. I keep the place clean and clutter free. But the most calming part is the lake view. Sitting on my back porch, which overlooks a lake, is like a tranquilizer.
To add to my notions of what makes a de-stressful home, I asked two therapists to share their tips. Diane Lang, a psychotherapist and life coach from New Jersey, and design psychologist Toby Israel, also from New Jersey, both specialize in stress management. They agree: If you don’t feel a sense of calm and peace when you come home, you need to figure out why not and fix it. Here’s how:
Get rid of this
Clutter. Clutter is a big flag that you’re stressed, but it’s also a big source of stress. It makes you feel out of control. “If you de-clutter your home, you will de-clutter your life,” said Lang.
Technology. Every home should have a technology-free zone, with no phones, computers or televisions. “We need quiet, unplugged time every day to disconnect and relax,” said Lang.
Add some of this
Water. If you can’t glimpse the ocean, a river, a lake, or a pool from your home, try adding a water feature, a fountain, or a birdbath.
Nature. Bringing the outside indoors is de-stressing because nature is a great balancer, said Israel. Create an indoor oasis by pulling in orchid plants, other flowers and greenery. Capitalize on any view of a garden or nature. Outdoors, create a sanctuary-like spot in your yard where you can go to unwind.
Good memories. Think of a time and place where you were happy, said Israel, author of “Some Place Like Home” (Wiley). Then pull elements intrinsic to that space – colors, textures, art – into your present space.
Light. Sunlight is a natural mood lifter, said Lang. Open the drapes. Add a skylight. Conversely, be sure your bedroom gets completely dark. That’s important for proper sleep, which is important for managing stress, said Israel.
A homecoming ritual. When you come home, create a habit that signals that your work day is over. Turn on music. Walk the dog. Make tea. Change your clothes. Such transitions help put the day behind you.
Exercise. Create a space in your home where you can work out, whether you add a treadmill or a yoga mat. Physical activity is a natural stress reducer.
By the end of my week, Isaac had blown by, and Dad was on the mend.
One night, as I sat on my porch looking at the lake and listening to the frogs, I called Dad to check on his progress. He answered from his hospital bed.
“Tomorrow,” he said, “my goal is to swing my legs over the bed and stand up.”
“You know what, Dad?” I said. “That’s my goal, too.”
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo). www.marnijameson.com.