How to Turn Your Home into a Relaxation Oasis: Self-Care Ideas in the Pandemic Era
By Julia Wohlers, Brand of People Magazine
Our homes are multitasking on an unprecedented scale these days. What used to be our haven from the pressures of the office and the hubbub of the grocery store is now Ground Zero for all the activities we once accomplished elsewhere: working, shopping, exercising, educating our kids, socializing and just about everything else. To set yourself up for optimal success – both professionally and personally – it’s important to make self-care a priority, and in an era when we’re spending the majority of our time in one confined space, that takes careful planning and intentionality.
Here are some ways to optimize your living space, practice self-care at home, and transform your house from an activity catch-all into a functional relaxation oasis:
Create Separate Spaces Designated for Different Activities
The area we once called our living room is now the workspace, the gym, the shopping center, the school, and the place where we’re somehow supposed to find a way to set all those other things aside and relax(!) Not only is this a recipe for a cluttered, inefficient space in which it is difficult to achieve anything, but it also creates mental confusion over which task to focus on.
Think of it this way: when you’re at work, you have a dedicated desk assigned to you (be it a cubicle, an office, or a coworking area). It’s the space that holds all the equipment, devices and tools you’ll need to do your job, and just by simply entering this space a signal is sent to your brain that it’s time to focus and be productive.
You probably don’t walk into your place of work and wonder if it’s a good moment to trim your nails; you already know you’re not in the appropriate place for that activity. Creating a designated space for work (and conversely, for play or relaxation) is essential to facilitating balance and establishing a clear divide between your work hours and your personal time.
While it’s particularly challenging to cordon off designated spaces in apartments or smaller homes, it’s important to claim different portions of your house for different activities. Reserve your bedroom exclusively for rest and sleep; create a corner of your kitchen or dining room for work or home-schooling; use your entryway or a corner of the living room for working out. Give the kids a space for dumping out their toys and puzzle pieces. And as much as possible, respect these boundaries and make sure the entire household understands the specialized purposes of each space.
Check Off Low-Effort Tasks with a High Emotional Return
With all the pressure we’re under these days, don’t miss an opportunity for that natural dopamine hit your brain experiences when a task is accomplished. An important component of self-care is looking for small, low-effort tasks that instantly make you feel a little more put-together and on top of things.
- Making your bed, for example, takes just a couple of minutes yet can instantly make you feel like your living space is polished and organized.
- Get dressed. This might seem like a silly task to mention, but you may feel better about yourself fully dressed than staying in pajamas. Even the easiest ensembles, like black leggings paired with a cute sweater and your favorite pair of earrings or a necklace stack, will make you feel like a new person, ready to take on the world.
- Take a power nap. When the monotony of the week (or month or year) has you wondering if this is your own personal Groundhog Day, give yourself the gift of a 20-minute snooze. For parents or caregivers with small children around, schedule a nap during their naptimes or sit them down in front of a cartoon episode. A rejuvenating nap may just transform the rest of your day and give you the recharge you need to make it to bedtime. And you can’t put a price on that.
Ask Yourself Which “Spa Features” You Can Easily and Affordably Integrate into Your Day
To most effectively infuse your home with a sense of relaxation and separate it from the demands and chores of the day-to-day, think about amenities or features typically found in a spa and determine which you can integrate into your space to amplify your self-care.
- Refill your water bottle to ensure you stay hydrated. It’s a small act, but knowing you’re taking care of yourself is profoundly rewarding. To make it a “spa feature,” add some fresh lemon or cucumber slices or sprigs of mint.
- Light your favorite candle. Pay attention to the scent and see if you can parse out its various notes; allow yourself to indulge in the calming effect.
- Play some relaxation music or curate a playlist suited to your mood. To mimic a massage setting, play an Enya album or an instrumental playlist with a slower, “chill” tempo to quiet your mind and relax your muscles. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering if relaxation music really works, rest assured: research demonstrates that the tempo of music has a profound effect on emotions and the body, and can reduce feelings of anxiety as well as certain physical symptoms, like elevated blood pressure, a quick heart rate or nervous system overstimulation.
- Get to stretching. While it’s somewhat less intense than a full-body massage, stretching holds myriad benefits for your body, such as improving your flexibility and posture, increasing blood supply to muscles (and therefore increasing nutrient supply as well), and releasing tension. This is a big one – many of us carry stress in our muscles, and when we feel overwhelmed, muscles can tighten as a defense mechanism. Stretching is a deeply effective form of self-care and stress management that also boosts your energy levels and brings a sense of invigoration. (Pro tip: Stretch and move your muscles with a little relaxation music on in the background!)
- Start journaling. If this is something you don’t already do, it’s never too late to start! Journaling and expressive writing have been found to boost your mood, reduce depression and post-trauma avoidance symptoms, and enhance your sense of well-being. Set aside a few minutes every morning to sit down with your coffee and a blank page. Start with a gratitude list, or simply put pen to paper and see what emerges.
Remind Yourself that Self-Care Is Real and Important
Busy adults often have a difficult time convincing themselves that self-care is really necessary, and that it’s truly important for our physical, mental and emotional health. As our homes have become the epicenter of our stressors, the de facto downtown for our recreation, and the setting for everything in-between, it’s in everyone’s best interest to seek out ways to optimize our living spaces and make them work for us. With a little planning and organization, self-care at home can become a lifestyle change that positively transforms and improves our day, even if we have nowhere to go.