It’s the most wonderful time of the year… Except if you’re coping with holiday season stress. Throw in the added difficulty of coping with Covid and the need for self care is evident.
The good news is you don’t have to travel to a luxury spa to meet this need. Adding wellness design features to your home, on your own or with professionals, can support your emotional and physical well-being, not just through the holiday season, but year round.
What is self care? Everyday Health defines it this way: “Self care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy, you can be well, you can do your job, you can help and care for others, and you can do all the things you need to and want to accomplish in a day.” While many professionals focus on nutrition, sleep, exercise and other stress management strategies to support self care, your home can be a foundational element to all of those approaches. After all, it’s where you eat, sleep, connect with your immediate family and often exercise. These days, it may also be where you work.
Wellness design is the practice of creating built spaces that support the physical and emotional well-being of their occupants.
Wellness Benefits of Nature
Wellness design can begin with natural elements, especially in our technology-centric schedules. “Nature is essential to our optimal well-being,” observes Rev. Connie Habash, a San Francisco Bay Area-based interfaith minister, psychotherapist and yoga instructor. “Many studies have demonstrated its ability to calm our nervous system, reduce stress, bolster the immune system, improve sleep, and increase a sense of general well-being,” the therapist declares, adding that “There are ways we can connect to the beauty and benefits of nature, even in an apartment.”
If you have a balcony, sit quietly there and enjoy the many sights and sounds of nature, even in an urban setting, she suggests. If you don’t, set your desk chair or favorite relaxing seat near a window to take in nature views. If you don’t have any, add house plants to your space and spend time enjoying them. “Notice the variations of color, shapes, how the light reflects on it, and gently feel the texture of leaves and stems.”
You can ironically use your technology to enjoy nature. Visualizing yourself in your favorite places outdoors is easier than ever with digital TVs and picture frames. Sound speakers let you enjoy the gentle noises of your favorite nature spots. Sit and breathe deeply, using your senses to imagine yourself at that beach or on that wooded trail or snowy mountain. “Doing these practices will give you a welcome break from your busy life and offer you some of the ease and peace that time in nature has to offer,” Habash says.
“Plants are a must in every room,” declares Lenora DeMars, a Huntington Beach, California-based interior designer who specializes in wellness. “If there is a need to partition a room, a great way to do that is to create a living wall. It can be simple or elaborate depending on your space and budget. If you lack the floor space, hanging plants in the corner of a room works well too. Hanging two to three potted plants will create interest and depth in the space, along with bringing Mother Nature inside,” she adds.
Flexible Self Care Planning
Those without space to themselves or green thumbs can downshift with temporary or flexible use of a shared suite. “Let your partner know you need some self-care time in the bathroom,” Habash suggests. “You could take a bath or shower, but you don’t have to. You can bring in some candles, a device to play relaxing music and set up a meditation space on the spot, or spend time journaling by candlelight,” the therapist adds.
DeMars notes that self care spaces can be simple spots where someone can savor the activities they find relaxing, or flexible areas that transition purposes from day to evening. “I like sitting areas to read and drink tea,” she shares. “This could be a dedicated room or an offshoot from the living room. Is there is an available corner in a room to create a place to ground yourself and meditate or a place to stretch? My approach to these types of spaces is to think about what the person enjoys [and] potentially create a flex space. By day it’s your office, then transitions into your yoga studio in the evening. Sometimes we may not have a separate space for each type of task. We can look at space planning and shift things around or utilize furniture that can transition. Sometimes limited spaces means having to get creative.”
Ultimate Bedroom Sanctuaries
“This is a room for your body to regenerate and recharge,” DeMars explains. “To get the best rest it’s important to keep as many body burden toxins out of this space. When buying bedding look for GOTS certified and natural materials such as latex, kapok or wool for your mattress and pillow inserts. Purchase an air filter so that you’re breathing in clean air. Things to take out include electrical devices. Designate a space outside of the bedroom to charge phone and tablet,” she advises.
Lighting is important too, DeMars notes. “Use natural lighting as an indicator for your body to transition from waking up, getting out of bed, and getting ready for the day.” Not a fan of blackout window coverings, the designer suggests letting light come through naturally in the morning to give your body a gentle nudge. (If your home isn’t set up well for morning light or privacy, a sunrise alarm clock can provide that feature.) Lighting controls can also achieve the desired result.
Technology for Self Care
“Lighting control plays such a big part in the home,” declares Amanda Wildman, a technology integrator in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. “When we can have light not only change in intensity through the dimming of fixtures and shading of windows, but we are able to change the color temperature throughout the day to follow our circadian rhythms, it’s a game changer!”
Technology can also provide personalized entertainment and escape, she adds, including golf and hunting simulators, great when weather or schedule don’t allow you to enjoy these pastimes away from home.
Home Safety for Self Care
One of the destructive factors of the pandemic has been to make millions of Americans feel less safe at home. “Safety is top of mind when designing,” DeMars comments. “When it comes to the safety of occupants, I need to consider physical hazards.” Those extend well beyond Covid, especially in regions with flooding, fires, earthquakes and tornadoes. It also includes focusing on materials that don’t create pollution inside the home, DeMars notes. “To me that is part of the self care journey. Creating a home to support our mental and physical well being.”
If you’re planning on remodeling your home to be a sanctuary, carefully consider the professionals that can bring your vision to reality. “I think one of the most important pieces to creating a haven in your home is to curate a team that will help you bring your vision to life,” Wildman advises. That team will ensure that your selections won’t adversely affect your health, and will deliver smooth service.
“I partner with my clients and a team of professionals, like the architect, designer and builder, to educate my clients on the available options for their project and then we curate the best solutions for their space that will create the experience they desire when they arrive at their sanctuary.”
That can mean a home that will make 2022’s holiday season as stress-free and self care-supporting as possible.
Author’s Note: Habash, DeMars and Wildman will be participating in a Clubhouse conversation on Wednesday, November 17 at 4 pm Eastern (1 PM Pacific) to share more self care advice, and answer participant questions. This session is open to design industry and health professionals, as well as enthusiasts interested in those areas. Those who miss the live event can find a recording the following Wednesday on the Gold Notes blog.