Author’s Note: A special thanks to the Lighthouse for Lupus group on Facebook for helping refill my well with tons of great post ideas! If you have a lupus-living-related topic that you’d like to read about here, drop me a line!
Home. For many people, the word can conjure up a warm, fuzzy feeling. Home is (usually) the place we go to rest, to relax and to escape the stresses of the outside world.
In reality, however, the home can be the biggest cause of stress of all. And this can go doubly for lupus patients. Think laundry sucks? Imagine hauling all those smelly clothes around with swollen knees and fingers. Tired of vacuuming already? Try waking up tired and still having to do it. With lupus every nasty, smelly and annoying household need becomes ten times more exhausting, more painful and even more dangerous. And while many people are quick to head right back outside to avoid the house (my mother’s certainly guilty of this), those of us with lupus often feel stuck, almost prisoners of our own homes (as I’m certainly guilty of). And winter, with its arctic-like deep freezes and snowstorms, can compound those feelings until we’re ready to bust into full-on crazy cannibal mode. What? You don’t do the crazy cannibal thing? Must just be me, then.
A person’s environment goes a long way to shaping their moods and even behavior. If being home all the time is making you crazy, some changes can help shift it back to being the center of zen that your health needs it to be.
What’s eating you?
Just deciding one day to shove everything around or hop a flight to Las Vegas might sound spontaneous, and fun, but actually are just short-term distractions. In other words; spend a little time figuring out just what exactly is getting you down. If you really love your home exactly as it is and it’s just pain and fatigue that’s keeping you indoors, then a talk with your doctor (or get a new doctor) about better pain management is a good first step. If you’re bummed just being home for any reason, then maybe it’s the house that needs some work and not you.
Sound kooky? If you’ve ever researched techniques to help you eat better, then you may have heard the tip about leaving healthy snacks out in the open and hiding the junk food where it’s much harder to dig up. The nutshell idea behind techniques like this is that your habits can be shaped by your surroundings. With the food example, you’ll be much more likely to reach for the junk food because your environment is set up so that the junk is the easiest, no-brainer thing to go for. Switch things up a bit and it’ll be easier to consistently reach for an apple instead. This theory is revealing very interesting results in different studies and is gaining more and more attention. You can read up a bit more on this with this link to the New York Times and on this productivity blog by James Clear. Freshening up your home could go a long way to helping your mood and, maybe your health.
Level 1 : Easy tweaks
The easiest home decor changes you can make are switching up things like throw pillows, small rugs and throw blankets, or curtains. Bright, rich colors can be just the thing to cheer up a gloomy room, with a minimum of fuss (or pain). If your home looks a bit too mod and minimal, layers of colorful throw blankets and plush area rugs can up the cozy factor. Items like duvet and pillow covers can be relatively easy on the budget, allowing you to indulge in a bunch to mix and match. You can even sew them yourself with only basic sewing skills, or take up a relaxing hobby such as knitting/crocheting.
Level 2: Purge, Purge, Purge
This is more a long-term project, but it can result in huge changes. If you’re feeling like your home is suffocating you, clearing the air might just be a matter of clearing out your stuff. For my space, I wound up donating (and in one case, deconstructing) three of my biggest pieces of furniture, They were all storage pieces, where I kept more junk tucked away inside – so I got rid of most of that stuff too! Mostly what I cleared away where all the items for things I wanted to do, the someday things that had been sitting around for years. It took a bit of a push to really part with these things; in the beginning, I felt as if I was giving in to my lupus symptoms and essentially saying Lupus wins; I’m never going to be able to do this stuff. However, once I got the ball rolling, it was easier and I felt better. I wasn’t giving up on all the things I wanted to do, I was giving up the pressure to perform up to a certain level. Now I don’t have to stare at dust-covered items for activities that I think I should be doing. I have more room to expand on the hobbies I actually do now – and a little space to just stretch out.
If you do decide to purge, be ruthless, be fierce and keep your eye on the end game – a clean slate in your house.
Level 3: Feng-shui everything
This is the biggie and a great follow-up to Level 2; moving all your furniture around to truly transform your space. I’ve been doing this in my room over the past few months and it’s been a frustrating and liberating chore. I donated pieces of furniture that I had since I was in grade school and feel awesome to now have much more space in my room. The trick to making it manageable is to plan ahead. Do some sketches, or take measurements to make sure before you do any heavy lifting. If you have bare floors, put some cloth underneath to help them glide and recruit help. If your budget is tight, try thinking about ways to re-purpose your furniture. For example, on my room project, I took a night stand, took out the drawers (which make great underbed storage) and am now using it as a tv stand/ book case. An old microwave cart is now a teeny vanity, which is great for my small space.
Any change you make to your home can help, and enhancing your environment is a great 2015 resolution to make. While the suggestions above are pretty general, the theory is that you can change your environment to make bad habits harder and good ones easier to keep. Consider changing your environment to create a relaxing space for yourself, or think about tailoring your changes to make healthy decisions easier.