In these unprecedented times, many lives, plans and situations have been upended. For many, the uncertainty has brought about a seemingly more hectic and out-of-control life.
This is scary.
Also, with social distancing and lockdowns, getting our ‘me’ time has become harder. Oh, the irony. This is painfully true for those who are stuck at home with families, or share a flat with a roommate or partner because now, the harmonious in-and-out-of-home schedules have been temporarily put on hold.
And we don’t know when this cycle will end.
Which makes things scarier.
Having our own personal space for some alone time is beneficial for our mental health and well-being. These boundaries we set give us energy, stimulate creativity and most importantly, help us relax and calm down, as a place of respite from a crazy world.
When talking about personal space, there are two types:
- The immediate space around us. Every person has an invisible second skin, a margin of safety we maintain with others – aka personal space. We have that distance so as not to get ‘awkwardly close’ with random strangers and as a sign of respect too.
- A physical, private space. A part of a room, house or office where we can get some alone time.
When others encroach upon our personal space, it triggers and increases stress. Research points to humans being emphatic creatures which gave rise to the term emotional contagion.
According to psychologist and author, Robert Sommer: “What happens when these zones are intruded upon is quite consistent: people become stressed out, anxious, tense and easily frustrated.”
We ‘catch’ the moods and emotions of the people around us. Research shows this happens for good and bad vibes. Good mood and happiness – and laughter – are also contagious. Similarly, our stress levels can increase when the people around us are stressed.
When there is no way to escape this negativity, we feel our stress levels and anxiety rising.
Everything feels so ‘constricted’ for many these days. With this shorter fuse, we deeply crave to reclaim some of our sanity by creating our private sanctuaries, no matter how small our ‘crowded house’ may be.
Photo source: Pexels | Miriam Alonso
From The Stress-Free Home author, Jackie Craven, “There’s less stress in a home if each person in the family has a spot that’s just theirs: the workshop in the garage, a chair in the corner, a closet for a child.”
When carving your own space for ‘me’ time, it can come in different forms and ways. We’re going to give you seven tips and techniques to help you achieve this. Check them out below:
1. Negotiate your space and respect boundaries
First things first, in any shared apartment or home, each member must know to respect the boundaries of others living with them. This is the first step towards a more harmonious and stress-free life at home.
Communication is key to setting up this foundation. Negotiate your space. Pick an area at home that you’re most comfortable with and claim it as your private space. When you retreat to this area of comfort, others will know not to disturb you then.
This is true when you attempt to delineate your work area versus your relaxing area. Not only should this be said amongst adults, but young children can also be taught some of these patterns. Once this is set, the entire family can work together to make their own version of a stress-free home and the next steps will be easier.
Quick thought: this ‘space’ doesn’t even need to be an actual physical space. It could be signs of wanting to go into some ‘me’ time like putting on headphones, starting to sketch, sitting down to read a book or watering your plants. These actions could silently imply that ‘I do not wish to be disturbed.’
Photo source: The Tot
2. Search uncharted nooks and crannies
In your home, you’ll surely find some empty space or corner that’s been overlooked or underutilized. Look for blind corners, empty walls, under the stairs, or any space that you don’t go to or use.
Any of these areas can be transformed into a private little spot you can call your own. You can look at outdoor spaces too like a balcony, terrace or porch, these are also very viable area options that can be modified to serve your ‘alone’ time. Best yet, you also get some fresh air and reconnect with nature this way.
A reading nook easily comes to mind when talking about reshaping underused nooks and crannies at home (if not that, maybe additional storage). All you need is a small space, enough for one, place a soft thick cushion, throw in some pillows and, voilà, you’ve created a cozy little private sanctuary.
Photo source: Flickr | Original version of Marco Verch Professional Photographer
3. Repurpose some area at home
If you’ve optimized your space amazingly and no corners are left unattended, then maybe you can try repurposing a space instead.
You’re going to have to exercise some flexibility here. If your kitchen was solely for cooking before or the dining table is just for eating, those counters may now be used to do some work. If you have a tub at home, you can add some relaxing decor around it – plants, candles, toilet rug, etc – to create a calming ambience and make a soak your best ‘alone’ time yet.
Any outdoor space would be most fitting for this purpose. No matter how big or small your balcony, porch, or backyard is, repurposing it into a space that can serve as a personal area will be heavenly. Setting it up outdoors gives you a temporary escape from that ‘constricted’ or ‘crowded’ feeling more effectively than staying in.
Quick tip: when looking to alter a space, make sure to keep your bedroom sacred, at least your bed. And most importantly, do not work on your bed or else your mind might start associating your bed with work and that may disrupt sleep.
Photo source: PxHere
4. Divide your space well
Segregating different areas and giving each a purpose helps us manage everyday life and tasks better because of the physical and psychological boundaries they create.
When you divide your space well, you won’t get overwhelmed with tasks on hand. Consequently, it will also be easier for you to find your breathing room and timely handle the build-up of stress and anxiety.
The most common approach is to divide the private area (usually the bedroom or sleeping area) from the public space (usually where guests are entertained). And today, there are also many who seek to have a separate and dedicated work-from-home area so as to keep a line between personal life and work life.
No matter how small your space is, there are different ways to divide it. The divider itself can be a decorative aspect because it need not be a wall. You can use screens, curtains, low consoles, bookshelves, plants and many more. Just try whichever may suit your fancy and give you some additional functionality.
Photo source: Unsplash | Yehleen Gaffney
5. Make use of all your senses
When creating a private space, do not limit yourself to just the sight or physical boundaries. You can also consider other senses like sound, touch, smell, and maybe taste, in rare occasions or when you’re being super creative.
In the evolving solutions and innovations of architecture and design, studies are starting to recognize the role of human senses in this practice and vice versa.
Here are some tips for you to try but it all depends on what works for you and how you want to feel in your private space.
The easiest to accomplish would be scent – through aromatherapy. You can define your space using your favorite scent or perfume. But most notably, scents are used for calming, relaxation and stress or anxiety relief.
There are specific scents for different purposes:
- Lavender is known to help you relax and unwind
- Lemon can lift your mood, improve concentration and reduce sluggishness
- Ylang-ylang helps relieve tension and sadness and boost your mood
- Eucalyptus (especially in the shower) can calm you down and help you relax
There are certain precautions when using aromatherapy. Make sure you don’t feel any discomfort or irritation and use in light moderation.
Photo source: Unsplash
For others, it might not be the sense of smell that works for them, but rather, hearing. Sounds around your home may be distracting or irritating. You have to strike a balance between quiet, noise, and a great, relaxing sound.
If you’re looking for some auditory stimulation, you can try the following:
- Use headphones and play tunes that fit you in that moment or mood; many use headphones to indicate or transition to their ‘in-the-zone’ time
- Install speakers if you’re looking for a light background sound that you can work to while eliminating other distracting noise
- Add a small water features to hear the light sounds of water and get a bit of that biophilic effect into your space
Photo source: HGTV
Another approach is through touch. You want to create a personal space that is inviting and gives off the feeling of warmth. If you’re going to spend some ‘me’ time in that area, it has to be comfortable and welcoming for you to want to be there in the first place.
Incorporate textures that tingle and give you those happy positive vibes:
- Try putting a soft tufted rug where you can bury your feet in
- Have a good amount of soft pillows that are nice to the touch, inviting to look at and comfort to lay on
- Choose materials that do not irritate your skin even with prolonged contact
- Have a small wooden table on the side if you like the feel of running your fingers along natural wood and feel its crevices
Photo source: Pexels | Daria Shevtsova
6. Welcome the feel of nature
In a similar vein, reconnecting with nature helps you reconnect with yourself. Being close to nature tickles all our senses – the smell of the grass, the feel of the wind, the random noise of birds chirping and flowing water, and unimpeded views.
In this age of social distancing and lockdown, this craving to be closer to mother nature is stronger than ever. Count yourself lucky if you have an outdoor area at home because that would be an ideal space for some ‘me’ time to let your mind wander.
Bring in indoor plants and greenery. Several studies show that bringing the outdoors in has several positive effects to our mental health and well-being. Plus, they beautify and soften the feel of an entire space making it perfect for relaxation and driving all the worries away.
Photo source: Unsplash | Patrick Perkins
7. Personalized items
Your space, your things. If you want to create a private space you can call your own, personalize it. You can place some memorable or sentimental decorations that speak to you. Or, place some pictures of your loved ones.
Not only does seeing these items bring you happiness and calm; but they also help define that space. With this, you’ll have your little corner that fits only you and you can call your own; and no one else can claim it.
Photo source: Pexels | Teona Swift