There is a lot going on in the world these days. With all that is happening, in addition to the normal stressors and worries that are always a part of life, I've had a hard time feeling calm lately. I feel nervous about leaving the house, guilty for interacting with friends in-person, and worried about the future of our country and all of the beautiful people in it. While we can't control much of what's happening (although we can all certainly contribute to making some situations better, of course), there are some simple things we can do to make our lives a little more comfortable. As a good friend said to me the other day:
We have to find the good and the happy whenever possible right now
I think it's ok to take a break from thinking about the hard stuff once in a while, even if it's just for an hour or two. I've outlined some of the things I do to bring more calm in my own life below. None of these things are ground-breaking or out of the ordinary, but I think every little bit of effort counts, and it really does help.
Create a Calming Environment
I've always worked towards making my home feel clean, warm, and welcoming, but I've focused on making it as calming and peaceful as possible lately. My surroundings really impact how I feel. Now that we are home all of the time, because what we can go out and do safely is limited and we both work from home most days, having a place that makes us feel happy to be in is even more important. Below are four simple, calming things I aim to incorporate into every room in the house. They don't have to require a lot of time or money, and really make a big difference.
1. Soothing Scents
Having things like candles, room spray, or essential oil diffusers can immediately make a room feel like a spa. I keep this diffuser in our office and use lavender essential oil. I have a few candles that I put in the bathroom and living room - I love having them lit when we have guests, but I also like to light them when it's just Cary and I having a quiet evening in. I have yet to find my ideal candle, though - when I do I will share! I also keep a bottle of room/linen spray in my nightstand drawer and in the bathroom, however I'll spray it all around the house. You can find a recipe for the one I use at the bottom of this post.
The bathroom is a great place to incorporate calming scents (think spa!). In addition to a candle and room spray, I also have a bar of lavender-scented soap that we use in the shower and diluted lavender Castile soap that we use next to the sink for washing hands (I'll do a post on my cleaning recipe cheat sheet soon!). I love the smell of lavender, and getting little hits of it throughout the day is not only enjoyable and therapeutic but also serves as a gentle reminder to slow down and savor the moment.
2. Warm Lighting
The amount, quality, and type of light can really impact how we feel and how we sleep. I've always gotten headaches from bright, fluorescent lighting, so being able to work from home in the lighting of my choice has actually been really nice. Candles and light switches with dimmers are great ways of incorporating warm light in the mornings and evenings. I've also adjusted my phone settings to go into "night mode" between 10:00 pm and 8:00 am, so it emits warm light that is easier on the eyes during those times around sleep.
My favorite new source of warm light in our house is our bedside lamps - we got these glow lights from Casper that have been amazing. They emit a soothing warm light and the brightness can be adjusted by twisting them. They can also gradually turn off at night or slowly turn on in the morning to help you naturally fall asleep or wake up. I also love how small and simple they are on our nightstands.
3. Soft Textures
I've read a lot of interior design articles that stress the importance of incorporating different textures in a space, particularly in Scandinavian design. Scandinavian design principles are some of my favorites, which rely heavily on muted colors, natural lighting, decluttered spaces, and a "less-is-more" approach. I think bringing in different textures through functional items, such as linens, is a great way to have an open yet functional space. Beautiful soft pieces can also be very calming and comforting (again, think spa). For example, I keep a soft blanket draped over my office chair to use while I'm working, and we keep a linen tablecloth on our table most of the time (for protection, but it also looks nice).
We splurged on a set of linen bedding from Parachute Home after we moved, and I can't tell you how happy I am that we did. We've always had cotton bedding that was less expensive, and while cotton can be great, we've had our hearts set on linen for a while. It's not everyone's cup of tea (not quite as smooth as cotton), but we love it - it breaths, is durable, and we love the texture. We spend so much time in our beds, and I really value sleep, so it's absolutely worth it to me to have nice bedding. With the linen spray, warm glow lights, and comfortable bedding, we've turned our bedroom into a calm oasis. It's truly a joy to be in.
I love wrapping up in a plush, white towel after a shower. Because white towels don't last a terribly long time, I've never been able to buy expensive bathroom towels. I'd rather get affordable ones more frequently. We got these from Sam's club - very inexpensive but good quality. I also like the looks of the towels in Target's new Casaluna line, that has cotton, waffle, and linen cuff options. I also have bathrobes on our wish list - I think lounging in a soft robe on lazy mornings sounds heavenly (these from Parachute Home look really nice). Having fresh, white, soft bath linens is a simple and affordable way to bring more calm into a daily routine.
Although I prefer to have most items tucked away in drawers or closets, I love having these wooden bath accessories hanging in our shower. They help our bathroom feel like a spa, and remind me to take my time and enjoy my shower. I have this body brush and face brush from Redecker, and a foot brush/pumice stone (similar). I also love this wooden comb - I got it because I read that it's more gentle on hair than plastic brushes, but I also think it's beautiful and luxurious to use.
4. Simple Interiors
My motto for interior design is keep things simple. Our default for any decisions for our home is typically white and wood (white walls, linens, decor, furniture, dishes; wood floors, furniture, accents), with touches of black, grey, and blue accents. We primarily use plants for decoration - being surrounded by living things is really life-giving and beautiful. Although we live in a narrow townhouse, we are really thankful to be in an end unit and so have windows on three sides of the building. We keep our blinds open all of the time to maximize the amount of natural light inside. We strive for openness, and put in a lot of effort to keep clutter cleared as much as possible. Having a clean, simple space contributes to feelings of calm and can help reduce feelings stress and anxiety. As one of my favorite authors, Gretchen Rubin, says:
Outer order contributes to inner calm.
Take Some Time for Yourself
While making a calming space is really important for feeling calm and relaxed, that is only half of the equation. What you do in that space is just as important as the space itself. Your house can be perfectly clean, calm, and organized, but if all you do is read the news 24/7, you might not feel great. Below are some things I do every day to help manage feelings of stress and anxiety. And, again, while I think it's important to keep up with what is going on in the world, it's OK (and recommended) to take a break from it and focus on your own mental health and well-being.
1. Listen to Podcasts & Music
I try not to listen/watch the news all day long. I think it's OK to limit it to once a day, or even once every few days. Podcasts and music are great alternative sources for listening when you need a little break from the news. My current favorites are Brene Brown's Unlocking Us podcast and Gretchen Rubin's Happier podcast. I also love the endless amounts of pre-made playlists on Spotify.
2. Drink Tea
Even though it's summer time and it's been pretty hot outside, I still enjoy a cup of hot tea in the afternoon. It's very comforting and helps remind me to take a deep breath and savor the moment. And, when I need a little energy boost in the afternoon, tea with some caffeine in it is helpful. I have really been enjoying Tazo tea lately. My favorites are Refresh Mint (caffeine-free), Zen, and chai. I drink the Zen and Refresh Mint plain, and I like