Typically, this is the time of year when a lot of us would be focused on spring cleaning. Yet, with the coronavirus requiring so many of us to be at home, virtually all day, every day, it can be hard to make that a priority when 1) your house is now your office (and if you have kids, also a school) and 2) you are so over looking at your place that you're not even all that inspired to give it the TLC that it needs and deserves.
If that about sums up how you feel right about now, this article was written with you in mind. I know that times are tough and money is tight. But since you've gotta be in your crib most of the time, why not use this as an opportunity to do a little remodeling? To create the kind of oasis that makes you feel less bored, more relaxed and like, no matter what is going on outside of your front door, you totally adore the space that you are living, 24/7, in.
What do you need to do to bring you to this kind of resolve?
1. Get Some (More) Plants
When it comes to this first tip, I'm actually preaching to the choir because, although I am an ambivert who works from home, I don't have one plant in my house (don't judge me). That's pretty weird considering I grew up in a home that has plenty of 'em. I think it's because I'm very aware of the care and attention that they deserve (even the low-maintenance ones) and I just haven't become intentional about adding them to my daily routine. That doesn't mean I shouldn't, though; especially right through here because plants can make your living space much more calm and serene. Tranquil even.
One more thing while we're on this topic. It's been proven that indoor air pollution is 2-5 times higher than outdoor air pollution and can be far more deadly. Why am I bringing this up? Well, if you've read somewhere that plants can also reduce indoor air pollution, I hate to break the news to you, but nowadays, they are saying that is a myth (check out "A Popular Benefit of Houseplants Is a Myth" and "Which houseplants should you buy to purify air? None of them."). So, just what can you do to remove some of those extra toxins that you're currently taking in? Declutter. Get a humidifier. Remove your shoes as soon as you walk into your house (so you're not tracking dirt and dander throughout your home). Dust and vacuum. Open up your windows sometimes and, once you are done using your candles, put the lid back on them; that decreases the amount of smoke that goes out into your room once you blow the candle out.
2. Make It Smell Good
In a nutshell, aromatherapy is all about using plant extracts in order to improve your overall health and well-being. It can decrease stress, reduce pain, treat headaches, boost your immune system, improve your quality of sleep, ease depression symptoms and even fight off bacteria and fungus—all things that we need on a whole 'nother level these days.
So, whether it's via a soy candle, diffuser, DIY spritzers or draping something like eucalyptus vines on your bedroom wall, it's well worth your time and money to get some "smell goods" for your house. As far as aromatherapy scents that are wonderful de-stressers, some of those include lavender, jasmine, lemon, bergamot and rose.
3. Pick Up a Blackout Curtain
Although I make sure to get 8-9 hours of sleep each day, I must admit that it's not always consecutive. Sometimes I'll sleep for five or so hours at night and then take a nap in the daytime. If you're not used to being at home during day hours and the at-home demands and stress are pushing you to your limit, taking a nap might be just what you need. If, like me, it's hard for you to rest in a bright room, you can trick your body into thinking that it's nighttime if you put up a blackout curtain. Just make sure to set an alarm. For a nap to be truly effective, you only need about 20-30 minutes in order to give yourself a real energy boost.
4. Wallpaper Some Stuff
Something that you can do to totally change the appearance of a bookshelf or any shelves in your house is to put some peel 'n stick wallpaper (which you can buy at Walmart or home improvement stores) on it/them. It's the kind of wallpaper that's also cool on breakfast trays or even a backdoor of your home office or your bedroom. Click here and here for a few tips and other ideas on how to make peel 'n stick wallpaper can totally upgrade your home.
5. Invest in a Slipcover for Your Couch
I'm willing to bet some pretty good money that you and your couch are about to break records thanks to how much time you'll be sitting on it. One way to keep the appearance of your sofa from boring you to tears is to get a couple of slipcovers to put over it. Sites like Sofa Lush, Jane Closet and The Décor Home Store have them for under thirty bucks. You also can typically find them in stores like Target and Walmart too. While you're at it, pick up some (extra) throw pillows. A simple addition like those can change your living room's appearance. As a bonus, they're super comfy as well.
6. DIY a Bed Canopy
While we're on the subject of upgrading your living space, if you want to do something different with your bed, how about making your own bed canopy? All you really need are some sheer curtains and copper rods and you can create a whimsical getaway in your very own bedroom. If you'd like to learn how, click here.
7. Buy a Whiteboard
Whether you're working from home or homeschooling your kids (or both), you definitely need a couple of whiteboards. When it comes to your work, whiteboards are affordable ways to jot down ideas, keep up with goals and to organize your thoughts. On the homeschooling tip, they make it possible to put together lesson plans and keep your kids engaged with what you are teaching them. You can usually find them at office supply stores for less than $10.
8. Make Your Own Clothing Rack
Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine who was feeling guilty about wanting to purchase a few new clothes that were on sale. "I mean, with all that is going on in the world right now, am I being insensitive?" they asked. My response was, "Shoot, with all that is going on in the world right now, if a new outfit will make you feel better, I say cop it. Plus, it's 40 percent off, so you're saving money."
Listen, no one is suggesting that you should be out here whilin'. But if you are also using this time of quarantining to toss out the old and bring in a little new, why not take out a weekend to make a clothing rack? Something that's great about this idea is a rack can provide you with extra space to hang up clothes, plus you can move it to anywhere in your house that you want. Some copper pipes, glue, a tape measure, a Sharpie and nail polish remover (basically a quick run to Home Depot or Lowe's) are all you really need. Click here for instructions if you want to take this suggestion on.
9. Change the Frames of Your Artwork
If you're sick and tired of looking at the same art that's on your walls but your budget won't let you purchase any new prints, you can totally change the appearance of the art that you currently have by simply putting them into some other frames. While that might sound a little too Martha Stewart for you at first, articles like "DIY Picture Frame Tutorials (How to Make a Picture Frame)" will show you that it's easier to do than you probably thought. Plus, if you hit up a family member or friend on Skype, Google Hangout or Zoom, y'all can hold a virtual arts and crafts party which could be a lot of fun.
10. Order a Laptop Stand
It's been years since I've had a desktop computer; I have a couple of laptops instead. Something that I know I need to stay on top of is maintaining my posture. One way to do that is to invest in a laptop stand. Not only does it make things easier on your neck, shoulders and back while you're typing away, a laptop stand help to keep your laptop cool, makes it easier for you to read whatever is on your monitor and, it can help to decrease the chances of it getting damaged due to dropping it or spilling something on it. Just prop the stand on your desk, put your laptop on top of that and your all set. Target has some that are less than $15 that are great for if you want to work in bed or while sitting on your sofa. Or, if you want to get one for your home office desk, "10 Best Laptop Stands (Review) in 2020".
BONUS: Make a Rug Out of Your Old T-Shirts
I think it's like once a day these days when I find myself triggered about something that is being overlooked at the expense of the Rona. For example, did you know that the EPA has currently relaxed its regulations in direct response to the pandemic (SMDH)? One way to do your part to care for the environment during all of this upheaval is to upcycle. And one way to do that is to repurpose old clothing. If you've got some old T-shirts that you don't know what to do with, you can even update one of your floors by making a rug out of 'em. Basically, you cut your T-shirts into strips to turn them into "yarn". Then you crochet them into a circle and voila! You've got your very own area rug (you can get all of the instructions here). It's a creative way to pass the time, to not be wasteful, and to have something decorative to show for it after you're done. It's just one more way to beautify your place and enjoy your space until this quarantine passes. #verycool
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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What Are Intrusive Thoughts & How Do We Manage Them?
TW: some depictions of intrusive thoughts may be disturbing for readers.
Have you ever caught your mind drifting off to entertain the most disturbing scenarios imaginable? Maybe you can’t stop thinking of all the ways a loved one could pass away or worrying that you left every candle lit in your apartment to which you’d return to a home in ruins. If distressing ruminations like these have crossed your mind, you may be experiencing an intrusive thought.
What Are Intrusive Thoughts?
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted or distressing thoughts, images, or impulses that pop into your mind without your control or consent. These thoughts can be repetitive, unsettling, or even violent in nature, and can cause anxiety and frustration for those who experience them.
“Generally they're unwanted thoughts that come up in our head that interrupt what we're doing or thinking, and can feel very foreign,” says Adia Gooden, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and host of the Unconditionally Worthy podcast. “It’s any thought that intrudes or interrupts what you are doing. They can be distressing and upsetting for us because it feels like we are not in control of them, and they're coming up out of nowhere and aren’t in line with how you normally think.”
What Causes Intrusive Thoughts?
Certain trauma or stress can contribute to the development of intrusive thoughts, so having a challenging experience from the past or current life situations may trigger them to form. “An intrusive thought could come in the form of a flashback, image, or a thought about something that's happened to you,” Dr. Gooden tells xoNecole. “When it gets to the point where you feel like you can't function or make clear decisions, that's when intrusive thoughts become really challenging.”
While some of the 1 billion videos found under the #intrusivethoughts hashtag on TikTok would lead you to believe that these thoughts are nothing more than casual displays of our imagination going untamed. Intrusive thoughts are more than sticking your hand in a soap dispenser, wanting to cut all your hair off at 3 a.m., or having a random impulse to eat fake bread in public.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America reports that approximately six million individuals, equating to roughly two percent of the American population, encounter intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are often linked with obsessive-compulsive disorders, but they can also manifest in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety.
Examples of Common Intrusive Thoughts
Because of the explicit nature of intrusive thoughts, they tend to cause shame and internal conflict in those who experience them. Although these thoughts can differ from person to person, these ideation can consist of:
- Violent or aggressive thoughts towards oneself or others, such as harming or killing someone;
- Sexual thoughts that are unwanted or inappropriate;
- Repetitive thoughts, such as a song or a phrase that keeps repeating in your mind;
- Contamination or germ-related thoughts or the fear of contamination and getting sick;
- Religious or blasphemous thoughts, such as questioning one's faith or having thoughts that go against religious beliefs;
- Doubts or uncertainty about one's own actions or decisions, such as fear of making a mistake or fear of not doing something right.
Intrusive Thoughts and OCD
That’s why Dr. Gooden encourages everyone to understand the difference between our fleeting thoughts and impulses and true, intrusive thoughts. “What level of distress does it cause and is it something you would never consider,” she says. “If you're finding that these thoughts are getting in the way of you living your life and that you're controlled by the thoughts, those are some signs that it would be good to get some support in navigating it.”
She also emphasizes the importance of understanding that while we may not always have control over our thoughts, we can control our behavior. “On TikTok, people are sort of blaming intrusive thoughts on their behavior, and our behavior is always a choice,” she says. “If we are in our right mind and we're not having a psychotic episode, our behavior is our choice — we are not obligated to follow any given thought that we have.”
Are Intrusive Thoughts Normal?
With intrusive thoughts, it’s natural to question whether these thoughts are “normal” to have. However, these thoughts are not meant to define who you are as a person but simply indicate that you have a functioning human mind with automated thoughts that you, or any of us, can’t control. These thoughts may come, but they don’t have to be acted upon, nor do they define who you are.
“I've worked with clients in the past who say, ‘Why am I thinking these things? What's wrong with me?’ But if you're not acting on the thought, then it's probably not a huge issue,” Dr. Gooden says. “If you are thinking a harmful thought towards yourself or someone else and you are making plans to act on that thought, then yes, we need to do something about it.”
How To Manage Intrusive Thoughts
If you are struggling with managing unwanted thoughts, Dr. Aida suggests taking these tips to help manage your mindset when they occur:
- "Recognize that it's a thought and thoughts are just thoughts. We often put a little bit too much weight on our thoughts, and that can create a lot of distress. But remember that thoughts are not facts."
- "Having a thought that's disturbing or upsetting doesn't make you a bad person, and it doesn't mean that you are suffering from a mental illness."
- "Sometimes the best thing you can do is say, 'Huh, that was an interesting thought. I'm going to let that go. That thought is not helpful for me right now."
- "Ask yourself: is this helpful? Is it helpful for me to buy into this thought and believe this thought? Asking that question can be really helpful because we are not at the mercy of our thoughts. If it's not helpful, you can let it go."
Intrusive thoughts can feel bizarre and foreign when they come up, but they aren't inherently "bad." Our minds can sometimes be filled with random and inappropriate thoughts, but that's what our stream of consciousness does: it thinks. Fortunately, we can release those thoughts at any moment; you don't have to follow through with them.
And ultimately, not every TikTok diagnosis is one that we should label ourselves with.
"It's important for people to acknowledge what they're experiencing but not run too quickly to diagnose themselves with some mental illness or disorder," Dr. Gooden advises. "It ends with confusion, and we miss the opportunity to understand the people who really do have that mental health challenge."
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