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Life presents some inevitable, difficult events that impact our mental health, be it a job loss or divorce. During these moments of tribulation, it can be easier to identify why you’re not doing well and admit that you could use some extra support. But what about those confusing times when something good is going on, but your mental health is suffering? Planning a wedding, starting a new job, or even completing a home renovation are just a few examples of this phenomenon.
It probably seems counterintuitive to experience poor mental health while your home is being renovated. After all, it’s a privilege and luxury to have the means to renovate, and the end result will be a beautiful new space to live in. But no matter how many times you remind yourself of these definite positives, experiencing home renovation burnout is very real and totally warranted, especially if you’re more prone to being overwhelmed by unexpected challenges, decision fatigue, major life changes, budget anxiety, or other sneaky triggers. Know this: It’s nothing to feel guilty about.
As it turns out, stress, anxiety, and frustration are all very common feelings to experience when undergoing a home renovation project. A recent survey from Toolstation revealed that 60 percent of home renovations affect general well-being. Study participants shared that their biggest regret was “underestimating the likelihood of problems arising that require more time and more money.” Women’s mental health seems to take an even larger hit, with 65 percent of female respondents noting their well-being decreased during renovations, compared to half of men. (And the most stressful room to renovate, according to the 1,003 people surveyed: the kitchen!)
It’s an overwhelming process.
Anita Yokota, interior designer and licensed therapist, is here to validate that stress, saying that, while home renovations can be an exciting process, they can absolutely get overwhelming. “There are a lot of decisions to make, big expenses to prepare for, and it doesn’t happen overnight,” she says. “There’s bound to be some feelings of uncertainty and impatience.” Not to mention that recent shipping delays, supply shortages, and pricing increases have piled on even more stress.
It disrupts normal routines.
Another major stressor of a remodel is that it creates disruption in the homeowners’ lives and daily activities, says Jill Croka, a principal interior designer at Jill Croka Designs with a background in psychotherapy. Even if you tell yourself these blips are insignificant, self-inflicted, or worth it, it’s normal for even small shifts in familiar routines to make you feel frustrated, out-of-whack, or unsettled. “Renovations can be especially challenging if the project is taking place while living within the home or on a tight deadline to move into the home,” she says.
It can lead to some relationship tension.
While home renovations can certainly cause individuals to feel stressed and anxious, they can also impact relationships, either with a partner or with a whole family. This can be particularly true if you’re taking on the renovations yourselves. This can be brought on by issues regarding budget, design choices, and timelines, Croka says.
But there’s no reason to suffer in silence through a project that’s affecting your mood (even if it’s meant to be a fun thing!). It’s a big change in your life, and something that necessitates self-care and addressing your mental health. To feel better as you go through this process, try following these five tips from the experts who’ve seen it all.
Focus on good communication.
“I can’t emphasize enough how essential communication is,” Yokota says, adding that it can definitely be a stressor when homeowners aren’t on the same page with what they want in a design and what they’re willing to spend.
Communicating with your partner and/or family is essential as you navigate a home renovation project. It’s important to talk through the outcome together before the project begins, which will result in a shared vision and goals.
Getting clear on the front end of things can also involve meeting with your designer or contractors (or having a family meeting if you’re renovating yourselves) to go over project phases and expected completion dates. “This is helpful for everyone to feel at ease going into the project,” she says.
Good communication also involves making sure that you, the contractor, and designer are all on the same page and consistently updated, which is “the best way to ensure a smooth execution of the project and overall mental well-being,” Yokota says, who personally likes having weekly meetings or recaps with clients. Yokota suggests having a clear, consistent communication channel with your contractor and designer. This can mean only communicating through email or text, since trying to communicate through too many separate channels can lead to stress and overwhelm.
You know the Serenity Prayer that says, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”? Well, it certainly holds up when it comes to home renovations. Croka says that not having control or consistency is a common recipe for anxiety. But Yokota wants to remind you that sometimes, there will be things that are simply out of your control, whether that’s lead times on appliances and materials, or your trades teams’ availability.
“There are plenty of factors that are essential to the project getting done that can get delayed, and sometimes it’s just out of the designer and homeowners’ control,” she says. You can help yourself be more accepting of setbacks and changes by managing your expectations up front: Things won’t always go according to plan, and that is ultimately OK.
Even though it’s difficult, practice accepting what is out of your control and working on what you can do instead. Are there selections to be made in the meantime? Another area that can be focused on?
It may feel like it, but your entire life doesn’t revolve around your renovation. There are many other facets of your life that should be experienced instead of being placed on the backburner. Croka recommends trying to maintain a sense of normalcy as best as you can. A great way to do that is to take purposeful breaks.
“Taking breaks throughout the renovation process is key,” Yokota says. “Not thinking about the renovation from time to time is OK.” This might mean going out for ice cream, walking local trails, or making a craft—while not discussing home renovations, stopping to send emails, or ruminating over it.
Any time your mental health is affected by something, self-care is always a good idea. Since even something as exciting as a home improvement project can “run you ragged” with worry and exhaustion, Yokota underlines the importance of doing healthy things for yourself: exercising, eating well, and hydrating, all things you may overlook while stressing out about renovations.
If possible, avoid living in the home.
Croka says that living in a home while renovation is taking place can result in a loss of space, time, and privacy, and the “noise and frequency of contractors can also be overwhelming,” she adds.
While Croka acknowledges that this solution won’t be doable for everyone due to budget or logistics, she suggests living elsewhere “through invasive construction phases, if possible,” to avoid a mental health dip. If you’re able to rent a place or stay with loved ones during certain parts of the renovation, your mind and mood will appreciate it.