Anyone who knows me personally knows that I don’t shy away from difficult topics -- one of those being my own previous struggles with mental health issues, namely depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In the past I’ve sought treatment to help overcome these, with one of those treatments being therapy.
At that time, one of the most pressing issues that were adding to my mental weights was that I was in a very unhappy living situation: I was a student living in a house I didn’t like with some housemates that I didn’t get along with, and my impending graduation meant that as of summer 2019, I also didn’t know where I’d be living or what I’d be doing post-graduation. As someone who thrives on stability and routine, both of these were making me feel severely boxed in and hopeless with no direction or sense of place.
One of the first, manageable tasks that my therapist gave me to cope was to rearrange my room into a way that calmed me, although I couldn’t change the house itself or some of the people in it. I added lights, affirming quote posters and pictures of loved ones to feel more positive. A larger task that another therapist gave me was to stand firm on my own future living plans to carve a distinct and achievable future life for myself. Thus, my initial plan to move back to Nassau and buy and build on my own property was born.
The pandemic has been a period of heightened anxiety and in many cases also depression for people all over the globe. Upon reflection, I sincerely believe that the only thing keeping me going was knowing that I had this huge building project in the works to look forward to that would greatly improve my living situation and set a stable, profitable path for me in the future.
But enough about me -- May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so I sat down with Bahamian therapist and owner of Anchors Aweigh Counselling Services, Kristyn Burrows, for some more insight on how others can use real estate to navigate their own mental health journeys.
1. What’s the psychology behind how your environment can affect you mentally?
We thrive in environments where we feel most comfortable. Environmental stress
can cause a psychological response when the demands of our environment
seemingly outweigh the ability to cope. A poor living situation such as
roommate/family tension, or overwhelming responsibilities, such as a cluttered
space, dirty laundry, additional household chores can greatly increase this stress.
It also diminishes your sense of control of the situation. You either feel unsure of
what task to tackle first or you feel stuck in your role in the current relationship
2. What would you recommend to others who are feeling boxed in?
You can talk about your experience and actively work towards making a change.
Adjust your expectations and focus on what you can control. You can also create a safe space within the home for you. Think of it as your zen zone. We all spent a great deal of time within our homes at the start of this COVID-19 pandemic. Some of us were able to revamp spaces that brought anxiety while others felt you just had to accept it. This could be due to lack of financial resources, shared living spaces with no area to call your own, or not knowing what you wanted to change.
This feeling of being “stuck” stems from perceived lack of control. Talking with friends and family about your experience may be helpful for some people and may not be for others. A professional, such as a therapist, can listen to you with an unbiased perspective of the situation and they can help you develop healthier coping skills to combat these environmental stressors.
My recommendation would be for you to focus on one thing you can do at this
moment to crawl out of this box. Call your friend, family, therapist. Change your
bedsheets, move a piece of furniture in your space, go outside for a walk, get
creative (draw/write/paint). One active moment towards a change in your life can
make all the difference.
3. Do you find that a sense of stability is a globally craved factor in terms of mental
health, or does it appear to be personality-specific?
Personally and professionally, I firmly believe that a person who has an anchor or
a sense of stability in their life has a greater level of resiliency and an overall
improved well-being. Humans are emotional beings that crave acceptance and a
sense of belonging. Having stability such as a home or a strong social support can
bring this sense of security. In my work with clients, I find it easier to understand
a person when I know what anchors them. Some people have no idea what that is
and that is okay. You can create a safe space that is unwavering - with some help.
4. Any other comments or recommendations?
While the topic of Mental Health and Wellness is brought up a lot more today,
there are still stigmas and misconceptions surrounding the topic. The more we
talk about our struggles, the less power they have over us. My message to all
those who read this article is to give yourself permission to talk about your
experience, as Hannah just did. We are our worst critics and self-compassion can
bring you more strength than you realize.
Kristyn’s words align so well with the ones that helped me years ago when I was going through such a difficult, transitional period. Of course I love homes and selling them, but the driving force behind that passion is that I love to help people, particularly in areas where I have experience to guide others. If you’re struggling with mental health issues, reach out to Kristyn at firstname.lastname@example.org and as always, for real estate help reach out to me at email@example.com. We’re both willing to help your personal journeys in any capacity we can.