Managing Home Improvement Induced Anxiety

April 12, 2021

Home Improvement Induced Anxiety – have you ever seen a post title like that one before?  I wonder if this post is a first?  Read on to better understand what I mean.

Painters are coming!

At the time this post publishes it will probably be about 1 hour shy of the arrival of house painters at our home.  One half of my house will have been packed up and stripped bare in readiness and the other half of my house is now in cluttered chaos.

The end result of all of this will of course be fabulous – a freshly painted house indoors and outdoors (yes getting some of that done too). Meanwhile though, it is going to be a real test of my easily heightened menopausal anxiety!  That’s embarrassing to say because that is not the Min I used to be but sadly it is my truth these days.  

Menopausal Anxiety

So I (and anyone else out there who lives with anxiety) don’t feel like a crazy person who is alone with this problem, here’s some evidence that Menopausal Anxiety is in fact a thing – here it is documented and explained by The Australian Menopause Centre. Also, interestingly just as I had decided to write on this topic the other day I saw an Instagram post by Shelly Horton (a journalist and TV personality here in Australia) where she shares that she is suffering with peri-menopausal induced depression and anxiety.  We need to talk about these things much more so that we don’t feel alone and like we’re going crazy, and so that women are more broadly informed on what symptoms of peri-menopause/menopause might consist of.  For instance, I thought menopause would involve some hot flushes, a few general mood swings, and maybe some itchy rashes on the skin, and voila – like magic you get to the other side and it’s all over red rover.  I also had no idea that the whole process could go on for up to 10 years or so!  Some women get through it without noticing much at all.  Others (like myself) have a more challenging … um ‘journey’! 

I need to add that actually it is ‘Peri-menopause‘, the transitional period leading to Menopause, that is the hard part.  This is where the hormonal changes are happening and the symptoms, like anxiety, are more likely experienced.  So in reality the anxiety I’m experiencing should be called ‘peri-menopausal anxiety’ but it’s a bit of a mouthful isn’t it?!  Menopause, of course, is the point when a woman has not had  menstrual periods for at least 12 months. Post-menopause is the stage after menopause.

What is getting painted?

The rooms that make up the back half of the house were painted in late 2019/early 2020.  It was all painted beautifully but was not without problems. It was in fact very stressful, which doesn’t help me at this time.  Here’s something I posted to Facebook at the time once we were out the other side and order was restored

The painters we had used were the same ones that painted our kitchen and dining room after we had the new kitchen installed.  They were fabulous when they did the kitchen/dining – in and out quickly and did a fabulous job.  When we got them back next time they were supposed to do the entire indoors of the house and the exteriors (eg. fascias, eaves, gutters, etc) but we called time out as they were causing too much stress due to delays by not turning up when they were supposed to and days and days going by with no-one here doing the job while we were living in packed up cluttered chaos.

Now it’s time to bite the bullet and get the rest done – all the rooms in the front half of the house that didn’t get done (so, the master bedroom, ensuite and walk in robe, the lounge room, my study, the entry, and the garage) and the exteriors.  They will be asked to do the indoors first, starting with the Master bedroom etc.  

Are we getting the same painters back?  Why yes we are!  I know!  Seems crazy!  BUT The Tennis Player decided to give them another chance.  Let’s hope they prove they are worth the second chance.  They offer the best pricing we’ve come across.  They do a good paint job, and the owner promises all the staff problems have been sorted out.  Trust me, if there are any problems this time around, never ever again!

Why will this test my anxiety levels?

There are many reasons! 

Before the painters have even arrived my anxiety levels have elevated far too much, for example:

  • Overthinking how anxious the whole process will make me (thinking ahead & catastrophizing instead of staying present in the now).
  • The extra work by having to pack up several rooms, working out where to put everything, what I’ll need access to, and the clutter & chaos caused.
  • Worry about the animals (1 dog, 2 cats) escaping and having to limit their access in the house and keep constant watch on them.
  • Hoping we don’t have the same problems and delays with the painters as last time.
  • Concern about not getting enough quiet time to myself that I usually need.

At the time of typing this (Thursday 8 April) my anxiety has at times almost reached panic levels.  Not fun but it made me realise that I needed to take some time to think over some strategies and ways to help myself through this. It also led to the decision to write about this topic for next Monday’s post, schedule it to publish on Monday, and then close down the computer and step away from blogging until the house is back to normal (apart from some posts to Instagram which will feed through to FB & Twitter).  My computer will be packed away along with the rest of my study/office area!

Anxiety isn’t about being nervous or shy. It’s your body existing in a physiological and mental state of emergency in the absence of danger.

Once the painters start:

  • I love my privacy and I’m not fond of having strangers in my home from 7am every morning till dark at night for extended periods.
  • Cluttered home = cluttered mind for me. Cluttered mind = stress/anxiety.
  • I’ll need to sleep on a sofa bed in the spare room surrounded in clutter most likely – at least for 2-3 nights?
  • Not having easy access to my clothes and things.
  • The need to be on constant alert to keep two indoor cats and a dog safe from escape.
  • Noise and inability to get the quiet down time I need in my days.
  • The difficulty in getting my much needed alone time.
  • Unable to follow my normal daily routine.

Finishing the painting is something that needs to be done and so I’m just going to have to find strategies to help me survive this short (hopefully) period of time.  Here’s some strategies I plan to use to help me through this time.

What strategies will help manage my anxiety through this time?

  • Try and get out of the house and away from the chaos at least once every day
  • Take the dog for walks
  • Borrow my son’s noise cancelling headphones when I need some quiet
  • Calming guided meditations when I can
  • Get outside in the sunshine by the pool
  • Practice mindfulness when I can 
  • Focus on the end result (visualise freshly painted rooms and everything back in place and order restored – more so than before!)
  • Gratitude (grateful we can afford to get it done, grateful that a great deal of indoors has already been done)
  • Lighten my load – e.g. no more writing for the blog after this post has been written and scheduled until the house is restored back to normal (although freshly painted)
  • Find a way to feel a sense of control and order in the clutter & chaos
  • Try and find the humour in it all!  
  • B.R.E.A.T.H.E.
  • Accept my anxiety and get on with it.

Anxiety isn’t weakness. Living with anxiety, turning up and doing stuff with anxiety, takes a strength most will never know.

There’s no choice but to get through this time. It’s up to me to find and use strategies to help myself cope during the process. In the meantime, I may be slow to reply to comments and to read and comment on other blogs and there may not be another blog post here for a while (at least until things here return a bit more to normal and my computer is unpacked and study/office restored).

Postscript (written on Saturday 10 April)

It’s Saturday 10 April and I felt compelled to update this post because I’m feeling a little differently to when I wrote it on Thursday 8 April.  I spent much of yesterday (Friday) packing up rooms and will be doing more today and tomorrow in readiness for the arrival of the painters on Monday.  At this point in time, as I look around at the emptying rooms, I’m feeling more optimistic.  I’m less anxious and more excited about the prospect of freshly painted clean rooms.  In the process of packing I’m finding things I’d forgotten or lost, I’m washing things, and I’m cleaning things.  Before everything goes back I will do a cull and get rid of as much as I can to reduce clutter.  It’s actually quite a cleansing process and in the long run will be totally worth any anxiety caused.

It goes to show that Anxiety can be a moving feast. My anxiety was worse before anything had actually happened. This is in a large part due to ‘overthinking’ everything.  When you accept your anxiety and do what you have to do anyway, it can help relieve it.  My anxiety levels are bound to go up again when the painters arrive but I’m guessing that as I see progress and the end in sight my anxiety will start to ease again.  Anxiety is not something that can be fixed and then go away forever.  It’s something you have to learn to live with, and by understanding it you can better manage living with it.  

Midlife friends – have you noticed anxiety that you never used to have before?  Does having tradespeople in your home along with clutter and chaos cause you stress and/or anxiety too? Have a great week and I’ll be back on the blog again soon.

Ciao for now,

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  • Reply Jennifer Jones April 12, 2021 at 7:24 am

    I do feel for you with your anxiety issues Min. I’m one of those annoyingly fortunate people who had no symptoms at all, so I have no menopause experiences to share. Hope all goes well with the painting and the painters. I’m just about to start painting the inside of our house also but I’m doing it myself. Feeling a bit of stress about that as I’ve met done it before

    • Reply Min April 12, 2021 at 4:55 pm

      You’re very lucky Jennifer. I’ve had worse case scenarios with regards to women’s stuff since I got my first period as a child so it’s not surprising that the same is the case at the end of the reproductive process etc. It wasn’t a good start with the painters this morning but got better. Tomorrow will be a better day. I’ve painted several houses myself before this one but it’s all too much for me now. It also takes me too long and too long living in the chaos. Professional painters whip through much more quickly and the whole thing is over much faster. I’d do it myself if it were just a room or two but the whole house needed doing. I’m sure you’ll do fine with it though – don’t let me put you off!

  • Reply Debbie Harris April 12, 2021 at 8:43 am

    I hope things go well for you Min and the disruptions are kept to a minimum! Thanks for sharing your thoughts as this is something many of us go through from time to time and has huge impacts on our mental states. Good luck! #lifethisweek

    • Reply Min April 12, 2021 at 5:00 pm

      Thanks Deb. It wasn’t a good start to the day. The story goes like this: They were due to start at 7am. At 7:30 am the owner/painter guy turns up and says he lost his phone over the weekend and wasn’t able to phone the address through to his employee/painter guy SO he emailed him. But employee/painter guy didn’t show up this morning so he assumes he didn’t check emails and has been trying to phone him but of course he is not answering cos … lost phone. So he left us for home to see if he could find employee/painter guys phone number in a diary there. At 10am employee/painter guy turns up here. When he couldn’t get his boss on the phone he drove to his home where he found him and got our address. Haven’t seen owner/painter guy again but employee/painter guy has been working hard since arrival and finished up at 4:30pm. So my anxiety was very high this morning but has settled down now. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day!

  • Reply Natalie April 12, 2021 at 9:46 am

    Min, I hope the painting goes well and you’ll be able to have your place back looking fresh and better than before in a few days. You have good strategies in place to manage your anxiety. Keeping your hands busy with culling, cleaning, etc is cathartic, too. #lifethisweek

    • Reply Min April 12, 2021 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks Natalie. It will be worth it in the end for sure. Anxiety is an awful thing to live with. I don’t like it at all but it’s with me and I’ve just got to accept it and try and live with it. The day started out not so great (see my comment to Debbie Harris) but it improved. I agree that the culling and cleaning is very cathartic! Have a great week!

  • Reply Leanne | April 12, 2021 at 10:20 am

    Hi Min – it’s amazing how the human body reacts to things in ways that baffle us isn’t it? But you’re right in how much better it is when we know we’re not alone. I hope it all goes well and that the painters don’t let you down, your previous bad experience with them would definitely heighten your anxiety, but once it’s underway and going smoothly, the countdown will be on to having a beautiful space to enjoy for the years ahead. Just keep remembering to breathe and to focus on the positives x

    • Reply Min April 12, 2021 at 5:07 pm

      Hi Leanne – thanks for your kind comment and I agree that the human body sure is baffling! I get very frustrated with my ‘midlife’ self lately. I never used to get anxiety. It’s with me now though so I have no choice but to learn to live with it. The day didn’t start well with the painters (see my response to Deb Harris) but it improved. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. On a good note – I’ve managed to set my computer up near the kitchen which is allowing me to reply to comments, and yes I am focusing on the positives and it will all be worth it in the end I know. Hope you have a lovely week. xo

  • Reply Deborah Cook April 12, 2021 at 10:23 am

    Oh that’s interesting Min, how your mind has switched a little. Perhaps as you felt more prepared you felt less anxious?

    I hope the work goes really well and quickly!

    I went through menopause a few years ago. Last period in 2018 and I keep meaning to check on post-menopausal symptoms…

    • Reply Min April 12, 2021 at 5:11 pm

      Hi Deb – it sure is interesting how my mind can shift from day to day and even within a day. Feeling prepared and like I have a sense of control helps, as does focusing on the positives and end result etc. Today started with a hiccup (see my response to Deb Harris’s comment) but it improved and I’m sure (being positive) that tomorrow will be much better! BTW – I’m still classed as peri-menopausal – last one was 6 months ago. Ugh!

  • Reply Sue from Women Living Well After 50 April 12, 2021 at 2:13 pm

    Hi Min, we renovated our apartment and it took over 6 months but we did it in stages. It can be very disruptive but just keep reminding yourself how lovely it will look – fresh and new! I actually remember reading your post a few years ago when you had your kitchen renovated and seem to remember there were a few hiccups. Fingers crossed the painting goes well. Take care. #lifethisweek

    • Reply Min April 12, 2021 at 5:15 pm

      Hi Sue, so nice to hear from you! Yes we’ve been doing it in stages with nice big breaks between. I couldn’t do it non stop for months on end like some do. I know it’ll all be worth it in the end. My kitchen renovation actually went pretty well – just one hiccup when they located the cupboard handles in a position I was not expecting – without consulting with me. The painters caused much more stress and anxiety (last time). Hoping for a better experience this time. Today didn’t start very well but it got better. Onward and upwards! Have a great week!

  • Reply Vanessa April 12, 2021 at 2:26 pm

    I had pretty much only heard of the hot flushes part! There’s always more to our bodies, it seems. Hope the painting goes well this time.

    • Reply Min April 12, 2021 at 5:18 pm

      Thanks Vanessa. I am shocked at how little we know and share about perimenopause and menopause. It’s still like a taboo subject that women keep to themselves and don’t discuss (well not enough). It’s gotta change! Women need to be better informed and have more support. Thought it might be a relatively easy process for many, there are an equal amount of us that have a very hard time of it. Hope you have a great week!

  • Reply Leslie Susan Clingan April 14, 2021 at 11:56 am

    Glad you added the update on Saturday. And thankful you began to have a new perspective on this project. Oh, how clean and fresh your home will be. That fresh paint smell. Mmmm. I know it can be headache-inducing but it is a pleasant smell in little doses. When it gets to be too much grab the headphones and the pup and head out. We need to have our house painted on the inside before long and how I dread moving things away from the walls. Not sure we can even manage moving some of the heaviest pieces ourselves but that’s what the kids are for!!

    • Reply Min April 20, 2021 at 9:32 pm

      Hi Leslie, well I’m on the other side now and it’s been worth it. The house is in fact clean and fresh and I’m slowly unpacking, cleaning, culling and restoring some order. It has also been well worth it because during the process some mould was found and treated in one room and some termites were found in the external wall of our garage and treated. If we hadn’t had the painting done these things wouldn’t have been picked up and would have gotten far worse! Good luck for when you get your house painted. It does bring with it some discomfort and stress but the end result is worth it.

  • Reply Denyse Whelan April 14, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    Oh Min, from what you have said, you may not even see this comment.
    Having strangers in your house, even for a few hours is a bit of a stress. This is HUGE. And you are the only one at home I am guessing. It would have been better to get away…but then again, you want to know they are there.

    I agree we need to talk more about health and mental health tops that. I decided last year to do more to explain why having rectal prolapse happened and how I eventually had surgery to repair it. Now I wonder why I waited.

    I am 71 and saw the GP the other day and her examination revealed the ‘itch’ I have is likely ostroegen deficiency and to be honest, I thought that I was long past all that but it appears, ageing and atrophy (awful word) does not make our female bodies happy.

    I hope you feel a bit better….and can over time, see your newly painted house as a triumph you overcame…like my trips to the dentist!!

    Thank you for linking up for Life This Week. Next week, the optional prompt is Interesting. My post will be a continuation of Telling My Story as I am wanting to wrap the series up. It’s great to have your blogging support on my link up. Thank you. Denyse

    • Reply Min April 20, 2021 at 9:37 pm

      Hi Denyse, I’m seeing your comment now! I had to let go of the blog for a bit in order to cope with all that has been going on. It’s so good to have you validate the fact that having strangers in our home is stressful! It’s also stressful when you can’t sleep in your bed, or use your bathroom, or rest quietly anywhere in your home because a painter will either be at the window or nearby inside. I would’ve gone and stayed with Mum for a while but it’s hard with the pets to look after and I wanted to be here to make sure certain things were done etc. We need to talk more about mental health AND menopause/peri-menopause. It is a part of life and shouldn’t be so cloak and dagger. I’m on the other side of the painting now and starting to feel much better as order is slowly being restored and life returns a bit more to normal. xo

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