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Interior Designer, Licensed Therapist & SoCal mama of three. Welcome to the blog!  I hope it brings you inspiration to create a life (and home) you really love.


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How To Manage Stress From Renovating

September 11, 2020

Renovations can cause of long-term stress, with some projects lasting up to 9-12 months. Some even reveal unwelcome surprises that add zeros to your bottom line! If you’re doing the whole house one room at a time, you may find yourself in a painful position for longer than you had initially imagined. 

Anita sits on a pony wall, looking out onto the desert plains

As we embark on our biggest DIY renovation project yet, I‘ve become acutely aware of my stress level. I’ll be honest: planning around our business and socially-distanced learning has been tough! 

At the same time, observing the ways my clients take on our projects together has given me some real perspective. The advice I give them is advice I should be taking myself! Helping my clients manage stress levels during their renovations prompted me to write about this important topic, and keep these intentions top-of-mind in our own home. 

The Consequence of Stress 

Stress has a serious impact on our day-to-day lives. It can even manifest itself in the body, having real implications to our long-term health! Sometimes, you can feel these effects instantly: your jaw may clench, or you’ll find yourself sweating. 

These physiological responses are the result of a cocktail of hormones that swim through your body as a part of your stress response. When left unchecked, they can result in chronic muscle tension, shallow breathing, and strain on your heart and blood vessels! Some people stress through their stomachs, and experience gastrointestinal discomfort. 

Books arranged on the mantle with flower arrangement and soft, patterned tile

For humans under long-term stress, the impact can be severe. And a renovation can certainly count as a long-term stress! Some projects can last up to 9-12 months, or reveal unwelcome surprises that add zeros to your bottom line. And if you’re doing the house one room at a time, you may find yourself in a painful position for longer than you had initially imagined. 

That’s why it’s SO important to keep an eye out for the early signs that your blood pressure is turning up. You can bring your stress under control—but it starts with awareness. Many of us are so caught in the sway of a million to-dos that we don’t even notice our stress is OUT of control! 

Our bodies send us clear signs, so begin to notice where this physical sensation arises for you. Once you’ve got an understanding of your bodily stress triggers, you start to regulate your breathing or step away for some space. I wrote about getting a little Me Time not too long ago, so if you’re trying to manage stress, this is a great place to start! 

A relaxing bath drawn, complete with floral bouquet

Manage Stress By: Coming Back to Why

In my former life as a licensed therapist, I discovered early-on that our spaces can be a wellspring of emotional support. It’s the whole reason I do what I do now, as an interior designer! I built my entire Anita Yokota Method around creating intentional spaces for emotional wellbeing and relationship harmony.  


Connecting inside our homes is so important—even when we’re NOT witnessing a global pandemic, racial injustice, and worldwide tragedy. We’re following social distancing guidelines and expecting our spaces to take on a LOT of activities we wouldn’t normally do inside. Finding ways to destress around the house is more needed now than ever!

healthy, wholesome breakfast laid out on a wicker ottoman

This goes double for the renovation process. If your space feels like a demolition site, try to keep the chaos localized. Ask yourself WHY at every stage—what do you want out of your bathroom, garage, family room? Which spaces can be the loading zone for clutter, so the other rooms in the house feel like a respite from the crazy? 

My Anita Yokota Method isn’t just for the fabulous rooms we reveal—it’s for every space, at every stage. And you can start right now, even if it feels impossible.  

Anita tucked into the couch with some cozy lighting with a book

Manage Stress By: Pre-Planning Your Plan

Being prepared never hurt anybody. In fact, I truly believe that the key to success at ANYTHING is to plan ahead. This starts in the brain! Setting intentions and practicing visualization are major tools for mental preparation. Even athletes see better success when they visualize a winning outcome. 

This is because repeatedly thinking about a process stimulates the same regions of your brain that are active when you physically perform those actions. This is true whether you’re making a birdie put, studying for a test, or renovating your laundry room. Your thoughts become your reality. So think ahead! 

A speckled, ceramic coffee cup, full and ready to drink for a busy morning

For a renovation, it is important to think ahead about:

Your budget:

Knowing your magic number helps you find your boundaries. This can be a gut-driven process, or a carefully calculated one. It all depends on how you make decisions! The important thing is that you THINK ABOUT IT! Having these numbers on your mind helps you to make key decisions during the renovation, and prioritize needs with wants. 

Ask yourself: 

  • What price would you be most comfortable at? 
  • At what number would you scream “not a penny more!” 
  • Now, where in this range would you start to feel concerned? 

Money is a whole ‘nother ball game, and can add the MOST stress to a project. For more on the dollar signs, this Apartment Therapy article keeps it really real.  


Nothing is worse than being on an extended timeline right before the holidays. It’s like being stuck on a roller coaster you know is going to crash. And this isn’t just true for Thanksgiving and Christmas—maybe you need to host a graduation party and didn’t realize until the kitchen is already torn out. 

Any way you slice it, be aware of your existing schedule in advance! Take a good look at the whole year ahead, and pad your plan with delays in mind. 

Planner next to flowers on a clean, white desk

Selecting design and construction teams:

Start thinking about who you really want to work with, and what your expectations of them are! Share these expectations with your partners in the process. Open communication can save you a lot of headache.

 Ask yourself: 

  • How do you want your team to communicate with you? 
  • What’s MOST important to you: finishing on a specific timeline, under a specific budget, or get every detail exactly as specified? 

Manage Stress By: De-Escalating The Delivery 

While we’re on the subject, in-team communication can make or break your project! You won’t just be chatting with your team while they’re on-site—much of your correspondence will be digital! Try to follow up in the same space consistently, wherever you and the Project Manager determine will be best. 

Personally, I’ve found that text conversations can be helpful for on-the-spot info, but details get fuzzy in long-form text. Instead, be astute with organizing the project with clear email chains! This allows you to follow up on multiple threads at once, while keeping these details easy to find for future reference. You can also utilize Google sheets to write specs, maintain deadlines, and keep contacts handy. 

Book 'The Weight of Being' laid on a blanket with mandala beads

It’s equally important to have frequent conversations with your partner and family! Waiting until the pot boils over to have a discussion immediately creates stress. I always advocate for Family Meetings! By having a regular check ins, you create a space to both foster positive communication and bring issues to light earlier. 

Whether it’s with your family members or your contractor team, try to remember that conflict is natural and okay! Ignoring problems only makes them worse, so stay honest and speak from your heart. Humans have a tendency to be single-minded, and can miss information that doesn’t align with their immediate assumptions. Make sure to listen as well as share!

Anita leaning on Travis as they sit together in the backyard

Stress is a part of life and a tool our bodies use to help keep us safe! The trouble arises when we don’t listen to our body’s alarm systems that tell us when we’re going into overdrive. These are moments when we need to let go of our attachments to perfectionism. 

Whether it’s that perfect grout line (it’s important, too!) to major delays or discontinued products, being flexible and realistic is important. And when it all feels like it’s too much, you can always take a break. Have a bath or hot shower to relax, exercise, eat a great meal, or spend some cuddle time with a family member. 

Give yourself some grace, you earned it.


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