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9 Ways to Take the Stress out of House Repair

9 Ways to Take the Stress out of House Repair
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There’s no doubt that repairing a house is worthwhile but the amount of stress it produces can be overwhelming. Having just moved from a newer four bedroom colonial to a smaller (and older) Cape Cod style house, house repair has been a reality for the last five weeks. Here are some simple ways to lessen the stress of working on a home:

Doing it yourself might not be the answer. If money is tight, then doing some projects yourself makes perfect sense. On the other hand, if you are a 5 out of 10 on the handy-meter, a complex project might add more stress than it’s worth. Know your limits.

Work alongside a pro. Ask in advance if the contractor would mind if you shadow him for a few hours each day so that you can learn some tricks and skills. From tiling to laying down flooring, a contractor can show you the ropes in no time.

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Watch the big rocks. In my “new” house, two areas have been shouting for attention: electrical and plumbing. For big ticket items like these, you’ll want to hire someone who knows what they’re doing. Just as electrical current is not something to play around with, over-tightening that new kitchen sink is also a bad idea and can cause added stress down the road.

Anticipate delay. Even the best contractor faces delays. Weather, other open projects that need attention and anything else that can pop up will during your house repair. If he tells you that it will take four days, add two more and you won’t be surprised when the project lags on.

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Treat yourself. If your kitchen is being redone and you’ll be out of a sink for a week, why not treat yourself to dinner out every other night as a way of counter-balancing the stress of being without the hub of your home? Build the expense of eating out into your repair budget and you won’t feel so guilty when ordering at your favorite restaurant.

Avoid entertaining. While it’s nice to have folks stop by to see the project in its various stages, entertaining is another matter. Even a visit from the best of friends will create stress, not to mention the added work of picking things up and preparing a meal. An alternative might be to meet them at a local park for a picnic or going out to eat at your favorite hangout.

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Get into the mind of your contractor. Just because you may be a neat-freak doesn’t mean that your carpenter is one. Try to get into the head of the person you’ve hired so that you can understand his lifestyle and approach to things. Remember too that his standards of “finish work” may be different from yours so state your expectations and repeat them with respect and tact.

Be nice to those you hire. Nothing eases a project like getting along with those who are spending vast amounts of time in your house. Offering a cold drink on a hot day, coffee in the morning or a newspaper at lunch can go a long way.

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Drop a few hints. To keep things moving along and to get more out of the process, drop a few positive hints, promising a referral for the contractor or letting him know how nice the new backsplash looks. You might also walk him around to other someday/maybe projects that you have been thinking of.

Mike St. Pierre hosts The Daily Saint, a productivity blog focusing on work-life balance. www.thedailysaint.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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