The Benefits of Mom Creating a Sanctuary for Rest, Relaxation and Healing

By Jill Urwick with Maureen McDonnell

Stress…the word alone triggers a myriad of reactions, both emotional and physical. As a very busy mom of 3 kids (one with autism), I have experienced countless “Calgon take me away” moments! Just the thought of the day-to-day grind of the kids’ activities, homework, doctor appointments, meal preparation, laundry, household chores, work, etc. is enough to give me anxiety. Can you relate?

I used to get extremely annoyed when people would tell me to relax more and that I needed to develop an “attitude of gratitude”. I mean, what did they know? They weren’t living my overwhelmingly hectic life. Who had time to “stop and smell the roses”? “If they could walk just 5 minutes in my shoes, they would understand”.   I had no tolerance for their platitudes.  However, what I have come to learn is that if we don’t deal with stress, it eventually erodes our health, motivation and sense of well being.

As the kids have grown older and their needs have shifted, I now have a little time to reflect upon what I would have done differently when they were younger “if I knew then what I know now”.  First of all, I would have focused more on their preventive health which would have greatly changed the course of our lives, thereby reducing my stress levels. But, that’s another story for another day (You can follow much of this story here).

What I’ve learned and wanted to share is that in addition to adequate sleep, carving time out of my day for quiet reflection, getting more diligent with time management, and taking care of my body through healthy nutrition, exercise and mindful gratitude exercises (yes they do work), I recently discovered an unexpected source of stress reduction and peace.

A few months ago, my best friend, Maura (who is not only a holistic RN but also helps women transform their spaces into relaxing and healing sanctuaries at, came to help me “stage” my house as we plan on selling it in the near future.  It wasn’t that my home was decorated in an unappealing way, but it never just seemed to have that cozy, relaxing or comfortable feeling.

Not only did Maura and I have so much fun de-cluttering – getting rid of things that no longer felt right or served a purpose, but as we went through the house with a fresh intention, we found treasures tucked in corners that I had forgotten I had.  Yes, we did do a little shopping for some new things, but not many. Then, what a great time we had “feeling” where the perfect spot was for each piece of furniture or art.  Ultimately, we created what seemed like a new energy in my home. It was truly amazing and inspiring!  My home not only looked beautiful but it felt different…cozier, more welcoming – a place in which I could de-stress and recharge.  I fell in love with my home for what seemed like the first time ever! Now, I LOVE coming home and experiencing that “Ahh, I’m home” feeling…heck, I don’t want to leave anymore! It just makes me so happy!

That’s what I want to pass along to you today…the inspiration to take what you have, rearrange your treasures, maybe embellish a bit here and there with something special like a new candle or vase of fresh flowers and create a beautiful space for yourself so you too can take a break from all the stress and have a sanctuary in which to rest, relax and heal.  Below please find some of Maura’s best tips for creating a warm, cozy space within your home – a sanctuary of sorts in which to recharge your body, mind & spirit.

5 Tips to Transform Your Home (or a space within your home) into a Sanctuary:

  1. Select: In an unhurried manner and with a clear intention to create a very special place for yourself in which to relax, recharge and heal, move from room in your home selecting special items (artwork, pieces of furniture, books, pottery, candles etc.) that mean something special to you and that you really love. Either mark them with a sticky note or bring them into one area to draw from later.
  2. A Special Spot: Next, pick a specific room or area in your home that you are drawn to. This could be a corner in your living room, a section in your bedroom, even your bathroom and claim that as your place to start.
  3. De-clutter: The next step is very important, yet sometimes hard to do. In order to create a space of calmness where you will be able to relax and recharge, you must de-clutter. This means, practicing the art of “letting go.” This can be exhausting because typically every book, piece of clothing or furniture has some sort of memory attached to it and often when we try to let an item go by putting in the giveaway pile those memories become activated and can drain us emotionally. However, if you refocus on the goal of creating a beautiful space that feels nurturing, where you can truly unwind, then letting go becomes easier.  This may take some practice!
  4. “Feel” Your Way: Add your treasures, one piece at a time. Step back after each addition and “feel” how that item not only looks but how it “feels” in the space. Ask yourself:  Does it belong there?  Do I need to move it, or caddy corner it to make it more inviting? Trust your instincts and sense of design!
  5. Embellish: The final touches may come in the form of a new, beautifully scented essential oil candle, greenery, a comfy throw or a vase filled with fresh flowers.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot to surround yourself with beauty, comfort and your personal treasures.  Not only will this new space feel like a sanctuary in which to truly unwind and recharge, but its calming effect will have a long lasting impact on your health.  Besides, you deserve it!