Does it make things worse?

This was the question posed to me when I was recently opining that I was feeling burnt out and my usual little tricks for feeling better were doing nothing. Hanging up the laundry, organizing underneath my kitchen sink, and taking out the trash – the type of household chores that clear space and usually make me feel instantly less stressed – suddenly weren’t.

But they weren’t making things worse.

In a year that’s been marked by upheaval of our normal routines and activities, I’ve gotten disproportionately frustrated when things that are under my control don’t turn out as expected. To overcome this, I’ve had to adjust my mindset. Which is how I ended up at the question, “does it make things worse?”

It’s a far cry from my usual “how much better is this making me feel,” but this reframing has helped me get through the daily chores that I still need to accomplish without feeling more discouraged the more I try to do.

Indeed, I’m learning that there is not one magic cure for the funk this year of abnormality has created. Things have gotten harder for me, in fact, as time has gone on. Figuring out what doesn’t make my life worse has become part of my process in accepting and navigating that.

Here are ten 10-minute or less activities that I now remind myself to do when a day or a week feels like it is veering off track:

  1. Fold the laundry
  2. Load or unload the dishwasher
  3. Run the vacuum
  4. Clear off a table or my desk
  5. Take out the trash/recycling
  6. Make a pitcher of cold brew or iced tea
  7. Light a candle
  8. Find one item to give away
  9. Make the bed
  10. Close any closet/cabinet doors and drawers

While dealing with the laundry, stacking my kitchen towels, or emptying the trash didn’t individually make my day much better, it turns out doing all of the above plus dusting my TV stand, unloading the dishwasher, and reorganizing my bookshelf did make my past weekend better as I was able to relax in a mess-free house. Everything that didn’t make things worse added up to make things a little bit better.

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Aliyah is a scientist, writer, and advocate for inclusion in STEM. She currently works in the Boston biotech scene. A fan of traveling, board games, college sports, and reality TV, you can engage more with Aliyah on Twitter @YourTurnAliyah.

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