When you think about ways to keep calm during high-stress times like these, things like long baths and deep breaths probably come to mind. But those aren't the only activities that can help you to feel more centered. In fact, there are lots of domestic activities that can calm your anxiety, according to moms, and you'll probably knock some chores off your to-do list in the process.
Now, no one is saying that scrubbing the toilet is going to alleviate all your stress or that seeing those pile of shoes right by the door is going to make you giddy. No, not at all. But indulging in some domestic duties can be downright therapeutic, especially since you're probably stuck in the house right now anyway. (No sweating out your stress at the gym or getting your retail therapy fix at the mall under quarantine.) “Part of why we feel so anxious is because of the uncertainty and lack of control we have,” Shuli Sandler PsyD, a clinical psychologist, tells Romper. “Setting some home goals that you are in control of completing will reassure you that you have some control in your life and don't have to feel we are living in utter chaos.”
Instead of mindlessly mopping the floor, or throwing together toys into the bin, try being more present as you go about your daily domestic duties. “Creating a clean and organized space can help ease some of the clutter of the mind,” advises Sandler. These aren't the chores you do because you have to do them, these are the home-care activities you do because something about the simple, repetitive actions is grounding and soothing. And remember, domestic therapy isn't just for moms/women; if your partner comes down with the quarantine crabbies, by all means encourage him to pick up a broom and sweep the stress away (or whatever works to chill him out).
1. Cleaning The Kitchen
“When the kids are doing their schoolwork, I go into the kitchen and start wiping down the surfaces,” says Christine R. from NJ. “I’ve rediscovered a love for a clean countertop, especially since I work part-time from home and use it as my workspace. I like how it sparkles, which, sadly, is something that it didn’t really do before.”
2. Scrubbing Stuff
“I can’t explain what it is, but I love scrubbing,” says Lara H. from TN. “And it doesn’t really matter what it is. It could be a pot, the floors, but if it’s a burnt on, stuck on mess, I’m all in. I focus all of my effort on it, and when it’s gone, I feel such a sense of accomplishment!”
3. Watering Plants
“I have a peace lily that doesn’t get watered very often,” admits Sara T. from NY. “It’s crazy that in these past couple of weeks that we’ve been home and I’ve watered it, it looks like a new plant. It’s perked up, it’s sprouting new leaves, and there’s even a flower budding. It’s kind of symbolic for what’s happening right now.”
4. Throwing Out (Er, Organizing) Kids’ Toys
“I made the mistake of trying to organize my children’s toys with them,” says Erin H from NY. “I thought it would be a fun group activity. Well, it resulted in a lot of tears — from all of us. Now, I know better. I wait until they’re in bed and take note of what they’re not playing with. I’ve been boxing up the toys and I’ll wait a few weeks to see if they’re missed. If not, off to Goodwill they go.”
5. Washing Dishes
“I’ve always liked washing dishes, but now it’s gone to a whole new level,” says Taylor E. from CA. “I like the really warm water on my hands, the swirling motion of my hands on dishes, and the end result of having clean plates and cups to use. I start to relax, but I have to make sure not to get too lost in my thoughts since dish liquid is now hard to find in my area.”
6. Folding Towels
“I find that folding towels is highly therapeutic,” says Cynthia R. from FL. “Not only do freshly clean towels smell heavenly, but there’s something about the folding of them that relaxes me. And now that we’re all home, I actually have time to put them away.”
7. Food Prep
“During the week, there’s not a lot of time for me to prep meals like I’d like,” says Amelia A. from Texas. “But I’ve always loved cutting up veggies. Now, since I’m working from home, I have more time to do things that I like, like slicing up carrots. I find it really relaxing, and the kids have a healthy snack on hand. Whether they eat it or not is another story.”
“So, I’ve probably already gained a few pounds during this pandemic,” says Deborah P. from PA. “I don’t care. The house smells so good while everything is baking — it’s like aromatherapy. And we have yummy treats to eat, so the kids aren’t complaining.”
9. Organizing A Closet
“Even though I try to be, I’m not the most organized person by nature,” says Olivia P. from FL. “Being home has allowed me to take on the organizational tasks that have fallen by the wayside, like clearing out the garage. There’s something so utterly satisfying about filling my car with stuff for donation or just throwing all that crap out.”
10. Mopping The Floor
“Since the social distancing began, I’ve become a big-time mopping fan,” says Dara T. from MA. “Seeing all that dirt in the bucket is like a high for me! And it makes me realize, sadly, how dirty my floors are. It’s been eye-opening, to say the least.”
11. Kneading Dough
“I like baking bread because it’s a great way to work out my frustrations," says Meira N. from TX. "And now that I have more time to do it, I get the kids in the kitchen and we bake together. For me, kneading dough is like adult Play-Doh, and you can eat it afterwards.”
“Pulling weeds doesn’t sound like it would be exciting, but I find it relaxing," says Anita R. of NM. "I don’t think about anything else — I just breathe in the smell of the earth and focus on my breathing while I help remove the bad stuff to make way for the good. Sometimes my kids want to join in, but this is my zen time.”
13. Cleaning The Tub
“I’m not going to lie — my bathtub doesn’t get cleaned nearly as often as it should," admits Adanira Q., NY. "I like putting bleach in a spray bottle and spraying the tub. It makes the grout look white again, and the smell of the bleach makes me feel like everything is clean. It motivates me to clean other parts of the house.”
“There’s nothing greater than a good purge, and I’ve been doing more of those lately. And really, I’ve had no choice," says Susan M. of CT. "With three kids home from school, I need as much available counter space as I can get. I’m trying to get the kids on board but they’re not really into it as much as I am. For me, calm is a counter with no crap on it.”
15. Lighting A Candle
“Although it’s not really cleaning, I think lighting a candle helps create calm in the house,” says Inez P. from NJ. “I’m choosing spring scents (lots of florals) to make it feel like spring, even though the trees are barely showing their buds yet.”
16. Clearing The Cobwebs
“It took me working from home to realize how many cobwebs we have in the house. I like taking the broom and sweeping them away," says Victoria D. of PA. "It’s instant gratification, unlike other parts of the house that take more time to clean. And it makes me feel like I’m getting rid of the cobwebs in my head, although that’s probably not the case.”
17. Keeping A Calendar
“I have a dry erase calendar that barely ever gets used,” says Sharon E. from NY. “I found some dry erase markers and I’ve been filling in each day, mainly so the kids have something to look forward to, and to provide some structure to our days.”
18. Adding Some Flowers
“Since we can’t get to the home improvement store, I’ve been putting some artificial flowers in vases around my house,” says Julia P. from CT. “The pop of color makes the house feel happier — or that just might be me.”
19. Doing A DIY Project
“Our home has lots and lots of half-finished or barely started projects. I can’t take it all on, but little by little, I’m working on these. The sense of accomplishment that I feel when I finish one is amazing. Just the other day, I painted an accent wall in our dining room and it looks so pretty!” — Mara N., VT
20. Clearing Out Your Clothing
“We were going to do our annual spring cleaning and clear out our clothing in a few weeks," says Ellen S., UT. "But since I have all the kids at home, we are doing it now. Of course, it takes longer since it feels like every item has to be tried on, but they’re having a good time, and we’re getting rid of clothing clutter. It makes me feel happier knowing that when they finally go back to school (!), their wardrobe will be current and the right sizes.”
21. Deep, Deep Cleaning
“Because we’re home, we figured now was a good time to do a deep cleaning,” says Lisa B. from AL. “We’re doing baseboards, the insides of cabinets, the works. I pour myself a glass of wine, clear my mind and focus on what I’m doing in that moment, and not only am I cleaning better, but I feel better, too. And the wine definitely helps."
22. Making Mirrors Sparkle
Anne V. of NY says that mirrors are probably her "favorite surface to clean, because you typically don’t have to move anything to get to it and the results are so satisfying." While they can be difficult to reach, the "tops of ceiling fans" are another incredibly satisfying (and incredibly dirty) surface to tackle.
Sometimes the simple act of filling an empty container can be calming, as Samantha D. of GA explains. "My favorite is when my Grove order comes in and I can refill all my soap jars," she says.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all our Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here on this page, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.
Shuli Sandler PsyD, clinical psychologist