Are the things you do chores or choices?

By David Joel Miller

Do you work all day and then come home to a load of chores?

Cow Mowing Lawn

Cow Mowing Lawn
Photo courtesy of Flickr ( A Better Tripp)

How many of the things you tell yourself you need to do are really things you chose to do? Clients who complain about stress in their lives customarily tell me they have so much to do and so little time to get it done.

They also often complain that they get no help from family or co-workers and that they end up having to do everything themselves.

One justification for this “I need to do everything and no one helps me” syndrome is that old saw if you want something done right you need to do it yourself.

How many of these things you tell yourself each day you absolutely have to do are things you are really choosing to do?

The same task can be a burden or a joy depending on the way you view it.

The continuing water shortage here in the West has pointed out this conflict. There have been T. V. ads encouraging people to put in gardens of natural plants, plants that need less water. The goal is to reduce the use of water but in the process, the plants grow more slowly, needs less pruning and a yard of native plants never needs mowing.

Any casual drive through the neighborhoods on weekend mornings or after work reveals lots of people out watering and mowing laws. Many of those folks complain about how much yard work they have to do all the while making maintenance of their yards a priority.

Personally, I have never been a big fan of green lawns, but when you live in the city you have to go along to get along. Those of you from the country, you just plow that stuff under a few times a year and let it go at that.

Priorities change in retirement.

These same folks in the counseling room sometimes tell me they are planning their retirement. What do you want to do when you retire? I ask. They tell me they think they will take up gardening or a cooking class.

Those same tasks that were a chore in the past now become a choice.

When the yard work gets really overwhelming, some people turn to paying others to do their lawn. There is some merit in creating employment for others in our community. But having turned their household chores over to others those folks find they need to get more exercise so they take up walking and join a gym.

You see this same phenomenon at the gym. People drive all around the parking lot looking for a close parking spot. Sometimes they get really upset and irritated if someone cut them off from that spot right by the door.

Then once in the gym, they scrabble for a treadmill so they can do some vigorous walking.

Do you feel stressed over cooking the evening meal despite you thoughts that you would like to spend more time becoming a great cook? Preparing a meal can be an unpleasant task or an adventure.

The difference is not in the activity but in the attitude.

So when you say you are stressed, consider how many of the things you feel stressed about which are in fact choices you make to continue to do things. Your stress may well be coming from your attitude that you have to do these things rather than that you choose to do them.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books


4 thoughts on “Are the things you do chores or choices?

  1. To de-stress, embrace the humor of the absurd. I always park at the first available, or even go to the far corner of the lot where places are always open. Frequently I’m in the store while the person who was ahead of me is still cruising for that close-in spot. And so on.


  2. Brain aneurysm clip, year later, hyperthyroid due to chemistry change following brain surgery, referral to psychiatrist, misdiagnosis of bipolar, over medicated, Meds. that lower seizure threshold, misdiagnosis of Tardive Diskenesia, EEG showing seizures. These are two long hospitalizations I only remember snap shots of! Psychiatrist does not work with neurologist, despite conferencing with her and is “unaware of seizures” and detains me in psych ward for 5 days when I express extreme distress of upcoming holidays. ER Dr. Gives me a Benzodiazapine that I have listed as an allergy before transferred to psych ward because I said “I wish I could fall asleep and not wake up.” No plans of ever attempting suicide. End of 1 year nightmare when I wean off all Meds (except seizure med) and second opinion from another psychiatrist explains sequence of events and reasons for misdiagnosis. Last hurdle is getting psychiatrist who diagnosed bipolar to confirm misdiagnosis. Frontal focal epilepsy diagnosed and not able to drive for 6 months. Interested in your thoughts on this. We are our own patient advocate.


    • Sad to hear that this happened to you. My thoughts- Yes clients need to advocate for themselves. First rule of mental health should be to look for medical causes first. If your issue is caused by a medical condition, then it is not a psychiatric diagnosis. You may still need some therapy to deal with that issue. Many people, professionals included, are uncomfortable abut suicide, so their first response is to send people to the psychiatric hospital. We need more trainings and more therapists available in medical settings. Hope things go better for you in the future.


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