Thoughts, Stories, Action Newsletter: Ponder new ideas, learn through stories, then walk the walk.

The Sink Is a Great Barometer for My Anxiety

July 5, 2020
Jason Gutierrez
Image credit: Brittany Ernsperger


“This is what depression looks like.” — Brittany Ernsperger / Facebook


Two years ago, Brittany Ernsperger posted this photo on Facebook showcasing a mountain of clean dishes drying on her counter, leading with the description, “This is what depression looks like.”

She went on to recount her two-week slugfest with the dishes, which she finally overcame before posting the photo. Her experience resonated with a mere couple hundred thousand people who full-heartedly understood the struggle of performing a basic task such as doing the dishes while weighed down by mental health.

Though I’m not on Facebook and didn’t catch her original post, I came across her photo last week by happenstance, which immediately struck a chord with me too.

On most days, I’m a guy who runs a tight ship in his sink. You’d be hard pressed to find more than a couple of dirty dishes at any given moment. This is a habit that’s followed me since my days working in the back of restaurants, where “clean as you go” tended to be a matter of life and death — you either stuck with that plan or worked until 2 AM instead of midnight to catch back up.

I’ve realized that having a clean sink is quite good for the soul and VERY much correlated to my state of mind. If my sink is empty, that typically means I’m operating with full clarity and not having any problems keeping up with “the little things”.

On the other hand, when my sink starts piling high with dishes, that’s when I’m not doing so hot. Not only does the mound of dishes visually mess with my chi, the fact that I’ve let a stack grow without tending to them means something’s up.

In this way, my sink has become an accurate barometer for my anxiety. When it’s empty, my mind is clear and I’m on top of my game. When it’s overflowing, it’s safe to assume that my headspace is in a similar condition.

So now when I see my dishes stacking, I do my best to pause and take note. “OK Jason, you’ve got to slow down and get back to the basics.” And then I tackle the sink, one dish at a time, before continuing with whatever else I need to do.

If it becomes a repeated problem in a short span of time, I know something much bigger is fundamentally wrong in my life (i.e. overloaded at work) and I need to figure it out.


Feeling anxious? Is your “sink” piling too high with dirty dishes?

  1. Identify an easy-win task, such as doing the dishes, to gain some clarity and a sense of accomplishment.
  2. Step back and ask yourself why you’re in this state of mind. Anything you can do to ease your anxiety? Do that.



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