I have a massive problem with productivity — to the point where I often find myself trying to fill every millisecond of the day with things I can neatly cross off a growing to-do list immediately after. While it’s one thing to make sure you abide by your responsibilities and the daily obligations of life, it’s another to allow productivity to seep into the realms of self-care and relaxation — a hybrid so commonly intertwined under late-stage capitalism.
You only have to look at your TikTok ‘For-You’ page to see this play out in action. ‘Self-Care Sunday’ is not a marker for sitting in your bed binging all your favourite TV shows, but a day to clean your house, do your laundry, get a workout in, meal prep and then top it all off with a face mask if you’re lucky.
It’s far from our fault, though. We’ve been conditioned since birth to correlate productivity with accomplishment, which is why it feels so damn good to smash out a to-do list and clear a slate of tasks that have been calling our names all week. And who doesn’t wanna feel good, amirite?
Lifestyle writer and slow fashion influencer Maggie Zhou (@yemagz) recently posted a TikTok video speaking to a similar notion.”We have convinced ourselves that daily maintenance tasks for human living is self-care. If we think we’re satisfied by this idea of self care, we don’t feel the need to seek out further enrichment and fulfilment,” she said.
we have convinced ourselves that daily maintenance tasks for human living is self care. if we think we’re satisfied by this idea of self care, we don’t feel the need to seek out further enrichment and fulfilment #selfcare #capitalism #anticapitalism #feminism
I felt SEEN by that statement because I’m the first person to openly pass off things like cooking a nice meal and getting an early night, or freshening up my room as acts of self-care, but those things are still tasks by nature and require a mental load.
Having said all this, you’re probably either a) re-evaluating your life (‘cos same) and/or b) wondering what the heck self-care actually looks like. Maggie said things like “nourishing [your] spirit and joy, none of it under the guise of productivity” is a good start.
We can obviously assume that looks like different things to different people, but a good way to check in with yourself and make sure your self-care actions are not task-driven is to actively incorporate things into your week that you know will fill your cup regardless of their productivity value. It’s not ground-breaking advice by any means, but an important reminder in a society where putting things you need to do above your mental wellbeing can often be the norm.
If you’re a fellow productivity queen, and need some inspiration on how to redefine your down-time, here’s some unproductive acts of self-care to take under your wing:
Be actively lazy sometimes, y’all
This could look like unashamedly spending the arvo watching a season of Grey’s Anatomy (and not even remotely feeling guilty), or taking a midday nap just because you bloody well feel like it. There’s no shame in doing something that isn’t linked to a direct achievement. C’mon, repeat it after me ’til you believe it.
Alternatively, if you need an option that doesn’t involve a hot date with ya bed, my favourite ~unproductive~ state of calm is watching sunsets (or sunrises if you’re an early bird)— especially if you’re by the beach and you get to hear all the waves crashing in front of you. Bliss.
Get artistic, for fun (even if graphic design ISN’T your passion)
You could add ‘for fun’ to pretty much anything, and if you truly mean it, then that’s self-care in my books. Things like making art for leisure and enjoyment fall under this category. Don’t come for me with the “I’m not good at it, though” either. The end result isn’t the goal here, remember.
If there’s no world in which you could sit down and paint or draw for fun — that’s okay. Instead of making it, you might like to consume it through books, poems, Pinterest boards or music instead.
Connect with ya mates
Believe it or not, connecting with your mates is a major pillar of your mental wellbeing and it can be a really healthy form of self-care. This could look like a Tuesday night feed at the local, or just taking a picnic to a lookout at sunset with your bestie.
Connect with yourself
I know all the wellness peeps live and die by the whole ‘meditation’ thing, but as someone who can’t — for the life of me — sit there with zero thoughts and relax, I’ve had to find alternatives that work for me. One of these is journalling. Being able to word dump onto the page and release all my inner thoughts or worries is a major form of self-care for me. It also helps me feel present and in-tune with my mind and body, which is great for my mental wellbeing.
If you’re not the type to enjoy meditation or journalling, don’t worry — connecting with yourself is not reserved for just these two things. It can also look like having some me-time listening to your fave podcast or grounding yourself at the beach after a big day of work. The world is ya oyster, baby. So there ya have it — three easy ways to really make time for your mental wellbeing this week.
With all that said, it’s also worth noting that this is not me saying productivity shouldn’t have a place in your day at all. It’s merely a PSA for all you hard-working folks out there that a very important part of sustaining positive mental wellbeing is being able to differentiate between the two. For more information on how to do this, Dear Mind’s building blocks offer further inspo here.