I’ve struggled with self-care. As someone with depression, finding the motivation to do anything at all can be a struggle. For years this also applied to any self-care activities I thought about trying. Fortunately, sometime in the past year, I stumbled upon the self-care that works for me – productive self-care. I want to share what this means to me and hopefully you’ll get a new perspective on how to “treat yo’self”.

Self-care is a concept that’s gained a lot of traction in the past few years. Particularly for mothers. The idea that doing something purely for your own enjoyment isn’t being selfish, but rather ensuring that by looking after yourself, you’re better able to look after your family. Amen to that!

We’ve all seen the lists floating around Facebook telling us that self-care is:

  • going for a walk,

  • doing your nails,

  • having a bath,

  • getting a new haircut.

None of this worked for me. In my worst moments, when I really needed to be looking after myself, the effort of walking, or making a hair appointment or getting my nail polish out, just seemed like too much. Instead, I’d lie on the couch and play Gardenscapes or scroll through Instagram in a poor effort to distract my mind away from my laziness and all the things I could or should be doing.

Then I left my job, got on some new anti-depressants and suddenly had the energy to tackle painting the lounge and building a playground for the boys. And it was good! Better than good! I had filthy, ragged nails and my knees were stained a constant dirt colour, but damn, it felt amazing!

I came to realise that productivity was my drug! Even when that initial burst of energy subsided (thankfully after I’d finished the playground), I found that undertaking activities that resulted in real output were the way I looked after my mental health. Even when I was feeling unmotivated and blue and my head was a loud clamour of thoughts, I could still find it in me to get off that couch and work on getting the lounge painted.

I think the reason productive self-care works so much better for me is two-fold:

  1. by giving my attention to the task (usually repetitive tasks like painting), I’m keeping my brain just busy enough that my thoughts are able to be processed in a more linear fashion rather than being a giant jumble of noise,

  2. I have something at the end to be proud of, something that shows I’m doing more than just being a mum.

I write this, not to say that productive self-care is better than all other self-care activities. I’m writing this to say that if you’re not feeling refreshed and positive after whatever self-care activities you do, then maybe it’s time to try something new.

I’d love to hear some of your self-care activities that leave you feeling upbeat and ready to tackle what life throws your way! Share your experiences in the comments.