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Productivity vs Self-Care: Are they Mutually Exclusive?

Tea Time

Have you been feeling like the days just melt together, and no matter how gung ho you started out, your to-do list is still never ending? Especially if it comes to taking care of yourself? How many transitions have you been through in the last 12 months? Maybe you’ve created a home office, or gotten a new role, or learned how to make gluten-free-sourdough (if that exists, please send me the recipe!). 

These transitions make the brain work harder than it likes to, your brain prefers established habits that require little thinking, like the repetitiveness of brushing your teeth.  One of the things you might find interesting is the brain on change…it wants to rebel, it makes your body tired because you’re now expending cognitive energy. None of that sounds like much fun to the brain!

Self-Care does some great things for your brain:

  1. A temporary break from Stress and Anxiety

Even meditating or reading a book or putting a puzzle together, gives your brain a break from constant thinking and exerting energy. Over a week, this can significantly lower your heart rate and reduce overall stress to your body.

  1. Helps your brain work better

When you aren’t constantly stressed, your brain doesn’t have to work as hard, and you can think better, with more focus and clarity.  Things like exercise, fresh air, meditation and deep breathing help re-oxygenate your brain and reduce inflammation in the body.

  1. Gives you space to create 

As you’re creating something like a quilt, or a painting, or even gardening, your brain gets into what’s known as flow. When we are in flow, our brains lose all concept of time and space and can relax into a more beta state, this is almost as good as taking a nap (without the sleep)! 

4. Makes you more Sociable as my Uncle Billy would say

When you feel good, you want to share that feeling with the people in your life, you care just a little bit more about what is happening in their world, you have more space to ask them questions. And when you connect with some of your favorite humans, something magical happens: you smile, you laugh, you enjoy each other. This is one of the best forms of self-care that I know.

Marilyn and friends at tea

As you read even these three reasons why self-care is so good for you, many folks will not prioritize it.  Because it means you have to prioritize yourself. Just like if you were on an airplane and had to put on your own oxygen mask first. It’s actually that important. No one can pour out happiness, caring for others or have great relationships if their own tea cup is empty.

What if you could make self-care easier on your brain? Have you read the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear? He suggests the easiest way to improve a bad habit is by making tiny changes until they add up to a new good habit.  What does a tiny change look like for increasing productivity and making time for self-care? 

Here are a few that I’ve tried that have worked.

  1. Netflix binge: okay, I know this sounds counter-intuitive, we totally got caught up in Bridgerton, I mean we paused watching The Crown, which we gotta get back to!  Here’s how to have a better binge:
    • Only watch it for an hour after work each evening, rather than watching it for 3 hours straight and then being exhausted the next day. 
    • On the weekends, watch 2 shows instead of one.  It would still ‘feel’ like a binge watch, because that was the only show we would watch for a few weeks. 
    • This was my self-care plus I got more sleep during the week!
  1. Drink more water: this has been the bane of my existence! I would rather drink tea all day, and stopping to drink water is annoying. Put in a few pattern interrupters.
    • Add things to your water, Vitamin C EmergenC, BCAA grape flavor, fruit squeezes like lemon, pomegranate, and cara cara oranges. 
    • Choose a few water bottles: glass, double walled metal, Yeti, crystal-infused, ceramic coated and Cirkul plastic. 
    • Use a water app I like “Drink Water’ it reminds me every hour to drink more water.  
    • Get a water bottle holder, mine is from Natural Life. This is Self-Care.
  1. Eat more veggies: there were a few days that went by and I realized my kids had not eaten one fruit or veg and they were cranky. I thought, how can I help them with this? 
    • InstantLoss has some great recipes, I made what everyone thought was brownie bites when really they were spinach, banana muffins with a few sugar free, dark chocolate chips and pecans. 
    • Make smoothie bags for the week: fill up 5 reusable bags with a scoop of pea protein powder, ½ a banana, a date, 1 cup of spinach, 1 cup of frozen berries, a T of local honey and almond butter, plus  a pinch of sea salt and bee pollen. Freeze. I mixed the contents of a smoothie bag with a cup of almond milk in a blender for 60 seconds every morning for my youngest son, and after a week, he’s much happier! Self-Care for my family plus productivity time saver!
  2. Tea Time: in the last few months, I have been watching more shows across the pond, and I’ve also taken a break from coffee. That has led me to some very interesting Tea Shoppes and to create my own tea time each day, to sit for a few minutes to enjoy and be grateful. Here are a few tea essentials I love:
    • Cute tray with fun tea towel
    • Teapot with strainer
    • Creamer pitcher for milk tea 
    • Tiny plates and bowls for treats

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to find time to master productivity in service of self-care. I am still working on how I can multitask to get better at this & I’d love to hear your self-care ideas:) 


Reference in Forbes, Sarah McKay, The Woman’s Brain Book and James Clear, Atomic Habits.

Marilyn Dollar- Woman sitting at desk
Marilyn Dollar - The Woman's Coach

They call me the C-Suite Whisperer.

High-Performance Coach For Leaders and CEO’s. It’s time to embrace your true identity and grow into your next achievement!

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