Crying & painting toenails & other productive activities

Since I talked about the end of the world and the importance of crying, I’ve been thinking about the way we talk about action. The world tells me that productive actions are VOTING, paying TAXES, going to WORK, doing your JOB. 

Actions that are not considered productive are SLEEPING, CRYING, PAINTING YOUR TOENAILS. These kinds of actions are often used as a euphemism for wasting time. Something that’s totally pointless, with no real purpose. Fiddling your thumbs, that’s another one. 

I’ve been noticing this because these examples I just mentioned, they are all in fact productive. They are all actions with a clear tangible result.

Your body needs to sleep every night in order to function.

When you cry, water is being produced by your body to release emotion. There is relief and catharsis and clarity that comes from that action. 

Painting your toenails is fast and soothing and when you’re done, your toenails are a different color, it gives you joy to look at them.

Hell even fiddling your thumbs — I’ve never actually done this but I imagine it’s a very effective way to calm down a racing mind. ((Update: I just fiddled my thumbs and I did not find it calming but it reminded me of knitting which I hear IS calming for many people. We will report back on this breaking development as we hear more).

I was reminded of this because I was listening to Brene Brown’s interview with Emily and Amelia Nagoski on burnout and how to complete the stress cycle. They talk about how important it is to let your body physically process emotions. I’ve learned this over and over during this pandemic — if emotions don’t get expressed, they get stuck in the body. I forget this all the time!

The Nagoski sisters have some fantastic ideas for how to express emotions, and I made a list for myself of actions I do that are effective for processing emotions, and I thought I’d share it.

So there you go! In case you needed permission to go paint your toenails, YOU GOT IT.


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