First Published:  | Last Updated:

The gist: I’ve played The Sims throughout most of my life, but it wasn’t until revisiting it as a recovering workaholic that I realized the hidden self-care lesson staring at me in the needs bar.

what playing the sims taught me about self-care

When I put The Sim’s back onto my main computer earlier this year, I kind of thought I’d be saying goodbye to my productivity for good. But I ended up getting a boundary and self-care lesson I didn’t even know I needed.

So in this week’s Brighter Broadcast, I’m sharing why I now make sure to build in Sims time every week. You’ll see what The Sims in particular (as opposed to any other video game) has taught me about taking care of myself.

(And what I think it can probably teach you too.)

I’ve been playing The Sims for awhile now…I think the first expansion pack that I ever bought was The Sims: Livin’ Large. So it’s been a hot minute.

And I never thought of it as a good thing to love a video game so much, but I do now. And today we are talking about why.

If you’ve been part of the Work Brighter friend group for a while now, you know that one of the things took me a while to realize is that rest is work when it’s needed. And that after a certain point, you can’t work anymore until you’ve slept, eaten, or had some fun.

So what does The Sims have to do with that? 🤔

It all comes down to the needs bar.

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Work Brighter (@workbrighter) on

Here’s how I figured it out:

I played The Sims very sporadically since I’ve graduated college, mostly because I knew how addicted to it I always get. And so it’s never been on the main computer that I use for work.

But recently I started playing for a little every day, and at the suggestion of my therapist, so I don’t feel guilty about it. 🙃

When I talked about how I had a hard time unplugging from work, she suggested that I just make it easier for myself to do something else on my computer, like play video games and relax.

That way, when I was looking for something to do on my computer, I had more options other than work. I could open up a fullscreen game and not accidentally slip back into work when I’m supposed to be resting.

At first, I thought that I’d get super, super addicted to it again. But that hasn’t happened. After all, I’m a recovering workaholic. It’s now easier for me to slip back into work, even unimportant work, than it is for me to slip into something totally, totally fun like Netflix or video games.

It’s all about that needs panel

So what really taught me everything I needed to know about self-care was that needs panel.

If you don’t play, over in the corner, each character has a measure of how fulfilled each of the important areas of their lives are:


And the six needs that are crucial for every sim are:

Those are the areas of sims needs to maintain to just like, basically function. To do the bare minimum and be “a productive member of society.”

And remember: the whole point of The Sims is that it’s supposed to simulate real life. 😉

(To an extent. They still do some pretty crazy ish…)

But in our own lives, when we’re stuck in workaholism, self-care shame, and the whole hustle mindset, we pay attention to a TOTALLY different set of needs. A set that’s not accurate in terms of what we need to function.

We pay attention to things like productivity and revenue, and energy, but in a totally different way from literal physical energy.

Note that in The Sims, a sim needs fun to function. And they need social interaction to function. But they DON’T need productivity.

For me, realizing that was just kind of like boom, mind blown. 🤯

Burnt out sims literally can’t even

When it gets to a point where a sim’s need is too low, they just won’t function as normal. If your little sim doesn’t get enough sleep, they just won’t go to work. They won’t cook dinner. They won’t clean.

They just cannot do things. It’s like the literal definition of “cannot even”-ing.

If they’re already at work and their needs become too low, they’ll literally fall asleep on the floor. (That’s one of the weird things they do.) Or they’ll come home. Or their performance starts tanking until it’s better for their job for them to be at home resting than it is for them to be there.


How I Finally Saw the Light

I was playing The Sims last week and this is what reminded me how badly I needed to do create this video and blog post.

I was playing the POV of a freelance writer (yeah, sims can be freelancers now!), and I couldn’t get her to go write her book in the study.

She worked from home, she didn’t have to go anywhere…she was just like me! Hahaha

All I needed to get her to do was sit. down. and write. 😡

But every time my sim just would walk over to the computer, they just wouldn’t sit down. My girl would just literally not sit down and write.

Oh my God, I could relate to that so much, though!

When I thought about it, she couldn’t write and do her job and be productive because she hadn’t had enough fun and was too stressed out and burnt out.

They have little moodlets in the corner that explain the characters’ moods, and I could clearly see that she was too tense to write.

That was just such an important lesson for me as a writer, as a recovering workaholic, and as a self-care advocate.

She couldn’t work until she had some fun, and so I let her sit down at the computer and play a game first just like I was doing.

That was just so huge for me, remembering that all of their needs, no matter how trivial sounding, need to be tended to (unless you use cheat codes 😉).

And since that one game sesh, I’ve made a consistent effort to play The Sims or some other game almost every day without feeling guilty about it.

Sometimes I’ll even use a cheat code. 🙃

Want more offbeat business and mindset advice? You’ll find lots of that (and Sims talk) inside the Work Brighter Clubhouse!

And if you liked this, you’ll love:

But before you go, pin this:

what playing the sims taught me about self-care