Self Care Short List

It’s easy to think that self-care is a cure all for your woes (spoiler, it isn’t) and a replacement for good healthcare and community care. (It definitely isn’t.) It’s easy to spend absurd amounts of money on “self-care” and “wellness” activities that you don’t actually need.

I’m mindful of this.

I see self care activities as a way to focus on personal care and personal growth. These are the systems and standards that I can set to have the energy to do the good things I wan to do in the world.

I like to think of my self care activities as a combination of addressing my basic needs, expanding in areas I could use more support, where I can tune the dial to focus more when I have time, money, or energy to spend.

And while it’s true that sometimes my passions run a little bit towards the silicon valley optimization path, most of the time my focus here is just helping me attend to the things I can do to help stay energized, emotionally balanced, and feel physically good.

One of the things I’ve been working towards for myself is setting standards rather than goals. Here are some of the questions I ask myself:

  • What’s the minimum viable dose?
  • What if I could spend unlimited funds?
  • What would good look like?
  • How much is too little? How much is too much?
  • How would you prioritize these activities?
  • What do you drop when you are feeling unbalanced?
  • What do you add when you are feeling unbalanced?

Physical Adjustment, Body Work

Note to self: you know you feel better when you are getting regular physical body work! Work hard, restore hard. When you are lifting heavy, active, and moving, it makes sense to actually get this work done.

Massage: for muscle relaxation, working out the large knots in my upper back, and general stress relief.

  • Thai Massage: over the past few years, I’ve been going to a Thai massage place that allows for relatively last-minute reservations.
  • Sports Massage: I’m adding in a new sports massage practitioner to see if I can do a little bit more pre-hab.
  • Wellness in Motion
  • Physical Therapy
  • Stretching

Manicure: as someone who picks at my hands because of anxiety, having regular manicures is the one way that I can generally avoid this behavior/habit.

  • I’m currently working on “the shame project” an Angie’s-list for local manicurists who will provide judgement free manicures for those working through cuticle healing process.
  • It’s all about the DAZZLE DRY lifestyle. This stuff lasts for two weeks.
  • Cuticle oil or bag balm to heal.

Acupuncture/Acupressure: addressing specific issues like my De Quervain’s (don’t use social media, kids!) and overall wellness. When I first started working for myself, I went to acupuncture weekly for a period of time to help reduce overall stress. It’s been a while since I’ve done this regularly and I need to go back.

  • I have a session scheduled in a few weeks with a new practitioner that I’ve heard good things about, and is relatively close to where I am locally.

Sauna and Cold Plunge: I’m a fan of the benefits of contrast therapy for both recovery and relaxation: it’s one of the only things that can get me to quickly get out of my own head and quiet all the channels. Kelo Spa is a Finnish/Ukrainian spa in the neighborhood. (Ideally I find a neighbor with a wood sauna though…anyone?)

Massage Gun: You have one! Use it! (I’d love a pair of Normatecs as well.)

Epsom Soaking: you have a big bag of it!

Mental and Emotional Wellness

  • Therapy:
    • I feel thankful that I get to do therapy, and it’s largely covered by my health insurance. This is something that I’ve done intermittently throughout the decades, and I’m always thankful when I have someone who I can sit with to focus on introspection, challenges, and growth.
  • Journaling:
    • Writing is one of my primary self-care activities. It’s where I do my best thinking, organizing, and even feeling. It’s a way for me to connect my physical sensations and feelings with my mind. I also have a regular gratitude practice (identifying Good Things), and focus on identifying challenges, intentions, and more.
  • Supporting ADHD and cognitive challenges:
    • In the past few years, I’ve gotten more focused on supporting my executive function, learning more about my brain in order to work with my brain instead of against it. (Organizational support, OT)

General Relaxation and Stress Management

  • Bodies of Water:
    • My number one stress management tactic is to get outside and head to a body of water. I have a pond conveniently located on my daily walk, but the Ocean is my happy place.
  • The Forest:
    • Get deep into nature.
  • Travel:
    • One of my favorite ways to relax, learn new things, discover new places, experience novelty. I don’t do enough of it. Goal is to earmark in more time to travel, and actually make plans to do it.
  • Aromatherapy:
    • I’m not a fan of bottled scent or fragrance, but I love noticing particular smells – in the kitchen, the garden, outside (petrichor before the rains!)
  • Flowers of the Week:
    • I’m a happier person when I’m surrounded by flowers and plants.
  • Sound Therapy:
    • Taking Reggie’s Ompractice Sound Bowls class when I get a chance.
    • Live Music: concerts (particularly symphony)
    • IMAX animal and nature documentaries

Creativity: Inputs and Activities

This probably deserves a full page on it’s own. I’ve long been inspired by Julia Cameron’s Creative Dates as a path to self care: solo activities where you “top off” your creative inputs so to speak.

Creative Inputs:

  • Museums
  • Visiting all of the Trustees Properties in Massachusetts
  • Visiting all of the State Parks in New England
  • Visit a Botanical Garden or Greenhouse
  • Get on a boat
  • Watching films at the movie theater (weekly)
  • Reading (Goodreads Yearly Reading)
  • Bird Watching (Merlin App, iNaturalist)
  • A class at the Paper Mouse

Creative Activities

  • Writing
  • Tend to the Garden
  • Plant Care
  • Photography with my Nikon and my DJI Osmo 3
  • Flower and Nature Photo Walks
  • Color Walks (pick a color to notice on your walk)
  • Drawing and Painting
  • Cooking (Yearly cooking projects)
  • Outdoor Art

Systems Improvements

My systems are what keeps everything running! I have this earmarked as a separate section for self care, because when I don’t pay attention to these, things tend to fail fast.

  • List updates:
    • Inputs, Self Care, Bucket List, Creative Pursuits, etc. currently in Evernote, on the blog, in notebooks, etc. Building out a “Life Binder” over the summer.
  • Home Organization
    • Regular cleaning and organzation
    • Support with cleaning, chores, and overall systems
  • Won’t Do List
    • A list of things I’m explicitly not focusing on right now
  • Learning Goals
    • A list of courses that I’m taking, and things I’d like to learn, study, and research next
  • Boundaries
    • Values I hold in my interactions with people around me
  • Support Team:
    • people in my life in a variety of categories who I can directly ask for help from. I’m not great at asking for help, and sometimes in the moment, I don’t know who to ask, and how to ask. Working on flexing this muscle as self care.

Skincare and Personal Care

Generally, I’m a minimalist when it comes to any sort of beauty products or skincare.

  • Facials: Lily, who works in the neighborhood does a great job with facials. I’ve been going every four months or so. Would love to try a Hydra-facial.
  • Haircut: I’ve been going to Lucy who is awesome. Usually 2x – 3x a year.
  • Eye Masks in the Fridge: I have a bunch of them.
  • Scalp Treatments: I’ve been TikTok influenced – would love to try either SKA or Fashion Point in Chinatown.
  • Yearly Dermatology Appointment: thank you Dr. Sobell!
  • Refreshing my list of aspirational skincare products
  • Teeth management: 2x/year cleanings, cocofloss, reminder to swap out my toothbrush head on a regular basis

Nutrition and Food

  • Working with an RD: I’ve worked with Emily Field to help re-build habits to support my fitness and adventuring needs! Currently doing a monthly check-in as an accountability process for myself.
  • Weekly Meal Planning: this is the habit that helps me to feed myself! I’m less concerned about actually cooking the things I’ve planned as setting up placeholders so I have backup on the days when I’m done with decision making by the time I need to eat.
  • Farmers Market and Novelty Quests: regular trips to specialty food stores as entertainment and curiosity boosting
  • Novelty: Rancho Gordo bean club, Noma Tasting Club, Burlap + Barrel spice club
  • Let’s Eat Spreadsheet: pantry contents, global foods I’d like to try, bean backlog
  • 1000 fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds to try
  • Tea and Coffee Collection: this does double duty as a side quest and a relaxation activity.

Fitness and Mobility

My primary interest in fitness and mobility is to stay active and enjoy movement over a lifetime.

  • Personal Training and Strength Training: I’ve been working weekly with Ryan at AnkFit. Although I’m decently self-directed with my fitness, I’ve been enjoying getting out of the house, and letting someone else take the wheel.
  • Yoga, flexibility, mobility: classes on Ompractice. I haven’t taken an in-person studio class in quite a while, would love to try something locally. I’d also like to build a repeatable stretching routine that I can do on a regular basis to support hypermobility.
  • Hiking: need to update my shortlist of local hikes and actually get after some this summer! In April, I did an ultra in Blue Hills which had me traversing pretty much every trail, and I had such a good time out there (without even needing an earbud or music.)
  • Walking and Running: my primary joyful activity!
  • Forest Walks: I want to spend more time in the woods!
  • Fun and Novelty: things I’d like to do more of – martial arts, particularly a tumbling class, Zumba, acro-yoga

Sleep + Rest Enhancements

  • Sleep Optimization: I’m thankful that I’m relatively blessed with good sleep lately. That said, I’ve been working to improve my bedtimes, and shift my waking to slightly earlier so I have more time in the morning to do nothing.
  • Digital Detox Days: I’m not very good at unplugging. (This is partially because I get a lot of joy out of being chronically online.) But I’m working to spend more days with a computer closed.


Back in my Runkeeper days, working on the HealthGraph, I was wearing every gadget in the books! I like gadgets as carrots: a way to give myself a gold star or extra-credit for behavior that I want to keep doing. (They work poorly for me as a stick.)

  • Currently: Apple Watch, Oura, Rise App, Headspace, Withings scale

Health and Wellness Auditing and Monitoring

I probably could have put this at the top of my list, but a regular part of my self care is to do snapshot assessments of both my physical health, and ongoing habits:

  • Wheel of Life: a quick and regular snapshot of assessing how I’m feeling across key areas: physical health, mental wellbeing, my environment/surrounding, my hobbies/joy/restoration, relationships, friends and family, finances, giving back, purpose or work, spirituality, and personal growth.
  • Weekly and Monthly Retrospectives: what’s working, what’s not working, what you can improve. (My substack newsletter is a public version of this!)
  • Regular Check-Ups: my annual physical with my doctor (who is incredible! both a general MD and a functional specialist – I’m lucky to get to sit with her for at least a full hour and work through my current health.
  • Blood Work: I try to test regularly – my doctor is great at pro-active healthcare. (In the past year or so, I’ve also done a few extra marker checks via Levels. And in the past I’ve used Inside Tracker.) Would be curious about getting a Function test (several friends have).
  • Mental Health Check-Ins: I’m a fan of regular therapy!
  • DEXA/RMR/VO2max Testing: It’s been several years since I’ve done a workup – my first time getting these done was over a decade ago in a BIDMC research study on Brown Adipose Tissue!
  • Fitness Assessments: As someone generally very active, I haven’t actually done this in a while! I’d like to do some strength, flexibility, and speed testing in the coming months! (I’m working on building out assessments at Ompractice, which is a good excuse to re-take some of these to get a snapshot of my current fitness levels.

Would Love To Do List

  • 1000 Great Places in Massachusetts
  • Walk the full Freedom Trail (I think I’ve done this, but it’s been probably two decades)
  • Day at a Korean Spa
  • Mud Bath
  • Cacao Tasting
  • Tea Class
  • Scent workshop at Byredo
  • Pottery Workshop
  • Cooking class at CCAE or NCE
  • Writing Retreat
  • Meditation Retreat
  • Viking River Boat Cruise
  • Culinary Tours: Ballymaloe, Japan, Scandinavia

Weekly Good Things: Week 10

This morning I woke from daylight savings with the feeling one has when you wake up one day and decide to chop your long hair off immediately. Thankfully, I didn’t do that, but instead channeled my strong desire for change into a switch up of format. Today’s 10 Things format comes from 

Austin Kleon, who writes a great weekly newsletter.

Grey Skies in San Fransokyo at Disneyland

10 Things of Interest This Week

  1. Maps In Your Head: In honor of SXSW this week, I’ve been thinking about 2012, when I went to Austin for the first time, and had one of the wildest travel experiences of my life (and not just the 30 individual meals I had in 10 days of visiting! At the time, I’d been working for a food startup called Tasted Menu, which was a cross between Yelp and Foodspotting, where you’d review individual dishes at a restaurant. I oversaw data entry for our Austin launch, which had us cataloguing the restaurant data, locations, and full menus of restaurants in the Austin area. When we landed in Austin, I had one of the oddest sensations I’ve ever experienced. As we drove around the city, everything was intimately familiar, and I had a deep sense of directional understanding – without having ever stepped foot in the place before. On that note, if you want restaurant recommendations for SXSW this week, I have a near photographic memory of all of these places circa 2012. Lots of good stuff is still there and thriving!
  2. Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris. Every year or so, I find myself immersing in the full body of work of a new-to-me author I’ve been holding off on, and usually they are so prolific that I have enough to immerse myself for quite some time. Notably, my Discworld adventure (about 40 or so Terry Pratchett books), everything by Tamora Pierce, and then last year’s Sarah J. Maas quest (I started with Throne of Glass). 2024, is my year of Sanderson, and immersing myself in the Cosmere – his linked worlds. I’ve finished the first and second Mistborn series, and was absolutely delighted to dive into Elantris, a standalone book in the Cosmere, loosely about a poisoned and broken magic system and stepping into your power when you think you have none. This was an absolute gem of a book, and would make a great introduction to his work. For those of you passionate about reading order, I’m loosely following this path.
  3. Curiosity and the Way of the Dragon. Every few months, I try to take a class, workshop, or program that helps me see the world in a new way, shoves me out of my current world view, and stokes my curiosity. Right now I’m enjoying my Wellesley classmate Simone’s new 5-week course The Way of the Dragon. A good question from the course to ponder: “Imagine you aren’t trying to escape anything, nor are you trying to chase something. How does that feel inside your body?” (A good one to tap in and journal on. For me, there’s a sense of grounding – static, a little heavy, but not devoid of tension – my body is in a state of light buzzing.)
  4. Disneyland, a reward. I’ve leaned into my Disney adult era. Last week, I was in California for a work conference, and treated myself to an extra day and a half at Disney to adventure and re-charge. Doing Disney alone on a very low traffic weekday with strategy means that I ended up doing from open to parks close and getting in 29 rides/experiences between the two parks on day one, and room for lunch and snacks. (Birria toasted cheese at Jolly Holiday, Dole Whip Float at the Tiki Room, and Birria Ramen in San Fransokyo were my favorites!) Day 2 was only a half day, and I took advantage of my early rising to be the first one alone on Tom Sawyer Island, as well as enjoying the River Boat, and a full loop of the train.
  5. Thoughts on Drugs. My mind has been on pharmaceuticals this week. Bertram is healing a cornea scratch, and had a minor debridement procedure and a contact lens put in. Hopefully the Oculenis (hyaluronic acid!) ocular repair will continue to help him heal. // If you have an aging dog, I want to put a shout out to Librela, a monoclonal antibody biologic treatment which has been a game-changer for arthritis and pain in older dogs. // My heart sank seeing the news about the ALS drug Relyvrio failure this week. Over the past few years, I’ve been following Brooke Eby who is a woman in tech living with ALS and making an incredible impact in the world educating folks about the disease and driving both awareness and change. I first learned about Relyvrio from her videos of how god-awful it tasted. Go follow Brooke because she’s awesome and we need more brilliant eyes on curing ALS.
  6. Sol Food Chicken (recipe). Seeing Shutterbean make this chicken nearly weekly, I finally made a batch and it’s *delicious*. I cooked up some potatoes with it, and added a bunch of lemon to the final product. It’s pure chicken and an aggressive amount of garlic, how I like it. (A secondary chicken shout out to I think Aleka who turned me on to Just Bare chicken cutlets in the freezer aisle?)
  7. A scandal I can’t look away from. This wild story this week where a vendor selling Dunkin’ donuts to a store in New York and (truly dangerously) passing them off as her own vegan and gluten free donuts. Here’s the original instagram post where the market owner posted a horrified apology.
  8. TV: I’m watching the new series Shogun on FX. It’s beautifully shot, with strong visual storytelling. While there are some comparisons to Game of Thrones (and it’s definitely violent), I find the pacing to be slow blooming, and it took me a whole episode and a half to really get locked in. That said, now I’m in.
  9. Finding joy in the workplace. Hat tip to Sondy who alerted me to this delightful paper title: A.C.I.D – An Improved LSD Technique for Accurate Line Profile RetrievalI always enjoy it when people make puns and have a chuckle in their professional lives.
  10. Good Eats: I’ve been enjoying Blondie in China’s videos and was made hungry by her recent eats in Xi’an. A good excuse to try out a Pork Stew Rougamo (Rou Jia Mo 肉夹馍), and order some Liangpi (凉皮) cold skin noodles, and some pickled cucumber with woodear mushroom. Hit the spot.

That’s all for now! Hope you have a great week!

xo, Sam

Weekly Good Things 2024 – Week 8

Hello! Hello! Welcome to another weekly episode of Good Things where I give you a peek into my everyday life during the week, and roundup my good links, ideas, books, and more.

Sam tackeff standing in a darkened room filled with thousands of pinpoints of light and mirrored walls by the artist yayoi kusama

Another change of scenery! Today I flew to LA where I’m sharing what we do at Ompractice at #VIVE digital health conference (thank you, AARP Innovation!)

While the week will be lots of work, making connections, and being on my feet, I’m squeezing in as much curiosity time as I can get while I’m in LA.

I managed to get to the Broad tonight for an hour before closing. And in highly exciting news, I was snuck into the Kusama exhibit at the Broad tonight without a ticket because of a very kind museum staff person! Thank you, Jen!

a landscape photo of los angeles with large sky, buildings, and a road down the center leading to mountains in the background

TOPICS on my mind this week:

  • Emojis: I had a few interesting conversations about emoji this week, including learning about a law professor who specializes in emoji(s?) and the law. (I did just learn that ‘emojis’ is the preferred plural by AP Stylebook. One reason I love them is how they help people better express their emotion. I’m also a fan of the memes where people ask you to “describe your day in emoji”. ❄️🏃🏻‍♀️☕️✈️👩🏻‍💻🐻👯‍♂️🍣🖼️🍜.
  • Spoon Theory: I had to have a challenging conversation with a friend about my energy levels and capacity to do things. If you haven’t heard the term “Spoon Theory”, this is a good link. Generally speaking, it’s a way to describe a decrease in energy capacity throughout the day for those living with chronic health conditions. In my case, I have boundless amounts of physical energy, but my executive function drastically decreases regularly (and usually at inopportune times). It makes it challenging to do certain things: scheduling, pro-active outreach, or spending time with friends 1-1. (Even when I really want to!)
  • Fair Play: I’m fascinated by “Fair Play” cards, designed to better balance the emotional labor and household management between partners (or even roommates) and this was a great (if not depressing) essay on the topic.
  • Women’s Hobbies: on that note, I also read this phenomenal piece by Anne Helen Peterson, about gender-coded hobbies, and who gets quality leisure time. Spoiler alert, it’s not the women. (But it’s much more fascinating an essay than the surface level thesis!)
  • Bluey. What’s not to love? Seriously, if you’ve not watched yourself some Bluey (maybe you don’t have a small child to watch it with – truly, watch it yourself and heal your inner child.
large Californian trees at night lit up by spotlights from the ground

More Good Reading

Typically I work on planes (some of my favorite places to write!) but the internet was cranky today on my 6+ hours cross country. I did manage to get about 13 articles written on a project to re-organize and update the Ompractice support knowledgeable, but aside from that, I tried to spend time catching up on some reading.

I really enjoyed this interview David Epstein (author of one of my favorite validating books ‘Range’) with Pablo Torre. There’s not much I love more than wildly curious people interviewing wildly curious people. I love the far ranging topics.

A dog in a blow up cone on a grassy field

A Few More Moments from the Museum

a large square orange canvas of art with stylized lines drawn by the artist Keith Haring
Some Keith Haring at the Broad
paper cut paper silhouettes by the artist kara walker (NSFW)
Kara Walker
Barbara Kruger

Other Good Things

  • 📖 Reading: I’ve been reading Mistborn (Wax and Wayne) – I’m on the last book in this series. Fortunately there are several series in the same general universe. I’ve picked up Charles Duhigg’s Supercommunicators after listening to an episode of LifeKit with him featured that I quite enjoyed!
  • 📺 Watching: Next Goal Wins on Disney+, a feel good movie by Taika Waititi about the true story of the American Samoa national soccer team.
  • 🛍 Good Acquisitions: my Rancho Gordo Bean Club Shipment and my Burlap and Barrel Spice Club shipment arrived in the same week.
  • 🤣 Memes and randomness of the week: this absolutely insane story about the Strava Chipotle Burrito Challenge // you can still buy Brain Quest and Cricket Magazine
two pieces of orange uni sea urchin sushi on a plate
Santa Barbara Uni at Sugarfish today!

The Weekly Meal Plan:

On hiatus this week! I’ll be eating good things in LA (both at the conference, and when I manage to sneak out. If you’d like some food inspiration though, please look at this INCREDIBLE web page highlighting the food (where/when/what) at this conference this week. I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so beautiful!

Today’s Lunch: Sugarfish Trust Me

Tuna Sashimi 
– ponzu and chives
Albacore Sushi 
– ponzu and chives, 2-pc
Salmon Sushi 
– toasted sesame, 2-pc
Toro Hand Roll
Japanese Yellowtail* Sushi 
– lemon, 1-pc
Hirame* Sushi 
– yuzu ponzu, 1-pc
Blue & Dungeness Crab Hand Roll

(Plus ankimo and uni!)

several bowls on a small table of food including soup, and chicken and noodles, kimchi, and a bottle of san pellegrino
**Unbelievably good chicken soup** from Hangari Kalguksu

Today’s dinner: an absolutely insane Chicken Kalguksu soup from Hangari Kalguksu. Hand pulled noodles, anchovy and chicken broth with dates, squash, zucchini. Pickled vegetables. Kimchi. I’m rarely shocked by a meal but this was beyond.

🥑 Good Eats from this past week: scallops and pasta with eggplant sauce. Wasa crackers with boursin, kalles, and maple butter. Pork tenderloin, french fries, and paprikash mustard from my Burlap + Barrel spice subscription. Chicken soup dumplings, cabbage, and chicken cutlet. Salmon with sherry vinegar and tahini beets. La Fermière desserts (chocolate, creme vanille, and creme caramel). Sukhi’s Chicken Tikka from the fridge case, cauliflower, with coriander chutney.

That’s all for now! Hope you have a great week!

xo, Sam