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