Friday, July 24, 2020

International Self-Care Day and what we should do amidst the pandemic

The International Self-Care Day is commemorated on July 24th, annually.


Well, if you are thinking about self-(health)care, you want to be engaged 24x7. Or, here in the "new" world, 7x24. Get it?

Now that we have that cuteness aside, let us talk about it a bit.

The Pandemic, Self-Care and You

So, dear reader, sorry, it is impossible to hide from the pandemic, or wish it away by the end of a random month in the future, unless you are a despot.

How are you?

Have you been caring for yourself? Self-care includes both physical and mental health care, as well as taking good care of your person. And as the title image postulates, it is not selfish! (Credits below).

I am hoping, even if you weren't doing so right now, with all the craziness going on, that you will, starting now. I am also hoping you would stay with me, as I lay out a personal, DIY, Maker experiment that my brother and I have been engaged in.

Some Self-Care Reminders

We all know these things. Yet, why do we have so much difficulty indulging in them? Well, stop the guilt and stop caring! For yourself. It will put you in a better place to care for others. That should take care of the guilt and be enough of an incentive. So here goes:

1. Grooming. I am very bad at this. I am now trying to improve. I hope you do too!

2. Walking. Yes, just pick yourself up and go for a walk. This is something I am good at.

3. Healthy Eating. I am doing better at this. Cut down gently on the stuff that needs to be eaten less, and start adding more of what needs to get in!

4. Meditation. Well, sigh, ADHD doesn't always allow me to do a good job of this. My daytime walking is also very focused on photography typically, and I tend to use visual and auditory cues as well as that "sixth sense". However, when I do the step-count catch-up at night, I play music and walk feverishly, on my block's sidewalk. Despite forming new friendships and gaining odd, new experiences, I have had the ability to meditate at night, without meaning to. I still suggest bringing a pen and paper because at some point, ideas start flowing!

5. Practice Zen. Having randomly picked Japanese as a language I would never learn, and therefore must, I extended my interest into a Zen class! And it was pleasantly, amazingly life changing and so different from what I thought it was. So read about emptying your mind, and using repetition to de-focus, so you may!

Healthcare Self-Care

For those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, or the propensity towards diabetes, such as pre-diabetes, which I have self-care in the area of body health comes with some of those aforementioned activities such as walking and healthy eating. Generally speaking, more awareness and education is key. Knowing the important things to focus on is critical. Just about two years ago, for instance, I had my cholesterol tested. While my LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins) level was low, which is generally considered a good thing, the HDL (High-Density Lipoproteins) level was low as well, and this is a problem. In East Indian men, a cohort I belong to as a cis-man, this is particularly a known issue.

Once I learned of that, I was able to start making dietary modifications to try and assist that process. I am a bit embarrassed to admit, I have not since gotten tested. The COVID-19 pandemic is a convenient excuse, but it does come with a grain of truth in that, I would rather testing resources as well as healthcare practitioners focus their energy on the sick, while giving themselves breathing room to recover. Then I know there is at least a touch of arthritis on my mother's side, and definite cardiovascular disease history on both sides.

The idea here is not to sit around and wait for things to come to me. I try to take, a middle path approach of taking enough care of myself. Of course, it would be very gratifying to do more, but I know that we live in rather contentious times and things will take time to turn in our favor, should they do. So, self-care should not become self-obsession or hypochondria. Of course, that is easier said than done. People who suffer from hypochondria can vouch for that.

This is where I think those who formally work in healthcare can endeavor to foment change.

Promoting Self-Care among the public

1. Keep it simple. The advice, the description of the health condition, the remedies, the consequences of inaction must all be laid out in the simplest terms. Heavy language tends to confuse and tune people out. Doctors should work with nurses, nutritional experts and other professionals to aid the public in a cohesive manner, with unified, simple messaging.

2. Awareness and Education must come with a cost-benefit analysis, laying out economic and familial benefits, as well as other areas where improvements can be beneficial. Painting a wholesome picture of how taking care of yourself helps you and those in your life has a very high chance of long-term success.

3. Update recommendations with care. Recently, blood pressure recommendations were updated to end up being rather confusing even to a trained mind. This is exactly what you want to avoid. Give people a couple of numbers, and a high/low binary classification and/or something simple. This is always the best way to go with these things. Throw in various permutations and combinations and you start losing people.

4. Repetition and reinforcement are key. It takes a while for messages to come through at times. Patience, repetition and reinforcement are important when creating awareness about healthcare in general and self-care in particular.

Our own experiments, Quantified selves and Self-Care

My brother, Sai Yamanoor and I are makers, besides being engineers. Faced with the travails of pre-diabetes the emergence of wearable watches and our own desire to help ourselves as others, we set out to brainstorm things we could do.

The end results are what we call Personal Health Dashboards 1 and 2, named for the first and second generation. Using LEDs, the first generation, PHD 1 highlights your progress towards your daily step goal, with the LEDs from left to right starting to glow, as you walk more, spanning from red to yellow to green.

This was a useful Proof-of-Concept and a prototype. With this, we were able to work on a next generation design and prototype. In this one, the Personal Health Dashboard (PHD) 2, or PHD2, we took our daily step goal, and started counting down the total steps to completion. So, if your daily goal is 10,000 steps and you have walked 2,000 so far, you will see 8,000 displayed and so on. This, another wild experiment in the Quantified Self milieu, turned out to be quite motivational and useful!

We continue to devise and build such tools. All designs are shared through publications and repositories online. We used to display these at Maker Faires in the hopes of inspiring other makers to engage in Self-Care, and of course the care of others.


There are many forms of self-care. There are many ways to accomplish self-care. Pick your own adventure! Celebrate self-care day, every day, and not just on 7/24. If you wish to add the event to your calendar and remind yourself next year, you may do so!


1. Cover Image, Courtesy, Madison Inouye:

2. Some Information on International Self Care Day:,International%20Self%2DCare%20Day%202020,a%20vital%20foundation%20of%20health.

3. Detailed Instructions to construct PHD2:

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