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In a sense, I believe that all self-care takes care of those around us. If we don’t care for ourselves, someone near us is going to have to pick that burden up one day. But there are many acts of self-care that we can practice together, in pairs or in communities. And that is some of the most fun self-care available.

There are no new inventions on this list, really. You’ve heard of this stuff. But if it’s been a while since you’ve done these things, gather some friends, and try one again.

Host Sunday Lunch

Gabrielle Hamilton, of the beautiful miniature New York bistro Prune, and also Mind of a Chef, is that wonderful combo: great cook, fantastic writer. She has written often about feeding friends, family and neighbors all at once, and doing it on the regular, like an Italian grandma. Gabrielle makes this sound so romantic, and it is.

Much of the romance, of course, consists in the fact that Sunday lunch is a fading tradition. Most grandmas stopped offering lunch long ago. Which is good for you, because you don’t have a lot of competition out there. So announce your Sunday lunch by Wednesday, and cook it. They will definitely come.

If you want to go whole hog, issue a standing invitation, such as: my house, every Sunday, 1 o’clock, just show up. My friend Flavia has a Sunday supper club; she announces the menu on Facebook, and the first 16 people to RSVP are the night’s big winners. Parisian Jim Haynes does the same thing for up to 70 people. He’s been at it for decades.

Host Open Porch

Like an open mic, only unplugged. With snacks. Beverly Army Williams, sister knitter, says: “In the summer I host Open Porch Wednesday. I put out snacks and drinks, and anyone who wants to stop by is welcome. I love spending time on my porch with friends, and it’s nice to share my beautiful space with them.”

Knit a Blanket for Charity

It’s good for you, good for conviviality, good for cold people, good for the stash. My friends, this is in our wheelhouse. Dead center. We can do two blankets, perhaps three, while we’re in there!

My true favorite pattern is the Mitered Crosses Blanket. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were yours, too.

Love Your Neighbor (With a Casserole)

This is not an every week to-do, but an emergency measure. And not just for disasters, but anytime a neighbor is in need. Solution: have a no-fail casserole or other one-pot dish you can make quickly to deliver in a pinch. Work out the details, and perfect it before disaster strikes. When the Joneses are spending a lot of time at the hospital, they will be very grateful for the non-cafeteria fare, believe me.

And supporting one neighbor makes the whole neighborhood stronger.

Give Your Server a Raise

It doesn’t have to be much! Two or three dollars won’t put a big dent in your wallet, but if it bumps her up to an even $5 or $10, the raise packs an extra punch of goodwill.

Take it from a former waitress (Dot’s Diner of Boulder, Colorado: the best German pancake west of the Mississippi), this is a low-expenditure, high-return way to deliver a message of appreciation to your server, and a measure of pleasure to both of you. As the ancients said, Generosity is the virtue that produces peace.

Host a Clothes Swap

Exchange away those non-joy-sparking things. It’s good for you, good for your space, good for your friends with holes in their wardrobe, and good for the planet. It’s like an Easter egg hunt for grownups! Rules of conduct may be important, so here are some suggestions from Samantha Harmon of Remake.

Or a Book Swap

You’re probably not going to read that Tana French doorstop a third time. Take the leftovers to a Little Free Library. Find the nearest one with this official locator.

Build It and They Will Come

If there isn’t a Little Free Library near you (I have eight within walking distance, but my cross-country travels reveal that not all communities are so blessed), you can build or buy one. The Little Free Library has plans for a few different designs. Or they’ll sell you one already built.

Write Your Will

This one is lacking in the frolic factor. But what it’s missing in party atmosphere, it will make up for in peace of mind. And writing a will, for many of us, can be a simple affair. Regulations differ by country and state or province, of course. But here are some basics to get you started, and it really won’t take long.

Non-pro tip (because I’m not an attorney): You can absolutely do this together with friends. Ooh! And maybe you can put together a Keanu marathon afterwards, as a reward.

Get Friends Together to Watch Beyonce’s Homecoming on Netflix

Did you know some of your girlfriends have not seen this yet?! I myself have seen it upwards of two dozen times, much the way some people watch favorite Keanu movies. (Or so I hear.)

Anyway, for those of your friends who have not yet been transported by the superstar genius that is Beyonce, you can give them the beautiful gift of front-row seats at the biggest show of 2018. And without the desert dust.

It is two-and-a-half hours of inexpressible beauty. Warning: You may weep. A lot.

Get a Lunch Buddy

And take a walk with her every day. She who walks at lunch gets exercise, fresh air, and perspective on her job. And maybe even some creative inspiration! Same goes for your friend.

Have a Soup Exchange

If you want to be savvy and frugal about what you eat, you’re probably trying to plan and prep meals. And that is the kind of up-front work that pays off big time.

But it’s still work.

Making a big pot of soup and trading some of it for a different flavor of soup is a way to dial up the return on your investment. All you need is some friends and containers.

Your Idea Goes Here

I hope you’re reading this list and thinking “How could she have forgotten X?!” I probably forgot Y and Z, too. Please put your ideas for doing self-care with others in the comments below, because doing things together is the whole idea. Thank you!

More Resources

Mind of a Chef, Season 4 with Gabrielle Hamilton (on Netflix)

Chez Jim, The Guardian

Little Free Library plans and building tips

Pre-built libraries

Ideas for organizing a soup swap


Image: A Kitchen, Hendrick Sorgh, ca.1643, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Marquand Collection, Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1889. Used with permission.

About The Author

Max Daniels is a research-based life coach whose weekly emails make us laugh with recognition and rethink everything we thought we knew. Her new book is Meals at Mealtimes. What a concept!


  • Thank you for your wise words. I’m left wondering, however, about what the good woman on the left is checking on her phone.

    • That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw the painting!! Hilarious.

      • Me, too!

        • Me too! How funny! I’ll also throw in a plug for You enter in your details (location, interests, availability) and it shows you a bunch of volunteer opportunities that you might like, short term and long term. Then it makes it super-easy to contact the right person to say you can help.

        • Me, three,

    • Looks that way until you enlarge the image—she’s peeling an onion. LOL!

    • Haha! Recipe details.

    • LOL!

  • mitered crosses link doesn’t work right (leads to an Apple ad)

    • Here’s the blanket link:

      • Wow, I was just reminded (by clicking the link above) that Mercy Corps will be the recipient of the proceeds of sales of this pattern. Mercy Corps is located here in Portland, OR and they are a FABULOUS organization! Their CEO is Neal Keny-Guyer, and his wife is Alyssa Keny-Guyer, our state representative in Salem. They live in our neighborhood and are a wonderful couple doing really important work. THANK YOU, KAY!!

    • Whoops – will fix. Thank you!

  • It is too bad the links in the Jim haynes article other than his are all broken or gone. This was a good idea.

  • Host a Group Muse house concert ( if you live in a community where they currently are offered. Or attend one. I find hosting incredibly restorative, joyful, sharing, fun.

  • I’m sorry to rain on your parade, but I am so tired of this. Have you ever been a caregiver? You don’t have time for any of this. You dread your phone ringing at odd hours. Your ‘self care’ is getting up in the morning and putting one foot in front of the other. Because you have to. If one more social worker asked me ‘How does it make you feel?’ I may have wanted to fling one of my knitting needles at them.

    • Caroline,I’ve been there too. I asked the hospice social worker to stop calling a month after my husband died because the sad and sympathetic tone of voice she used on the phone made me want to scream “shut up.” One of my “intent bracelets” says Self-care which I interpret as weekends with friends, knitting in the sun by the bay, and three days a week at the Y sweating my brains out. Works for me. Flinging knitting needles sounds good too. Maybe I’ll try that next.

    • I find that a lot of writing/speaking about self-care unfortunately doesn’t come from the perspective of someone who’s actually dealing with serious health issues, whether their own or caring for someone else’s. In those situations most typical self-care tips just are not realistic or helpful.

      In the case of this particular article, I like the notion of doing things which help others as well as bring you enjoyment, but I do wish there had been acknowledgement that these are ideas for folks in a pretty good place already. It would read as less oblivious than many articles about this topic often are.

      Caroline, I wish you strength as you endure what you’re going through, and sturdy knitting needles for when you need to lose it for a bit.

    • Have been there myself. It’s so hard. The one thing I wanted was to be seen, heard, and known by the friends I did not have time for. The check-in text. The “this (small item) made me think of you. Can I send it your way?” Or even better: “what is your child into these days?” And sending a gift or book brings hours of kid focus on something other than the current situation.

    • Oh Caroline, you are in such a tough position. And having someone give you all these grand schemes for self-care can seem like just another burden that can make you feel like weeping. It’s overwhelming to think about making dinner, much less having others over.
      It sounds like you’re in a position where self-care is done in very small, focused ways. Things like stopping to be grateful you have time to take a shower and enjoying the feeling of being clean. Spending a minute sipping a cup of tea. Knitting a row or two.
      People will tell you to reach out for help, but sometimes that isn’t possible, or feels like more effort than you can give.
      You sound like a caring person who is doing her best and giving her all. The person you are caring for is lucky to have you in their life.

    • Hey Caroline. I totally hear you. It’s been a rough year in my house. Part of my healthy survival of it was being the recipient, not the organizer, of some of these ideas. One of the really hard things for me is accepting care when I need it. I have a friend who would simply message me “You good?” Easy yes or no answer. It has led to weekly burger outing. Sometimes he invites other friends, sometimes he doesn’t. I don’t have to do anything but show up and enjoy my burger.

      I hope things get better for you soon!

      • What a good friend you have, Karen! That’s my vision, too – we give care when we can, and receive from the stronger when we can’t.

    • I hear you. I have many days like that! And feel guilty when I escape from care giver duty….but I know that the “me time” that I take makes it possible to “put one foot in front of the other” for another day.

  • Sorry people, but I did this for 15 years, until my parents and mother in law all died. Part of that time was helping my mother, before she became ill, take care of my father with dementia. At the same time, I had small children. When you are the sibling who lives close by, you bear the brunt of everything. Yes, there was an occasional bit of ‘time off’ but only if you had coverage (I had a supportive husband), and you were still on call. It affects your family, your children and yes, your career. Would I do it differently? No. But I firmly believe that only those going through it truly understand. The worst comments: ‘I don’t know how you do it.’ Well, because you have to. This is a looming crisis.

    • Yup, I totally get this. I had a similar experience, though I wasn’t in a caregiver situation. My sister-in-law said of my divorce and being a single working mother of two little girls, “I admire you so much; I don’t know how you do it.” And I thought “Well, you just keep getting up in the morning and putting one foot in front of the other. That’s how you do it.”

  • Lawyer here. Please do not try to write your will as a party game with a bunch of friends. This is just misguided advice. At the very least consult with an attorney in your locality after you put your thoughts together. This need not cost a lot.

  • Max, my mother in law is great at this- for Christmas she got massages, scheduled and everything, for the two of us and my sister in law. Another time, on my birthday, she took me out for a pedicure and foot massage. We got time together and pampering, possibly the best gifts ever.
    I know it’s not inexpensive, (I can’t afford it) but planning an experience to have with someone you love as a gift is caring for both of you.
    Also I have learned that letting someone help you, even if you feel like a burden, can be a great gift. It feels so helpless to watch someone you care about going through something hard. If you’re the one facing the hard thing, take them up on their offer of help- you’ll both feel better. If you’re the one offering help, be as specific as possible- can I take your dog for a walk since you can’t get out of bed? Can I run to the store for you? Can I bring you soup?
    Taking care of our community is self care.
    I love your column every month!

  • Lately I’ve been knitting newborn baby socks. Using leftover self striping yarn, they make me squeal with joy. I have two pairs finished and I hope to surprise a pregnant mom at a cafe soon. Random acts make me happy.

    • Hey, Mardi! Random yoga makes me happy. (If you’re the Mardi I think you are, you’ll understand, if not ignore that goofiness.) Baby socks are so much fun.

    • That is a wonderful idea! I like knitting baby socks because it’s so quick… and they’re so unbearably cute. I often give them in sets of 3 because it’s so easy to lose a sock 🙂

  • Host a Creativity Salon. I used to be part of one in Berkeley in the 90s. Someone with a fairly big house would host the salon once a month or so, and someone else would be the featured program that night teaching us how to do something we had never tried before, like glass beads or improv theater. It was lot of fun, and quite inspirational for just keeping the creativity juices flowing. At that time I was in seminary, writing lots of papers and engaged in lots of projects, so this Creativity Salon was a wonderful refresher.

  • Thank you Max. This article speaks to my heart. My dream is to knit for preemies in hospitals. I would like to be able to make preemie hats and blanket sets and maybe even with a little sweater. If possible I would also like to make some for full-term babies because sometimes the families can’t afford any of the extras. I put this off for years because of my duties as a caregiver , and also the backlash that occurred after all of that stopped . However I had such a list of things I want to make for the children of family and friends which I will first complete. As an act of self-care I have recently made a list and plan to systematically check off each child on the list blanket by blanket.

    I understand where Caroline is coming from, although our experiences are different. I am a former caregiver and I’m now learning to give to myself, which is a really tough lesson. My mom began to show symptoms of a disease when I was 11 years old. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was 15 years old. She passed away on the Christmas Eve when I was 54. I’m an only child; I helped my dad with my mother’s care. Even when we ended up with round-the-clock nurses for many many years there was still no end of the caregiving needed. It was painful to watch my mother decline she ended up being quadriplegic, bedridden, and prone to seizures. For the last 20 years of her life she was on life support. Except for periodic hospitalizations she was never placed in nursing care. We took care of her at home. I have always had full-time jobs as well. I am a healthcare professional so my job offered no no respite from the caregiving that I had to do at home.

    I never did too well at taking care of myself. I missed out on a home and husband and family of my own. I made good my comfort. I also tended to make families (in my mind). The people at work felt like a family, reading favorite blogs felt like family, etc. This meant that any change that would occur in these places would be like a mini crisis for me.

    Now is better. There has been a shift and I find that under all of the sadness my heart has always been happy and content. I just came through an operation on my knee and I’m doing fantastically well in less than three weeks time. I’m making lists of the children in my extended family as well as grandchildren of friends for whom I’ve never made anything each will get a blanket. I will finish two or three unfinished objects for friends. Then I’m going to fulfill my heart’s desire and knit and crochet for preemies, as well as for Me!

    Once again, Max, your article speaks to my heart, just like the sea glass does that you put on IG. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so very much for it all.

    • One sentence above reads “I made good my comfort”. It should have read “made the food my comfort”.

  • Mitered Crosses Blanket link connects me to an apple ph ad every time…

    • If you go to Kay Gardner’s page on Ravelry you can download it for $7:50.

  • I hosted ‘game nights’ every Friday night in February, a wet, cold month in The Netherlands.
    My teens invited their friends, I invited mine and my parents came. Not every Friday, but when they could and felt like it.

    At six pm sharp (yes,yes, I’m the controling type) a simple meal was served and at 7 pm the games started. Mostly board games like Catan and card games for the teens like ‘Cards Against Humanity’ and ‘Exploding Kittens’. And some chess (a friend of my daughters was very good!) and computer games, my father tried and conquered!

    It was big fun, I made the meals but the desserts were made by the frieinds of my daughters, several friends have organised their own gamenight and it was very nice to see each other in this easy social setting.

    • Love this!

  • These all seem like good ideas to me — even if only once a month or once a year! Carolyn’s comment makes me think of another one — give a caregiver a day off, once a week or once a month. Whichever you can manage — but not just once a year! It’s important to do it on a schedule so they have something specific to look forward to and plan for. Do it with a friend if that makes it easier. Of course don’t eliminate providing a spontaneous single offer if that’s all you can manage. Do what you can.

    • This is such a good idea. I took care of my mom for a mere three weeks in January after she fell, and I was absolutely prostrate with gratitude when my sister was able to come for 2 days.

  • I was interested to see the mitered crosses blanket but every time I clicked on it I got an ad for IPhones.

  • Great article! Except now I need Arnolds Eggs from Dot’s Diner.

  • Thank you, Max. Speaking as a librarian, please consider donating your unwanted books to your local library. At my library, book sales are able to fund our programs, from summer reading prizes for the kids to concerts and author visits for adults.

    • That is a great idea! I’ll check to see if our library accepts books. I am part of a book club and often our books are the ones in high demand.

  • The link to the Mitered Crosses blanket goes to the Apple website!!! Still not fixed from when it was first reported on 5/20/19.

  • I am part of the “sandwich generation “- aging parents and kids starting their own families. When my friends go out of town to visit their children and grandchildren, I volunteer to check in on Mom and Dad, often taking them a hot meal that I know they won’t cook for themselves. The parents enjoy the visit and the meal, my friends can relax knowing that Mom and Dad are ok. A win-win!

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