Self-Care Is For UX

Why We Need to Talk About Spiritual Self-Care in UX

Nurturing our own values and needs will help us understand and serve our users

Vivianne Castillo
Published in
8 min readDec 17, 2019


Illustration: Deb Lee

This story is from the Founder of HmntyCntrd and is part of Self-Care Is for UX, a series on the personal risks of working in design.

I was 22 years old when the doctor told me I was dying and might only have the next 15 years to live.

I was told that a rare, incurable kidney disease was what had kicked me from normal kidney function to kidney failure within a matter of days. My partner at the time and I briefly wept together in the hospital room, then spent the next six days in silence watching Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows over and over and over again. The only way I could reconcile with the grim news I had just received, that I was actually going to die sooner rather than later, was complete and utter avoidance.

Around day six, I finally began to process through some questions that I imagined myself pondering much later in life:

What matters to me the most, and does the way I live my life currently reflect that?

How, if at all, do my spiritual beliefs and values help me make sense of this pain?

When I die, what will my family and friends say about me? What will my life represent; what will they say I stood for?

What and/or who plays a role in providing meaning in my life, and can I still find meaning in my life if I know I am going to die?

As I began to ponder these questions and ultimately come to a place of acceptance of the idea of an early death, I found myself being more intentional with reaching out to people I really cared about. I found the strength to begin the process of forgiving my biological father, I prayed for peace and strength, I meditated on the words of Viktor Frankl and others who had overcome tremendous suffering and found meaning despite it. I found joy in my best friend asking me what I was excited to do once I was feeling better and her promise that we’d do it together. I found gratitude for things like modern medicine and the ability to walk.



Vivianne Castillo
Writer for

UX Researcher. Humanity in Tech Advocate-Warrior. Founder of HmntyCntrd ( Choosing courage over comfort.