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My Top 10 Activities to Jumpstart Your Self-Care

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We know it was a crazy year in education and afterschool.

So this month, we’re focusing on you- the ones who kept it together for your students during the pandemic.

As entrepreneurs, self-care is something Joseph and I think about all the time for ourselves, and for our students and those who serve them.

So we’re constantly experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t.

I thought it could be fun (and hopefully helpful) to share the top 10 self-care activities I find most helpful.

Most of these I try to do regularly, but all of them are helpful if I feel stuck, not myself or too many negative emotions.

1. Stop thinking about myself

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I learned this one from Tony Robbins.

He says when you feel negative emotions, you’re almost always thinking about yourself.

“Something didn’t go right for me. I was wronged. Something didn’t live up to my expectations. I’m not living up to expectations. What’s wrong with me?”

I find this to be true 99.99% of the time.

So when I catch myself feeling scared, angry, frustrated or stressed, I force myself to think about other people and what I can do for them.

It’s usually a pretty good smack-in-the-face wake-up call to stop feeling sorry for myself and to realize things are actually pretty good.

2. Reflect on my purpose

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Along those lines, your goals and daily activities tend to be more about you (which is good!).

But your purpose tends to be more about serving others.

When I think about my purpose (which for me, is tied closely to my work for 220), it helps me see past small problems, think big-picture and long-term, and focus on the mission I’m chasing and the related problems I need to solve.

3. Listen to music

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For me, music has the ability to instantly shift my mood and have a dramatic psychological effect.

If I listen to my favorite music, it snaps me out of negative emotions and I can feel my body release tension. (If you want to take this to the next level, watch them perform a live version on YouTube).

If I listen to my melancholic piano and guitar music, it forces me to reflect on the shortness of life, put things in perspective and be grateful for what I have.

4. Gratitude

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Every morning I try to do 10 things in my gratitude app:

  1. Write down today’s date and how old I am in years, months and days
  2. Write things I’m grateful for every day (my wife, my dog, I’m an entrepreneur running a company with my brother, I live in Old Town, Chicago, etc.)
  3. Choose a picture from my phone that sparks a memory I’m grateful for
  4. Write about and reflect on that memory plus 2 more

As I also learned from Tony, it’s impossible to feel grateful and fearful/stressed/angry at the same time.

This helps me get in the right state of mind every day, or snap me back if I need it.

5. Meditate or Journal

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I put both of these together because I wish I did both more consistently.

But also because both have the ability to help me do one critical thing: observe my thoughts objectively.

With meditation, I learned it’s not about being still and thinking about nothing. Meditation is about being able to observe your thoughts, feelings and emotions as a third party instead of being the one feeling them.

It’s not always easy to sit down and meditate for 10 minutes, but whenever I do I notice a huge difference. I use Sam Harris’ Waking Up app.

With journaling, especially Julia Cameron’s morning pages, you write down EVERYTHING in your head and just get it out on paper. This allows you to get rid of those endless thought loops, see them all at once, interpret them and take action accordingly.

I’ve tried other types of journaling (Hugh Jackman’s future-based journaling, Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic Journal) that are great, slightly different ways to get to the same end.

6. Walking

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If you've been reading 220 Weekly over the last few months, you've heard me share the joy and associated benefits I get (along with the science supporting it) from long walks.

Long walks are one of my favorite things to do in the city of Chicago. Within 30 minutes, I can walk on Lake Michigan, through Old Town and Lincoln Park, farmers markets and even get downtown (I walked up and down Michigan Avenue for my doctor's appointment last week).

These walks get me in an awesome state of mind, help me think big picture and give me mental resets when I need them.

I feel grateful and happy, plus I know I'm doing some great things for my health.

7. Strength Training

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Playing high school football, I was forced into intense weight training to the point where it felt like a chore. I took a year off, but then missed it and since 2008, I've done strength training workouts 3-5x per week almost without fail.

I wouldn't say I love working out, but I do love the mental and physical benefits I get from it. So I want to maximize effectiveness in the shortest amount of time possible.

Not only does strength training give me what I need in a short amount of time, but unlike cardio alone, the benefits of strength training continue long after the workout has ended.

Strength Training can include bodyweight exercises (pushups, squats, pullups, etc.) or exercises using additional resistance (bands, free weights, etc.). Consult a physician before starting a new exercise routine.

Through the pandemic, I've been doing 15-minute Peloton workouts 4-5 times per week and have still been able to get my usual benefits.

I also love to mix in walking, basketball, tennis and pickle ball.

The keys to consistency for me have been (1) to do something I enjoy, and (2) try to do it around the same time every day so it's routine.

It's to the point now where if I don't exercise, I get anxious and don't feel myself.

Consult a physician before starting a new exercise routine.

8. Eating Well

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As someone who LOVES cooking and eating great food, especially at restaurants, this was a hard one for me to learn. It's taken years.

But for me, this may be the most important self-care activity I've mastered.

So often, when we're feeling down, stressed, or short on time, our first instinct is to eat something quick, easy and delicious. Very often, these aren't the healthiest foods.

While they do provide some immediate satisfaction, afterwards I feel bloated and lethargic- which doesn't make me want to do anything productive towards my goals.

However, if I had to constantly use brain power to make healthy choices, I wouldn't be consistent either.

So instead succumbing to decision fatigue, these rules have helped me stay consistent while always enjoying what I eat:

  1. Find healthy meals you love (if you don't love them, you won't stay consistent)
  2. Eat these same meals over and over throughout the week
  3. Monday through Friday lunch, follow these rules unless it's a special occasion
  4. On the weekends, relax your rules and reasonably enjoy food! (for example, instead of splitting a cookie on the weekend, I'll eat 3 cookies and get my fix so that I don't feel like I'm missing out, and I'm even more ready to get back on routine on Monday)

Consult a physician before starting a new diet.

9. Talking to/hanging out with family & friends

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This might seem like an obvious one, but what I want to point out is when this can be the most helpful activity:

Interacting with family & friends when you most feel like being alone.

My personal experience has taught me during those times when I'm feeling sad, down or frustrated and don't feel like talking to anyone- actually talking to (or better yet, seeing) someone I love is exactly what I need to feel better.

Sometimes I think we're more comfortable being miserable, so even though we know talking to someone we love would help, we choose not to.

Resist the urge and send that text, make that phone call, or plan that lunch.

10. Guitar (or any hobby you can get lost in)

grayscale photo of person holding guitar neck and stringsPhoto by @caiohenriquesilva for unsplash.com

In high school, my youngest brother Jordan picked up the guitar.

Guitar was something I always wanted to learn as a music lover, so I have to think him for being the catalyst.

Today, practicing, learning and playing new songs is one of my favorite things to do.

I get lost in it and time flies by because I'm having so much fun.

I go through spells of inactivity, but similar to my workouts and eating well, I've been most consistent when I've put guitar time in my actual calendar.

For you, it might not be guitar. But I'm sure you have something.

Whatever your favorite hobby, make sure to put it in your calendar. You deserve it.

BONUS #1: 8 Hours of Sleep

grayscale photo of sleeping woman lying on bedPhoto by @all_who_wander for unsplash.com

I put this one in as a bonus because sleep used to be the first thing I would sacrifice in favor of productivity.

I'd tell myself I could operate on 5-6 hours per night during stressful periods, but everything would suffer- including my mood, productivity, exercise and patience.

The last few years I've committed to getting at least 7, but most nights 8 hours of sleep. And the benefits you'd expect are what I'm getting.

I've even become open to a 30-minute afternoon nap on work days if I feel like I need it.

If you don't feel like yourself, one of the first questions you should ask is around your sleep.

BONUS #2: Spend time with Pam

There’s nothing like spending time with someone who can’t remember what they did 2 seconds ago, doesn’t know how to worry about the future, and only knows how to be present and love you more than anything.

Also, she got her first haircut this week and just had to share the before and after.



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Do you have any favorite self-care activities that did not make my list?

If so, I'd love to hear them!

Just post a comment below and let me know your favorites.

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