Welcome back to the series, “The Downtime Slump.” If you didn’t catch my introductory post about what this is all about, you can check it out here. Today’s post is a close one for me because I am guilty of all of these things, and have made it one of my New Year’s Resolutions to break free of their chains. They are the nasty habits we acquired in college and suddenly it is glaringly obvious that we need to nip-em’ in the butt ASAP.
#1. Snacking replacing any and all meals.
Unless you ate in a cafeteria for 3 meals a day, you know exactly what I am talking about. Cooking healthy, well-balanced meals was largely non-existent. Nobody had time for weekly, organized grocery trips. Or to stand in a kitchen for an hour+ every day. The clean up was a hassle. I am jealous of the people who had roomies where they would all take turns making a different meal every night. My roomies and I were never on the same schedule. Trying to balance 5 different schedules, eating preferences, and what not. NOT HAPPENING. Instead you would get home from class, grab whatever randomness you could find before you had to leave again. Convenience and availability usually outweighed healthy. Even then I knew it was unhealthy, and I would try and be proactive about the situation. But healthy food would usually be wasted because it would spoil. Buying in smaller amounts is obviously the more logical answer, but at the time naps seemed more crucial than grocery shopping. Jimmy Johns and their “freaky, fast delivery” should have won humanitarian awards for keeping me and my fellow classmates alive during desperate times of need.
Now that I am on a 9-5 schedule, I have realized healthier eating habits have been much easier to attain. In college, every day of the week we have a different schedule and these various schedules tend to produce a less-than healthy lifestyle. But once you are done, a real schedule becomes much more manageable. Other ways to break the chain? Keep a planner. Write down what meals you would like to have that week and compile a grocery list based off of that. Make extra when you are cooking so that during the times you don’t feel like it, there are always leftovers available. Cook extra for your lunches to avoid eating out during your work day (healthier and cheaper!) Recently I have invested in glass tupperware (here) so that I can keep my leftovers and lunches organized in the refrigerator. They’re awesome in the dishwasher and eliminating the food-smell in the frig.
#2. Poor Sleep Hygiene
Besides having a newborn, I don’t think there is any worse period of time for healthy sleep hygiene than when you’re in college. Poor sleep takes a toll on both physical and psychological well-being. There is so much research out there in this field of health psychology and (for me) it is fascinating. Poor sleep affects two important hormones, ghrelin and leptin, which are in charge of triggering your hunger and suppressing your appetite. There is evidence that this is one of the reasons why college students gain so much weight. Lack of sleep also suppresses your immune functioning, impacts your concentration, memory, and creativity, and can mimic accelerated aging. These things can be so detrimental for anybody, but especially a 20-something with a vision.
Aim for a sleep schedule that is consistent. Falling asleep and waking up at the same time every day is encouraged because this is how our brain is designed to function at its best. Allowing yourself to have 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Research has shown that complete darkness, 64-68 degrees, and complete silence is optimal.
I think working on your sleep hygiene is the easiest health step to take. If you have many health goals and feel overwhelmed where to start, this is a great one! Everyone loves to sleep and it is relatively easy. Turn off all electronic devices, close the curtains, avoid caffeine at least 6 hours and exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime, and find a relaxing routine like a bath or reading a book before bed instead.
#3. Exercising…or Lack Thereof
We have already established that the typical college life schedule doesn’t make a healthy lifestyle easy. You have to be truly committed. It is easy to fall into the stereotypical routine of an undergrad. This is the time, right now, where you need to look in the mirror and want to better yourself and your health. Being busy isn’t an excuse. Ease yourself into it like I am right now. Even if it is just push-ups, crunches, and squats before you hop in the shower. Easy-peasy. You will feel better, not only about your body, but your mental health will improve as well. There are many psychologists who will say that 30 minutes of exercise every day does a better job of decreasing depression than any pill would. This is obviously a generalized statement–always speak with your doctor if you think you may be suffering from depression or before stopping any prescribed medication. The point is that exercise is nothing but beneficial for you. I am one of those people who truly struggle staying with a routine. I get bored or do not follow through for longer than a week only to start back up later on. Try and switch it up. Find something that is fun. I love to swim and it doesn’t feel like exercise to me. Also, find a way to make yourself accountable. Whether that is by scheduling a time with a friend to exercise together, scheduling a personal training appointment, or joining a fitness class, it requires you to be accountable to someone else.
#4. Sitting on social media…procrastinating.
I am so guilty of flipping through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest and look up at the clock two hours later. Two hours with absolutely nothing to show for my time. What could you get done in two hours? Well…I could work on content for my blog, research grad programs, spend time with my family, do some much needed laundry, cook an amazing meal, read a book, swim laps, go shopping…You get my point. Life is so short. Like it’s almost March for heaven sake. There is nothing more irritating to me then spending time with someone and they are on their phone 85% of the time we’re together. It takes all of my manners to not grab the stupid thing and chuck it at the wall. Let’s live a little and get something done.
The point I am trying to get at is: you are beautiful and amazing and it is time to start living well. Sometimes I feel as if I am completely powerless over my life. And then I want to call myself out on my own bullshit. I have control over my own health right now. There are so many beautiful souls out there who can not say the same, battling cancer and disease. Today I take the stand to kick these habits, who’s with me?