A big thanks to goodnessknows for sponsoring this post (and contributing to this grad student’s emergency vacation fund!).
The well-documented link between mental stability and physical activity is one I won’t drudge on about here. In short, mental health and physical health are intertwined just like the pastel colors in those rainbow bagels I see all over the internet these days. Basically, bagels are my therapy. I MEAN EXERCISE. Yes, exercise. And by therapy, I simply mean that I am happiest and most emotionally stable when I get some form of exercise each day. I joke that like a dog, I need walked twice a day. Even small amounts of exercise (like walking) boost my energy and mood.
Of course this all sounds wonderful, but the truth is that when life gets crazy, exercise is the first thing to disappear from my routine (followed closely behind by healthy eating), and in those high-stress chunks of days, I feel my happiness dissipate — not to depression, but to numbness. I become numb to the world as I focus with champion-like intention on the task at hand. You see, I’m what my dad calls a “go-getter” always seeking out some thing, some goal, and hunkering down till I obtain it. A goal-getter, really. I know this about myself, and actually, I like this quality. But, each time, after the smokey stress cloud clears, I look back on the weeks or months that have lapsed and am often disappointed that I let so much life pass me by; that my mission for mindfulness was yet again neglected; that I sacrificed those things that help me be my best me.
I’ve got my sights set on this balanced rainbow bagel of life as I head into what will surely be the most stressful couple of months this gal has tackled yet. As the great Mr. Tolle, my 10th grade biology teacher, proclaimed: “organization is key.” And thus, I’ve organized some thoughts on my health goals for the fall.
Early to bed, early to rise.
Boy oh boy, starting this list off with a tricky one. Let me just put a little note to self right here: DEAR MARY: SIX HOURS OF SLEEP IS INADEQUATE. THAT MEANS 5.5 HOURS OF SLEEP IS ALSO INADEQUATE, BECAUSE MATH. With a 5:30am wakeup time, my goal is to be in bed by 10pm. On the flip side, I’m working on getting up at the very first (not second, not third!) alarm, and have already made progress. Leaving my phone across the room at night is a huge help, plus with the internet out of reach, I don’t lay in bed mindlessly scrolling through Instagram when I should be catching my zzzz’s.
Oh the planning.
Does it ever end? To some, details are stressful, but for me, it’s a sanity saver. Class time, study time, exercise time, walking time, birthdates, test dates, due dates, etc. It all goes into my calendar, and it’s one step toward making sure I get everything I want done DONE. And, as oxymoronical as it sounds, I also plan time for fun. This can be as simple as planning a date night for the weekend or bigger, like a weekend trip away… Into the calendar it goes.
Even though I’m a Body Pump Instructor Training dropout, I still LOVE the class, so I keep a list in my phone of all the body pump classes offered each day at YMCA branches within a 20 minute drive, so that any day I feel like going, I CAN.
Another big help is packing meals plus several healthy snacks every dang day. My go-to weekday meals are:
- 1 egg + 1 egg white + lentils + spinach for breakfast
- small morning snack, like a banana, nuts and raisins, or a goodnessknows snack bar.
- lunch = HUGE SALAD. Typically this consists of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, onions, cucumber, quinoa, nuts, hummus, plus dressing.
- substantial afternoon snack, like an almond butter sandwich on ezekiel bread
- dinner at home (tacos, tacos, and more tacos).
Pulling from my experience in the corporate world, I’m working to spend my time on the things that add the most value. For example, knowing that I CANNOT read dense material first thing in the morning, but I CAN work on math problems helps me arrange my schedule to get the most bang for my time. Likewise, I’m working to CUT DOWN ON FREAKING SOCIAL MEDIA. And finding time to read (for fun? what!?) before bed.
A New Golden Rule.
If exercise is my therapy, yoga is my church—nothing makes me feel more connected, more human, than spending some quality time on the mat. You know the Golden Rule — treat others as you wish to be treated? I’m working on a new version of this rule — treat yourself as you wish others to treat you. I am my biggest critic, and while constructive criticism can add value, I’m learning that being kind to myself is a much more pleasant path to take. For example, though I enjoy running most of the time, some days, I just don’t freaking feel like it. On those days, instead of focusing on what a lazy bum I’ve become, I tell myself, Mary, it’s ok if you decide you just want to walk the whole time. Just go outside. You always feel better when you do. See how nice I am?
I absolutely need to channel these thoughts of kindness this first semester of grad school, as I’m surrounded by geniuses who all somehow understand the course material on the fly and are already squashing me with their enormous IQs.
When I moved to Columbus in May, I made a goal to walk 12,000 steps per day. All summer, there have been only 4 or 5 days I didn’t hit 12K. Granted, there were many a night that ended with me in the bathroom running in place for the last couple thousand (COUPLE THOUSAND!) steps while I washed my face and brushed and teeth and (somewhat dangerously) tried to floss my teeth. Oftentimes, I get all my steps in by just choosing a slightly less efficient method of going about my normal day. Walking to the grocery store. Taking the long route to class. Multiple trips up and down the stairs to put things away. You get the gist.
Biking to school is a new adventure, one that will be significantly more enjoyable when it’s cooler in the morning and I don’t arrive to campus looking like a hot swampy mess. My trip is about 4.5 miles, which takes 30 minutes, and leaves me feeling GREAT. Actually, my first bike-to-work was for a goodnessknows challenge!
Lots of goals for this goal-getter’s first semester at grad school. But goals are like google maps–how the heck would we know where to go without them? A big thanks to goodnessknows for sponsoring this post and for inspiring me to think about my healthy living goals! If you haven’t tried these snack squares yet, cranberry, almond, dark chocolate is where it’s at! There are four snack squares in a package totalling 150 calories per package, the perfect size snack. I keep a couple in my desk for emergency snack situations.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of goodnessknows. The opinions and text are all mine.