For many young people, the transition period between study and full-time work can be wrought with peril. It is a time of late nights, disturbed sleep patterns, and the almost-inevitable trip to the vending machine or convenience store. And, if you’re like me, a dependence on caffeine, in all its delicious forms.
As someone who has recently joined the full-timers, as well as studying full-time online, being a homemaker, and trying to maintain a solid social circle, it can be tough to tick off all the things you want to do in a day. For me, I throw living in a developing country into the mix, which only complicates it all further; until I’m left sitting in a big mess, with my stress levels at 1000%, a million things to do and yet and nothing getting done.
If any of that seems relevant in your life, or if you feel a sense of kinship with me (YAY us!) you might benefit from some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Hopefully with these warnings in front of you, you can save your stress levels and bodies much earlier than I did!
1. Learn to love cooking.
I know, it can be hard. When I first moved out of home I developed a pattern of meals, which I repeated day-in, day-out. It’s safe. It’s easy. It’s reliable. But it’s also ridiculously boring after a while.
It’s not hard to eat healthily, its just a matter of making your plate as bright as possible, and including as much fresh produce as you can. Many health gurus claim we must “listen to our bodies”, and while this is true to a large extent, after years of bad eating habits and a severe addition to sugar, my body didn’t really talk to me much. For the first few weeks/months of consciously healthy eating, I literally had to sit still for a moment, and really think about what I wanted to eat. Rash decisions are rarely a good idea in life, and the same logic applies to your food. Its easier said than done sometimes, but eat according to your needs, rather than your emotions. If you’re a simple chef (like me), make the most of websites that offer simple weeknight meals, or meals in 30-mins-or less. Taste.com.au has some wonderful options.
2. Make time for sleep.
It sounds lame, setting yourself a bedtime. I’m 21, living with my boyfriend, the LAST thing I want to do is head to bed at 10pm on a weeknight. Late night cable television is THE BEST, and only Honey Boo-Boo can cheer me up after a bad day at work.
That said, an early bedtime is always a sure-fire way to be your best self. You get more (deeper) sleep, can lie and cuddle yourself into your pillows or partner, and really just relax. When you live a busy life, bedtime can double as a meditation session; I relax my mind and each part of my body in turn, and surely enough, I fall asleep before too long. Getting enough pillow-time is also another way to avoid late-night snacking, emotional eating out of tiredness, and the need for sugary pick-me-ups the next day when you’re feeling drained and lethargic.
3. Get your body moving
I went from living with no car and cycling/walking everywhere, to working in a job that requires me to be on the road or behind a desk for the greater part of the day. I find it a hard adjustment, even six months in; I am so used to moving around much more often, I used to reap the benefits of incidental exercise every single day, and I was also a much calmer person. Nowadays, I put a bit more thought into my workouts; making sure I exercise each part of my body that has been neglected while my butt has been behind the wheel all day. It doesn’t have to be hard exercise, and it doesn’t have to be cardio. It can be yoga, or weights, or just taking the dog for a walk. But I go a little crazy on the days when I don’t get my fix. I suggest you try it; your body will thank you (and help you sleep even better when you get to bed!).
4. Find small positives
I hate driving. I hate the traffic. I hate the hot weather of the city that I live in. But each day I try to find something to be grateful for, and its usually not too hard. Think about the wonderful opportunities that you have, the people who love you, your pets, the sunny weather. It can be anything, but having that token of positivity in your day can make all the difference to your state of mind, and your wellbeing. By also enjoying your own journey to health, you visualise it as a joy you are giving your body, rather than a punishment. Good health shouldn’t be a chore, so try to remember that by being a thoughtful eater and exerciser, you are doing yourself a world of benefits.
5. Take a small piece of each day just for you.
In transitioning to full time work, there are a lot of expectations placed on individuals. You might be new to the job, or not coping well which the change in time schedule. Its vital that you have just a few minutes of serenity that you use to enjoy yourself. A private coffee at your favourite cafe? Don’t mind if I do. Meeting up with a friend over lunch? Yes please. Today my ‘self-love’ moment was spent getting a much needed haircut; the way they wash your hear and massage your head? That’s my idea of heaven. Often we feel guilty for indulging ourselves in a little ‘me time’, especially when the world we live in is becoming constantly plugged-in; work competition is greater than ever, social circles are still as important as they always have been, and general living feels much more fat-paced and goal-oriented. It’s okay to take 30 minutes out of the day to do something that makes you feeeeeeel good (especially if its an activity that rewards your body i.e. massage, meditation, exercise etc rather than punishes/damages it, such as junk food, smoking or drugs).
Small, simple, easy enough to implement; sometimes we need to hear the obvious stated to us before we realise just how straightforward the road to better health, wellbeing and stress management can be.