Healthy tips for student life and beyond
The new semester is here, and while things may be relatively stress-free at the moment, it's likely that they won't stay that way. Here's some advice that should help you stay (or become) healthy.
Many of us want to take better care of our bodies, to shed a few pounds, or to able to arrive at our third-floor class without panting like a dog.
Resolving to exercise more is great, but many people find that they lose motivation after a few weeks. We are often impatient with ourselves: we want to see results right away, not realizing that healthy physical change happens over months or years, not weeks.
How do you stay motivated? Firstly, set realistic goals. If you can, book a meeting with a personal trainer who will assess your present level of fitness and who will work with you to set up a realistic, personalized exercise routine. Secondly, make your workout a part of your established weekly routine. It will be tough at first, but over time you'll probably find that you feel better when you stick to it. Focus on your goals and remind yourself what you have to do to achieve them. Bonus: you really will start seeing results!
Part of healthy living is making sure that you have a healthy diet. If your idea of a good post-workout meal is a bacon cheeseburger with onion rings and a soft drink, then forget about those results I mentioned.
In order to help your body build muscle after a workout it's important to eat protein. But if you think that meat is the only or best source of it, think again. Tempted to pick up a hot dog? Consider this: the average all beef hot dog has 15g of fat and 10g of protein. On the other hand, the average soy-based veggie dog has 0.1g of fat and 11g of protein. Other excellent alternative sources of protein are fat-free cottage cheese, whey products, and various kinds of beans (e.g. one cup of Romano beans contains 16g of protein and just 2g of fat, as well as 30% of your daily recommended iron intake).
Being aware of the ingredients in the food you eat is an important first step to a healthy, helpful diet. Do you often get a muffin with your morning coffee? Muffins may seem like a healthy breakfast (and they certainly beat the bag of cheesies that one of my student friends eats every morning!), but they generally have a lot of fat. When choosing your morning pastry make sure to ask for the low-fat option, or better yet, choose something like multigrain toast with a bit of nut butter (like peanut or almond butter, which have healthy fats and protein) and some fruit.
Beating the 3 p.m. blues
We've all been there. Desperately trying to get the readings/essay/homework done for class while fighting off the powerful desire to pass out. You try working with just one eye open. You switch to the other eye. But then at some point your head jerks up and you realize you've been snoring and/or drooling in the middle of the library.
At this point most of us would head to the nearest coffee shop for our wake-up call. Coffee is great, but caffeine can have some unpleasant side effects such as anxiety and insomnia. To beat the 3 p.m. nap-attack, try knocking back some cold fruit juice. The natural sugar rush can give you as much energy as coffee, and with fewer side effects. We don't recommend putting milk in your apple juice though. And make sure the juice you choose doesn't have any added sugar: fruit is already naturally sweet enough!
This may sound bizarre, but very few of us realize the importance of breathing. Just take a moment to pay attention to your breath and posture. Is your breathing shallow? Are you shoulders trying to form a close relationship with your earlobes? Take a moment to calm yourself.
Take deep, measured breaths. Picture your breath going all the way down to your belly. And when you breathe out, try to imagine that you are breathing out all that tension and stress. Take a moment to focus on your body. Straighten your back, and relax your shoulders. Get up and do some gentle stretches.
Your body needs breaks as much as your mind does. So while checking your e-mail or reading a blog might be a nice mental break from studying or working, those things generally involve being in the same position - i.e. hunched over at your desk. Not so healthy or energizing! Treat your body to a little walk or stretching session every couple of hours. Getting up and moving around will help you to refocus your thoughts too.
Time after time
Finally, take a good hard look at the way you use your time. Are you achieving a good balance of schoolwork, exercise, relaxation, and fun? Are you spending time on things that aren't helping you? Can you find any room for improvement? Perhaps the time we spend watching re-runs could be better spent on cooking a really good meal, or getting some fresh air, or exploring that long-lost interest in macramé. However you use your time, make sure you're doing things that make you happy and help you to achieve your goals.