Five (not so obvious) tips for staying healthy while balancing work and grad school

We all know how to stay healthy: eat well, get adequate sleep, and exercise daily. But that advice is for our coworkers and friends who know what it means to have evenings free during the week. What about those of us who are in class, at the library, or conducting research so often that we can’t remember the last time we racked up minutes in the “night and weekend” section of our phone bill?

Working full-time during the day and heading straight to grad school at night can get so hectic that we can’t always take care of ourselves as we should. There are weeks when it seems as though there is just not enough time in the day. So as we inevitably become even busier than usual at work as we head into finals week, I thought I’d share some pointers that have worked for me to stay functional over the last two years. My hope is that these tips will help others keep it together while performing a non-stop juggling act with work, school, and the semblance of a social life that’s left.

The only prerequisite: an open mind.

1. Use a Sinus Rinse
I’ll start off with the tip that is likely to encounter the most resistance. After telling tens of people about this I still do not understand why explaining how this works invariably leads to a Shy Ronnie-type facial expression by the other person. When my friend Jonah gave me my first Sinus Rinse bottle I could not have been more excited. The prospects of breathing better and preventing colds naturally were very appealing ends, regardless of how unappealing the means. It has been four years since I began using this magical bottle, and I can confidently say it is one of the best gifts I have ever received.

It doesn’t take much imagination to picture all of the pollutants and irritants you inhale everyday while walking the streets of New York. Do yourself a favor and pick up a value pack that comes with 250 salt packets and one bottle for yourself and another for you to pay it forward. Rid yourself of the day’s contaminants and breathe easy for under $15 at Costco or around $25 on Amazon. Whether you suffer from allergies and frequent colds or not, the results are priceless.

2. Eat greens powder
This stuff is better than coffee. Long-lasting energy and, erm, digestive perks that rival any coffee you will ever have. No one you or I know is getting enough greens – in terms of quantity or variety, and as far as I’m concerned this is the way to get your fill. Get a protein version and you have a quick meal replacement you can take with you. Throw it into a shake and you won’t even taste the wheat grass and spinach as you transform into Popeye.

You’ll thank me when you catch yourself spending hours you don’t have reading up on all of the different greens powders out there. If you end up understanding of where eleuthero root bark comes from, turn around. You’ve gone too far.

3. Do something you enjoy…
But try to choose an activity that doesn’t involve a screen. Listen to music, read a book or magazine, or spend some time with a friend or significant other. It can really be anything, but try and keep it simple.

I have a friend from the army who would read every night, no matter how busy things were, and regardless of the circumstances. He felt that reading a book he enjoyed, even for just a page or two, refreshed his mind and centered him. It was his respite from the daily grind and it taught me the power of taking some time for enjoyment each day. If a battalion commander can find the time, so can you.

4. Take time to focus on your breath, everyday
I’m sure that by now, thanks to tips 1 and 2, you are experiencing what it’s like to breathe like a yogi and have energy without crashing. But that doesn’t mean you should be running around all day with no break in the action. There is nothing like taking a time-out and finding your breath, for your mind and your body.

Take some time every morning to do some breathing exercises, meditation, or even a few simple stretches. This will get your energy flowing and it provides an alternative to stimulants when you need a pick-me-up later in the day. Setting aside a few minutes at the beginning of each day do connect with your breath ensures that you are ready to take on what lies ahead of you.

To unwind at the end of the day, try the following simple and powerful techniques. This rejuvenation pose is a light form of an inversion, a pose in which the heart is above the head, which is said to benefit the cardiovascular, lymphatic, endocrine and nervous systems. Inverting everyday is one of the best things you can do for your body. Just do so carefully and consult your physician before engaging in any exercise program, etcetera.
Also, if you could use some help falling asleep after a long day, give PMR a try.

5. Work gratitude into your day
Experts agree that if you want to decrease negative stress and lead a positive life both personally and professionally, gratitude comes part and parcel. Ralph Waldo Emerson felt that you should “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

Practicing gratitude grounds you and helps you keep things in perspective. One way is keeping a gratitude journal and listing a few things for which you’re grateful each night. But there are many ways to weave a gratitude practice into your life.

Why should you bother? There happens to be an increasing amount of empirical evidence behind the benefits of gratitude, “but,” as LeVar Burton said, “you don’t have to take my word for it.


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