These past two quarters of grad school have been trying in so many ways. I’ve pushed myself academically and emotionally. The hardest part of all has been trying to balance my academic and healthy living values. Before starting grad school, I felt I was truly living my talk. I was eating very healthy, I exercised daily, and I took time for self care. Unfortunately as this year has progressed, I’ve found myself too many times overlooking my personal health to focus on my academics. I often chuckle that I’m in grad school studying nutrition and how to promote a healthy lifestyle, yet a focus on my own health has taken a backseat.
As I’ve progressed through school and trying to balance a busy schedule, I’ve started to develop ways that I can still make healthy living a priority. These are my tried and true tips to making healthy living ‘work’ for you. So here you go, 7 tips for staying healthy when you’re crazy busy.
1. Plan your meals for the week. If you only do one of these tips this should be it. Having an action plan for the week makes eating healthy so much easier. I find it best to plan my meals on Saturday and shop/prep on Sunday. Even with a busy school schedule, I try to get a few meals prepped (and maybe even cooked) on Sunday afternoon. Setting a few hours aside each Sunday makes the week so much easier. This way I have time during the week to get my work done.
Never tried this before? Why not make it a mini experiment? Pick a week that works with your schedule, and write down everything you would need to do to make this work. What recipes will you use? Where will you go shopping? What can you prep on Sunday to make your meals simpler during the week? It may take a little bit of getting used to… but trust me, once you get going, you will see how much easier this is to implement in the long run!
2. Prioritize physical activity. Sometimes the last thing you want to do when you get home after a long, busy day is to go workout. But we all know how much better we feel after a little movement and fresh air. Take some time to figure out when you can incorporate fitness into your day. Whether it’s a 20 minute walk in the morning, a yoga class, or an early morning run, getting your blood moving will not only keep you healthier, but also make you feel and work better throughout the day.
The most important part, find what works for you! It took me a few weeks after starting grad school to find what would work with my busy schedule. Now I work out before class a few days a week. Yes, I have to get up a bit earlier, but I also have more energy throughout the day. Now this may not sound good at all to some of you, and that’s ok! Find what works for you and your body, and make it a priority. Trust me, you will quickly notice the difference!
3. Prepare your breakfast (and lunch) the night before. Having healthy and nutritious meals on hand makes all the difference when you’re crazy busy. I try to take my lunch to school/work every day, and making it the night before helps hold me accountable. I have also found that preparing my breakfast the night before saves me a ton of time too. I typically have a large smoothie or overnight oatmeal each morning. If I’m making a smoothie, I will often place all the ingredients (minus the liquids) in the blender and stick it in the fridge the night before. In the morning, all I have to do is pour the liquid in and blend. Super easy.
What do you enjoy for breakfast? When you’re planning your meals for the week, write down your breakfasts as well. This way you know what to prepare each evening, and what you will need to have on hand to make it work.
4. Keep healthy, simple snacks on hand. Avoid the mid-afternoon hanger by having healthy, on-the-go snacks on hand. Almonds, hard-boiled eggs, sliced fruit, carrots with hummus, and homemade energy balls are some of my favorites. I always pack a few snacks with my lunch to keep me nourished throughout the day. Even when I don’t have my lunch with me, I try to keep a few snacks in my purse for when I do get hungry.
Keeping snacks on hand will not only help you stay healthy, it will also save you $$. When you’re a student, there’s nothing better than a few extra dollars in your pocket.
5. Keep a water bottle by your side. We all know that staying hydrated is key to good health. But it can often be challenging to drink enough water when we are leading a busy life. Carrying a water bottle with me everywhere I go has made all the difference. I now never leave my house without my water bottle. It’s taken a little bit of practice to remember to bring my water bottle with me, but now it’s almost second nature.
Trying to make this a habit? Put a sticky note on your door to help remind you before you leave!
6. Befriend your crockpot. This is my saving grace on busy weeks. I have a few easy soup recipes that I can throw in my crockpot at a moment’s notice. If I know I’m going to have a busy week, I will often prepare a few meals on Sunday and then put a soup in the crockpot on Tuesday or Wednesday evening to hold me through the rest of the week. This quick and simple tip has saved me many of times. Plus there’s nothing better than waking up (or coming home) to a kitchen full of heart-warming, soul-nourishing smells.
7. Honor your sleep. This may be one of the most difficult tips to follow. Unfortunately, when we are super busy, we often put our sleep on the back burner. If we just stay up a few more hours, right? Wrong. Sleep is an incredibly important, sacred act that should not be taken for granted. When we get enough sleep we can make the most out of each day and support the health of our minds and bodies. Strive to get 7-8 hours each night. Start unwinding an hour or so before you plan to go to bed. Create an evening ritual that will help you fall asleep. I like to do some light reading or listen to relaxing music. Find what works best for you.
So there you go! My 7 tips for staying healthy when you’re crazy busy. I hope you find them helpful!