The graduate school schedule can make it difficult to stay centered and balanced. For me the busier I get, the less time I take for self-care, which is ironic considering the busy and stressful times are when I need self-care the most. Recently, I have been really good about sustaining my health routines. I wanted to share some stuff that worked for me and some stuff that didn’t and how I tailored my self-care routine through trial and error.
This all started when I read an excerpt about habit formation; the author cited experiments that showed that it takes about 29 days of doing a new activity to solidify it as a habit. I had a lot of goals and positive habits that I wanted to integrate into my life and failed to do so in the past: working out, meditation, eating healthy, etc. But 29 days and then it's solidified? I can do that! That seemed really simple so I gave it a shot.
The first thing that I wanted to implement into my schedule, like many people, was going to the gym. So I started to go around 5 p.m. every day. Now, I won’t get into the nitty gritty, but there are many different challenges at the gym: ignorance, insecurity, fatigue, injury, etc. Although it was difficult to get to the gym most days, I found that after 20 days or so, I started looking forward to the gym; and after a month, I didn’t have that nagging feeling or anxiety about having to go to the gym and I just went to the gym without that game of self tug-of-war that I used to know so well. Interestingly, five months later, I feel anxiety when I can’t make it to the gym. So it is safe to say that I solidified this practice into my routine.
However, I am injured at the moment so I had to change my gym routines to more physical therapy oriented workouts until I am healthy enough to get back to weight training. Figuring out the gym has been its own journey of learning, goal-setting, failure, success, and this repeated cycle. At this point in my gym regimen, I view the gym as a world in its own; a place where you can forget about the stressors of daily life and focus on the betterment of yourself, whatever that looks like for you. Moreover, physical goals are never ending and teach you to enjoy the process, which has helped me in other areas of my life.
Having a morning routine that energizes me and kick-starts my day has long been a goal of mine considering how long it takes me to become a functioning human after waking up. And, because the gym is super crowded in the evening, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and start going to the gym in the morning. At first this seemed like a great plan for me. I really enjoyed getting up early, getting the gym out of the way, and having the day ahead of me. But after about 35 days of this, I was truly exhausted and the quality of my morning workouts was diminishing.
I have reaped great benefits from individual mediation sessions and heard such positive things about consistent, morning meditation. I tried implementing mediation into my morning routine before my workouts. Unfortunately, this didn’t work for me in the slightest; I would wake up at 5 a.m., sit down for a 10-minute meditation, and then wake up at 5:50 a.m. hunched over my lap or face down on the floor in my room. This was really messing with me because I was now missing my morning gym sessions and my routine was thrown off.
I still really wanted to make meditation part of my routine because of the benefits I have received from it in the past. Ok, so back to the drawing board with meditation. While trying to figure out how to wake up with more energy and how meditation fits into my routine, I stumbled upon a podcast about the impact that pre-sleep routines have on your sleep. After listening to this podcast, it made sense to start meditating before bed.
I couldn’t recommend this more. I feel well rested and energized in the morning; and my morning workouts have been amazing. I am sold on pre-sleep routines so I have been researching other ways to increase sleep quality. I found that blue light exposure before bed impacts sleep quality, and experts recommend avoiding blue light exposure for an hour before bed. Although it hasn’t been 29 days yet, this is a habit that I want to continue because of the positive impact it has made on my quality of sleep.
I am far from having a perfect routine and still have lapses here and there. But generally, over the past five months, I have implemented some great habits into my life and it shows in my school performance and relationships. I hope this little write-up can inspire someone to take 29 days and implement a new habit to enhance their life.