As a full-time graduate student and graduate assistant with two additional part-time on-campus positions, managing my time, stress, and workload has been a challenging process. As a result, there are 5 things I like to do, almost daily, in order to keep myself grounded, whole, and functioning — or healthy, focused, and engaged as my title suggests (oops!).
1) Making the bed before leaving the house. Sounds trivial, but it works. Every morning, after I put my “game face” on and dress in the weather-appropriate clothes, I make the bed. I place the two pillows at the head, drape the gorgeous white comforter over the edges, strategically position the camouflage pillow and teddy bear to add some color, and toss the brown throw blanket over the feet of the bed. Voila. Done. The reason I do this is simple: Every time I come home from an exhausting day, I at least come home to a clean slate. In the nine to twelve hours that I am on campus, my bed remains in tact, untouched by the worries and stress of the day, and ready to engulf me in a layer of comfort, trust, and deep satisfaction.
2) Having a regular workout routine. Sounds obvious — because it is. For the past 10 weeks — well, let’s say it’s more like 12 because of spring break and conference season — my programmate and I exercised 25 minutes a day as part of the T25 workout program. Exercising daily helped me survive my first winter in Vermont. It kept my mind off of the never-ending to-do lists and improved my overall concentration. Sure, I saw results and I felt extremely good about myself for doing it, but more importantly, I established a wonderful relationship with my friend and colleague in this program. We enjoyed working out in each other’s company so much that we signed up to do a 5K Mud Run in Boston, Massachusetts that fundraises and brings awareness to multiple sclerosis (MS).
3) Having two reusable water bottles: one for home and the other on-the-go. Sounds excessive, but it’s also really practical. To give you some background information: I have two reusable water bottles that are the same model and type, but differ only in color (one blue, one black). I typically keep one water bottle stocked and filled in the refrigerator and the other comes with me wherever I go. I am a water fiend. I drink water like a fish. It helps to have one water bottle with me to fill up when I’m on the run or going to class, and by the time I come home, I have another water bottle just waiting to be picked up. I also prefer to drink cold water so having one in the fridge helps me save time on my other daily routines and errands and ultimately helps me stay fully hydrated. If you’re looking to get into reusable water bottles, I highly recommend the Thermos Nissan Intak Hydration Water Bottle. It’s affordable, sturdy, keeps the mouth piece protected from hands and other germs, does a good job at preventing any leaks, has a textured exterior for good grip, and comes in many different colors!
4) Starting a gratitude journal. Sounds time consuming, but extremely fulfilling. I first learned about the gratitude journal after a conversation I had with my colleague, friend, and programmate, Trina S. Tan back in November 2014. Unapologetic plug: You should definitely read some of the amazing work she’s done in her own blog here. Now, back to last semester: I was in a heavy funk and was still transitioning into the Vermont life. I had a hard time being away from California, especially since I was (and still am) in a long distance relationship. I remember seeing Trina writing in this journal ALL THE TIME, even in church! And sometimes she would text me to tell me, “I wrote about you (basically describing our most recent of hangouts) in my journal.” After struggling and feeling so isolated last semester, I knew I needed to take control of my life again.
At the end of the day, I write down at least three things that I am grateful for that have positively impacted the way my day went. Since last November, writing in my journal has furthered my practice for patience, appreciation, and self-reflection. It has given me so much to be grateful for and continues to shed optimism in challenging moments. It also helps me appreciate the smaller things that happen in my day-to-day interactions, whether that be somebody buying me coffee in the morning, giving me a ride home from class in the rain, or finally having time to do laundry again.
5) Taking a nap when needed. Sounds like a waste of time, but it’s completely worth it. Naps work, they really do. I still haven’t mastered how long the perfect nap is for me, but I find that when my mind is dazed and confused, I come out of a bit more level-headed and refreshed. If it’s not a nap, spending ten minutes to close my eyes and visualize how much work I want to get done also does the trick. And if you end up sleeping longer than you’re supposed (which happens, trust me) don’t be mad at yourself. Your body obviously needed a moment to recover and you’re giving it the love that it so desperately desired.
In closing, each of these things has allowed me to stay healthy, focused, and engaged. Making the bed has taught me how to be more responsible. Consistently working out has helped me become more accountable to myself and to others. Having two reusable water bottles makes for a more efficient day. Writing in my gratitude journal further practices the art of mindfulness. Lastly, taking a nap has allowed me to prioritize my personal health and wellbeing.
As a graduate student and student affairs professional, it’s not always easy carving time out of my day to practice self-care and living in complete balance with my personal and professional life. However, I have learned that finding ways to keep myself rejuvenated and grounded are essential to my overall wellbeing and spiritual development. Taking some time out of the day to do the little things that are important to us can help us do our work more efficiently and effectively while living our life with appreciation and integrity.
In closing, here are some questions to guide you or reground you in your own journey to a healthier lifestyle: How can you make time to do the little things that can sometimes have the largest impact on your levels of engagement and productivity? How do you practice self-love and self-reflection? What do you do to integrate balance in your life?