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The Importance of Staying Balanced

When I opened my planner this morning, I saw a page covered in what looked like the Unabomber’s chicken-scratch, and I realized that my mind was cluttered in much the same way (without homicidal tendencies, don’t worry). I’ve been in a steady stream of one midterm and one project every week, and somehow I realized how harried I have become in that stream. I’m sure many of you who are taking classes that are way harder than I am are even more so, and you might not even realize it.

I find that once I get into a routine during the year, I tend to become more and more rigid in that routine, up to the point where I plan out my meals in fifteen minute-intervals, optimizing my time by picking up dinner between classes at 2PM and showers in half-hour intervals (I know, I know… incredibly long showers, but hey! They help me relax!) As efficient as this rigor may be, it’s not very healthy, which I’m sure you could tell already.

As each semester passes, I realize the importance of balance more and more, and I really appreciate how I feel when my schedule is balanced. Don’t get too excited: by balanced I do not mean binge-eating takeout while binge-watching America’s Next Top Model (generally, when you can describe any of your behavior with the word “binge”, you know something’s off. Just a handy tip.) But I do mean taking breaks and making sure that I take time to take care of myself.

First, I set aside time to eat right, and drink lots of water. Most of you living in the high-rises have kitchens. Reminder: Kitchens are not for storage of your take-out containers. As time-consuming as it seems when you have a paper due at midnight that you haven’t started yet, even just the act of putting together ingredients in a way that you know will be delicious and better for you than another Wawa hoagie can calm you down. According to this article in the New York Times, it can even heal your broken heart! So take my advice, and take the time to make yourself a nice, home-cooked meal.

Second, exercise is crucial. No matter how out of shape you think you are (and believe me, nothing can be as bad as “running” a 14-minute mile), you can fit in a short workout once a day. When I’m at my busiest, I opt for a short yoga video (I’m talking ten or fifteen minutes) once before bed. It really gets my circulation going, and the bad New Age music really does ease the nerves of frantic days.

And finally, I cannot sing enough praises about sleep. You’ve read the studies, and you’ve heard it from your health-slash-gym teacher at school, but it’s just so easy to disregard that in favor of another hour of taking a break from studying. However, I’m going to issue a challenge to any skeptics out there—get a full 8 to 10 hours of sleep one night, and tell me you don’t feel refreshed and ready to go the next day. Bonus points if you shower right before bed, actually clean off all of your makeup, and put the phone on silent. Texting while laying down does not count as sleeping.

So I know these tips are not at all original…you know you’ve heard them all before, but they are often prescribed for a reason. They really do work, both to help you relax and to bring perspective back into your life. Most importantly, you’ll see that you do have time to keep your regular, healthy routine during even the busiest weeks of the semester. And as an added bonus, you may even start wearing big-girl pants to class again instead of sweatpants.

Obligatory yoga-on-the-beach stock photograph below (but it’s an interesting outfit, isn’t it? I thought so.)

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