I never imagined how difficult it would be to learn how to take care of myself. Having spent most of my time between ages 18 and 22 in a relationship distracted me from figuring out exactly how to make myself happy on my own. Finally single again at 23, I’ve embarked on the wildly difficult journey towards life balance. I’m a planner by nature. An organizer and someone who thrives where structure is laid before me. Thus the realization that life in the post-college world has about as little structure as play-doh came as a bit of a shock. Life balance used to be summed up fairly well by this diagram:
College life, like youth, is utterly wasted on the ignorant. Real life becomes a rabbit hole of paying bills, negotiating salaries, filling taxes (thanks Dad), not to mention balancing the few hours you have outside work to see friends, exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep, and spend time with significant others. That triangle of college choices has morphed into some sort of crazy shape that has infinite corners.
My greatest challenge has been forming good habits. At certain points during college I kick ass habits in place. I was exercising almost every day, eating right, seeing friends, studying, and getting enough sleep. I should probably mention that I only had class three days a week. Ah, academia.
In the real world it has taken me about a year and a half to settle into startup life (now working at my second startup) and figure out how to make everything else happen at the same time. I read The Power of Habit earlier this year, and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to make changes in their life. The first habit I worked on changing was when I would exercise. I switched from trying to convince myself to work out at the end of the day, to getting up at 5:45AM four days a week to go to 7AM fitness classes at my gym. What I realized was that doing this was analogous to achieving bonus hours in the day. Besides that, it has allowed me to start each workday feeling empowered, lead to healthier food choices, and increased productivity. If you are not a morning person and see no way that you could get up at 5:45AM and do something like this, I suggest you offer yourself the following deal: try it one time and see if you like it. If you don’t, you never have to do it again. I’ve been applying this to a lot of things in life, and it works great. It’s also important to note that when I do get up at 5:45AM I’ve gone to bed by 10PM at the latest. I love to sleep :)
One of my favorite new habits is my Monday morning 7AM yoga class. This I would really recommend for starting out your week feeling calm and collected. Pro-tip, never drink coffee before yoga if you can manage it. I also pack my lunch for work every day, and have switched from a large lunch, to small snacks throughout the day. This has kept me feeling full and keep my blood sugar up, enabling me to turn a blind eye to the racks of free candy and snacks my office kitchen contains.
So I’m beginning to have a handle on eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. I make time to see my friends by having / attending dinner parties, or hanging out with people on the weekends. This is all working pretty well. I’m working on drinking less alcohol because I’ve never been a big fan, but unfortunately the work happy hour is a standard socializing ritual in most places.
My real goal is to keep a handle on all of this life balance stuff (and keep improving at it) so whenever I do end up in another relationship I’ll be able to keep myself happy, my life in check, AND work on the next terrifying life beast that they don’t warn you about: communication. More on that next time.