Ashley Crumby, PharmD
Pharmacy Administration Graduate Student
It’s that time again. The beginning of a New Year and the development of a list of “New Year’s Resolutions.” Now let’s be honest. This list is something that we are so excited about on January 1st, but in reality we are lucky to still be excited about in a few short months when things get busy and excuses start flying. I’m guilty of it for sure. But there is one resolution that I want you to make this year that you will actually keep. I want you to make the resolution to have a healthier 2016.
Now when I say this, I don’t mean that I want you to say you are going to lose 25 pounds or start cutting entire food groups out of your diet. Nobody wants to deal with a “hangry” person, so please, whatever you do… don’t be THAT person. What I mean when I say that you should resolve to have a healthier year is that you should think of health from different angles and create a plan for yourself that includes less stress, more energy and a better mood. Who doesn’t want that, right?
Sure, you might be sitting there reading this and thinking, “Yeah right. I don’t have time to ‘make a plan’ to be healthier. I am so busy during the school year that I feel like I can barely get it all done anyway.” Well, I am here to tell you that the word “busy” is relative and that a little planning on the front end will result in better outcomes on the backend. Take it from your friendly neighborhood graduate student who not only had one kiddo during grad school but is also pregnant with her second while writing this post. Busy is relative and you learn to roll with it.
So how do you go about this “planning” to be healthier in the New Year? Well, I’ve got a few tips for you that I really wish someone had told me when I was in pharmacy school. Some are pretty straightforward while others will require a little more thought on your part. But I promise that if you make the effort to take care of yourself and develop good habits now, you will function so much better in the future. So here are a few tips to get you started!
Get a planner and get organized. If you don’t have one already, you need one. I promise. It is impossible to remember every class, assignment, appointment, activity, etc. that you have in your schedule and without a planner I can guarantee you will be late to things or forget to show up at all… don’t do that to yourself. Invest in either a paper planner or start a calendar on your smart phone and put EVERYTHING in it. You’ll thank me for it later.
Eat healthier and drink water. Period. I will be the first to tell you that when I was in pharmacy school, I was a fan of anyone who delivered food past 10pm. But of course, those options were probably the worst things I could have possibly been putting in my body. Those unhealthy foods contributed to weight gain, sluggishness, and an overall lack of motivation to do anything healthy and sometimes a lack of motivation to do the things I needed to get done because I just didn’t feel like I had the energy. So while those types of foods are fine every now and then, work on a meal plan that involves healthier options. For me, I recently switched to a “clean eating” diet where I eat very little processed foods and try to avoid added sugars and sweeteners. And you know what? I don’t spend my days wishing I still had those other options. Sure I crave a burger and fries every now and then, but having healthy snacks and meals around makes it easier to grab something good for me instead of something unhealthy that may just be a quick fix. I have more energy just by changing my diet, which is something I know we all need.
Plan a way to get regular exercise. This one can be tough because it takes precious time to devote yourself to planned exercise, but you need it. Not just for your body, but also for your brain. Did you know that regular activity will not only put you in a better mood, but it will also help your focus and ability to retain information? Don’t believe me? Try it out. Start by trying to get 30 minutes of exercise on 5 days of the week and see if it helps. My advice is to make it a group effort. Grab some friends and go for a walk instead of spending that 30 minutes watching something on TV or making a pointless run to Walmart because you need a “study break.”
Take study breaks. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but I want you to actually take meaningful breaks… and not just a 10-minute break every 4 hours. Research actually shows that studying in 1-hour increments (50 minutes of studying and a 10-minute break) is the most effective, especially for learning material for application purposes rather than just sheer memorization. If you go much longer than that, you are actually working against your brain and the ability to successfully retain information decreases! So take breaks often – stroll around the block, take the dog for a walk, call a friend – do something else! And don’t skip out on meals – that’s an important one too. Your body needs more than just a meal you inhale in-between reading your notes. Take real breaks for meals and just let your brain disengage for a while.
Get some sleep! I know you think that the 30-minute power nap you took while pulling your all-nighter did you some good, but it probably didn’t. At some point that strategy isn’t going to work anymore and you won’t see good results from skimping out on sleep. So even though the recommendation is 8 hours, I know you probably won’t do that, so aim for at least 6 hours of good sleep during those busy study times. If you follow some of the tips above about making the most of your study time and avoid distractions, you should be able to squeeze in that sleep without a problem.
Find a hobby you enjoy and MAKE time for it. Okay, this may be the hardest one for people because hobbies take TIME and this is something you feel like you just don’t have, right? Well, it’s something you need to do. For me, when I was a student and even as a resident, I used baking as my version of “stress relief.” I loved to bake so any time I got stressed or just needed to check out, I would try out a new recipe and allow myself to engage in something I loved rather than spending all of my time studying or being stressed out. So whether it is going outdoors, reading for fun, working on something artistic, or even baking, take time for your hobbies. You want to continue to do the things that you enjoy and that make you who you are. I promise it’s worth it in the end!
I hope a few of these tips touch home for some of you and help you start your year on the right foot! I know they have helped me have better focus and really be productive and successful so far in my career as a pharmacist and as a graduate student. Hope you have a great 2016!