Self Care 101: Balancing Life as a Recent Graduate
It’s been awhile since my last post and tough to get into a regular habit of posting, So I couldn’t think of a better topic to write about since I’ve been struggling to find the time to sit down and take some time to organise my life. The past few weeks at work have probably been some of the busiest that I have experienced since I have started working and lord have I been stressed!! As someone who is fairly new into the working world, it can be difficult at times to know how to handle the workload and the stress that the real world brings with it. Your 11am starts have now turned into 6am, and your once 10 minute commute to campus has turned into an hour packed tube ride to work. You no longer just have three hours of classes in a day, but now have eight hour (or even more) working days. And gone are the days of Reading Week, weeks of Christmas and Easter breaks, and all those months off during the summer. You’re now an adult who is expected to be ‘adulting.’
Adulting (v): to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.
All these new responsibilities and expectations that come with adulthood can be overwhelming and I’ve found the transition from student to graduate/professional/adult somewhat strange, uncomfortable and slightly stressful. But all that’s for another post. Right now I want to talk about the ways I’ve tried to deal with all of it – the exhaustion I have felt due to work, commuting, balancing a social life as well as other responsibilities. So here are a few self care tips to help any other recent graduates balance their lives a little better. But let me just emphasise, in no way am I a licensed doctor/physician/anything in the medical professions, all these tips are merely things I’ve tried and tested and have helped me. Obviously if you’re suffering from stress, anxiety or anything more serious, I advise you see your doctor.
How to take care of yourself
- Prioritise your life
We try to be successful in all areas of our lives, whether it be at work or the time we spend with family or trying to catch up with friends. But sometimes it can seem like you don’t have as much control – so prioritising is necessary in order to lead a more balanced and comfortable life. Find what inspires you and makes you want to get up everyday in the morning. Do what you love – whether it be in terms of your career, hobbies, whatever, make sure you’re enjoying what you do.
- Create a routine for yourself
Sorting out your priorities, creating a routine for yourself and following it through actually gets all that important stuff that you’ve been putting off done. And if like me you’re prone to procrastination, this is one way to try and beat it! Balance your work and your personal life, learning to separate the different areas. Set aside an evening or a day in the week where you concentrate on a hobby or do something that interests you – start that book you’ve been meaning to forever, or try out that new recipe you found , whatever it is allocate time for it.
- Take care of your health
I have a habit of when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with things, I don’t seem to take great care of myself. In the heat of exam period last year, I let myself get very stressed, wasn’t eating properly and not getting enough sleep. Now I truly understand the necessity of taking care of yourself and putting yourself as Number 1. Since creating a routine for myself, I make sure I’m in bed at a certain time each night and get an average 7 hours of sleep a night – this has made the early starts in the morning a lot easier. It’s also important to make sure you’re eating well. It’s easy to slip into bad food habits, but I’ve found things like homemade smoothies and veggie and fruity snacks to eat at my desk during the day are a great way to ensure I’m getting my five a day and contributing to a balanced and healthy diet. Finally, something I’ve introduced very recently into my life is regular exercise. I now try and go to the gym at least twice a week and I honestly look forward to these couple of evenings and week and enjoy myself while keeping fit. It’s great seeing how your body can go and what it can do if you push yourself hard enough.
- Spend some time by yourself
Moving back home after four years living at university and abroad on my own has made me realise just how much I love my own space, privacy and time for myself. Over the last few months I’ve really come to appreciate and value any time I can spend by myself doing what I want, and how essential it is for your own sanity. Obviously I enjoy spending time with my family and we’re all very close, but sometimes you just need some me time to relax and get through the week. So if you want to spend an evening binge watching a show on Netflix or spend a Saturday afternoon by yourself at a cafe, do that!
- Take a day off
Everyone needs some time to relax and get away from work and all their responsibilities. That’s why I recommend taking a day (or two) off work to simply spend some time relaxing and chilling. If you don’t get a great amount of annual leave and don’t want to take a day off, why not see if you can work from home that day or start a little later or finish a little earlier, just to get some extra time for yourself. I took three days off back in November – my first break since I started work in July – to recharge. And it was amazing. I spent the first day by myself, out in my hometown, treating myself to some sushi for lunch and spent the afternoon writing with a cup of a fudge hot chocolate at Starbucks. It was bliss. Simple, but effective in that I returned to work on the Thursday refreshed and ready to get back to work. Make use of your annual leave – it’s there for a reason – and take a day off if you need a longer weekend just to spend some time with yourself.
- Surround yourself with positive people
Surround yourself with positive people who reflect who you are and support you can only be a plus in your life. Having negative people in your close circle will only bring you down, and from my own personal experience, it really isn’t worth being close with such characters. And this doesn’t just apply to the company you keep physically, but also all those that you follow online. There’s nothing wrong with muting/unfollowing/unfriending someone on social media if all they post is affecting you negatively.
- Get back into an old hobby or pick up a new one
Hobbies can end up taking a backseat when you’re feeling rather overwhelmed, but it’s important for them to still have a place in your life. I’ve been saying for over a year that I need to get back into reading, but to make it a bit more interesting, I’ve decided that I’ll spend 2017 reading books mainly written by writers of colour. I’ve also decided to take my journaling to the next step and try out bullet journaling. That way I can be a bit more creative with it.
- Take a trip
You don’t have to book an exotic holiday abroad, or even go too far from home, but spending a couple of days in a different environment that’s not your usual one is a great way to clear your mind. Whether it be visiting family or friends in another town, or spending the night in a local hotel, you don’t have to break the bank to take a trip that will do you some good. At the end of last year, I visited my sister in Oxford to get out of the city and we didn’t get up to too much over the weekend that I was there, but the fresh air and change of scenery really did me some good and was a great way to get refreshed before returning to the office on Monday morning.
- Reach out and ask for help
A lot of us don’t like to ask for help when we feel overwhelmed as to avoid being a burden to others or due to a fear of being judged. But asking for help is not a sign of weakness and shouldn’t be something that you feel ashamed to do. Asking for help can help you feel better and supported and there’s nothing saying that you have to go through all things in life alone.
- Go offline
In this day and age, it’s quite hard to imagine being without your phone or other devices. There’s all sorts of research showing how many hours we spend a day online and when you see it displayed like that, it’s actually quite crazy. I’m not saying you should completely disconnect yourself from the online world, after all this is just how we communicate nowadays. But why not limit yourself to checking your social media accounts to just once a day, or making sure you get off your phone at least an hour before you go to bed. That way you don’t find yourself at 4 in the morning still scrolling through Instagram. I recently deleted the Facebook and Instagram app off my phone, mainly due to the fact I needed more storage on my phone, but it’s actually been pretty great freeing myself of the distraction. So if you find yourself hooked on your phone, why not try deleting a couple of your most distracting apps for a week, or mute that Whatsapp group that’s constantly got your phone buzzing. That way you can be more present.