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Fitness and family health

May 14, 2012

Healthy tips for new graduates

Graduation can be the start of something new and exciting. It’s also a good time to adopt some healthy lifestyle changes.

It's hard to believe that I’ve already graduated from college and the time has come to finally enter the “real world.” Preparing for this life transition has been extremely stressful, to say the least. Job hunting, networking, interviewing . . . it's been completely exhausting and overwhelming!

The daunting question I had to answer was, "What now?" and it caused me a lot of anxiety. With most of my energy focused on worrying about my future, some of the healthy habits I had worked so hard to maintain slowly began to drop to the bottom of my priority list. Inadequate sleep, less-than-wholesome eating and missed exercise opportunities started to become the daily norm.

This pattern went on for a little while, until I suddenly realized it was time I viewed graduation as the start of something new and exciting -- a good time for some healthy changes. So, I wrote down some new goals for myself and started a blog to share information and ideas about how to create more life balance and promote healthier living.

Here are a few of my recommended healthy lifestyle changes for new grads:

  • Eat healthier. The key to a healthy diet is balance, moderation and variety. Eating healthful, nutrient-dense meals will give you more energy and overall just make you feel good. Sugary, high-fat, processed foods do not serve the body well. For more information about healthy eating, visit Health Canada's Food and Nutrition website. You can download a copy of Canada's Food Guide or even make your own personal guide that's tailored to your dietary preferences.
  • Start cooking! If you don't cook, learn how. Cooking is a great way to better control what you eat. For example, you can control the amount of added salt or sugar. Experiment with new, healthy recipes so you can take nutritious snacks and lunches to work. EatingWell.com has a wide variety of simple, healthy recipes to try.
  • Set new personal goals. They don't necessarily have to be health-related. Goal-setting is a great exercise to get you thinking about what you truly want in life and how you can better yourself, both personally and professionally. Try setting one big goal and breaking it down into smaller goals so it's more easily attainable. Set a deadline to strive towards so you're not tempted to procrastinate. Write down your goals and post them where you can see them every day.
  • Start exercising regularly. Regular exercise boosts energy, increases endorphin levels, reduces risk for heart disease and is a great way to relieve stress. Health Canada currently recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week. If you're worried about being able to afford a gym membership, don't worry! There are plenty of other financially feasible ways to incorporate physical activity into your day. For instance: take the stairs instead of the elevator; consider walking or biking instead of driving, whenever possible; or recruit a friend to go on weekly jogs.
  • Develop a regular sleep schedule. I know -- easier said than done. Try to shift your bedtime gradually to a more appropriate hour that will give you at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages a few hours before bedtime.
  • Try new ways to de-stress. It's important to schedule some “you” time into your day, even if it's just for 15 minutes. Take up yoga or start meditating. Experiment with ways to express yourself creatively, such as painting, playing a musical instrument or dancing. Try something new that works for you!

One thing I've learned from studying health and wellness is that when you improve one aspect of your wellness, other aspects tend to follow suit. If your lifestyle has many areas that need positive change, try starting small so you don't get overwhelmed. Although you may find post-graduation to be a stressful time, remember that at the end of the day your health is your greatest asset. Being healthy, both physically and mentally, will help you successfully transition into this new, exciting chapter of your life!

Laura Fujita recently graduated from the Workplace Wellness and Health program at Centennial College in Toronto. Follow her blog, Inspiring Healthy Living.

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