May 20, 2022

Life after graduation: 7 lifestyle tips for new grads

By Jillian Stinson

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

Congratulations! You’ve graduated from college, university, or an apprenticeship program. Now, it’s time to enter the “real world.” Preparing for this life transition can be stressful with job hunting, networking, interviewing. But there are a lot of bright spots too. You’ve achieved a major milestone. Celebrate that! Now, take the focus you needed for the last 2+ years in post-secondary school into the next chapter of your life. 

It’s easy to spend your time and energy focused on plans for your future. And in doing so, some healthy habits may drop in priority. Since graduation is the start of something new, it’s a great time to make healthy changes. I personally thought of graduation as a time to set “new me resolutions” and made healthy habits a priority. Here are some ideas, that worked for me, for you to consider as you enter this new phase of life.  

The first 4 tips are focused on your health and mental wellness and the remaining 3 tips are all about your financial wellness

1. Eat healthier  

2. Start exercising regularly  

3. Develop a regular sleep routine

4. Try new ways to de-stress

5. Set new personal goals

6. Start saving now

7. Protect your future with insurance

Health and mental wellness tips for new grads  

1. Eat healthier 

The key to a healthy diet is balance, moderation and variety. Eating healthful, nutrient-dense meals will give you more energy and just make you feel good. Sugary, high-fat, processed foods don’t serve the body well. Gone are the days of living off of Raman noodles and takeout.

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. It’s also surprisingly cheaper to pack your own lunch versus eating out. And since you’re starting out and paying debt, you’ll likely need to be mindful of your budget.

For more information about healthy eating, visit Lumino Health’s Healthy Eating Guide. You’ll find expert tips, resources, and recipes to get you on your way to healthier eating. 

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2. Start exercising regularly 

Although some would argue that walking from class to class was a workout on its own, you’ll need to rethink how you’ll make exercise a part of your new routine.  Health Canada recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Regular exercise can help: 

  • boost your energy, 
  • increase your endorphin levels,  
  • reduce your risk for heart disease and 
  • relieve stress.

If you're wondering how you’ll afford a gym membership, don't worry! There are plenty of other ways to incorporate physical activity into your day for free. For instance: 

  • take the stairs instead of the elevator,  
  • consider walking or biking instead of driving, whenever possible, 
  • recruit a friend to go on weekly jogs, or
  • work out at home

3. Develop a regular sleep schedule 

School schedules are irregular and don’t follow a typical workday. And now that you’ve graduated, you don’t need to pull all-nighters anymore. Chances are, you need to adjust your sleep habits. I know first-hand that this is easier said than done. But, to help get better sleep, there are 3 easy things to start doing: 

  • Shift your bedtime gradually to give you 7-8 hours of sleep per night. 
  • Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages a few hours before bedtime. 
  • Put your phone away and shut off the TV or computer. This way, you’ll be less likely to keep scrolling or binge-watching when you should be sleeping.

4. Try new ways to de-stress 

School deadlines and exam stress may be over. But now you might be experiencing new kinds of stress – like working full time or living on your own for the first time. Before you know it, you may be a new homeowner or new parent too. It's important to schedule some “you” time into your day, even if it's just for 15 minutes.

Consider taking 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! Setting these habits now will help as you gain new and different stresses through your adult life. 

Financial wellness tips for new grads 

5. Set new personal goals 

You likely had goals for your years in school. But now it’s time to set some new ones. 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. 

To make this process easier, try following these steps:

  • Set one big goal and break it down into smaller goals so it's more attainable. 
  • Pick a deadline to strive toward so you're not tempted to procrastinate.  
  • Write down your goals and post them where you can see them every day.
  • Celebrate the small wins! Every step you take in the right direction gets you closer to your goal.

6. Start saving now

Sure, you may have a student loan to start paying off. But graduating and getting a new job is a great time to start saving. And prioritizing saving will benefit you in both the short and long term. There are ways to both: pay down your debt and save. 

Once I landed a job and started making an income, I opened a TFSA and RRSP. I figured, if money went directly into my savings, I wouldn’t miss it. It would have been harder for me to make budget adjustments to start saving later. Doing this set me up with a decent amount of savings to buy my first home (together with my partner using the first-time homebuyers plan) within a few years of graduating university. 

If your employer has a group RRSP make sure you participate. A small contribution is usually all you need to start investing. 

7. Protect your future with insurance 

Once you start earning an income, you’ll want to make sure it’s protected from something like a serious illness. You may think you’re too young to worry about insurance. But the sooner you make plans to protect yourself, the better. And getting insurance when you’re younger often means its less expensive per month. 

Your employer may provide flex benefits that include health and life insurance. If your benefits coverage isn’t enough (or non-existent), you may want to consider additional coverage. To get started, you can get a life insurance quote online or talk to a Sun Life advisor

When you improve one aspect of your life, other aspects tend to follow suit. So, if your lifestyle has many areas that need positive change, try starting small. That way, you won’t get overwhelmed. Being healthy, physically, mentally and financially, will help you successfully transition into this new chapter of your life.

Do you need help getting started?

If you’re ready to talk about your savings plans or life insurance, a Sun Life advisor can: 

  • talk you through what you need now, 
  • explore what you may need in the future.
  • help you juggle competing priorities. 

Most advisors meet Clients in person or virtually. Find an advisor.

The information presented in this document is for general information only. Sun Life does not provide legal, accounting, taxation or other professional advice to advisors or their Clients. Before you act on any of the information contained in this guide, please get advice from qualified professionals. Tax and accounting professionals, along with your advisor, can thoroughly examine your situation and provide you with the best insurance and tax planning option suited to your needs.

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