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Graduation Thoughts

Graduation is always an exciting, emotional time – the joy of your accomplishments, the sorrow of saying goodbye to friends, the nervousness about the future. As I make the rounds of graduation ceremonies and parties, I’m reminded of my own graduations and of the graduations of my children. Each is a proud memory that I will never forget.

If you’re graduating this year, use this time to pause and live in the moment, because one thing is certain – your life is going to be different from now on. Whether you’re progressing to the next level of your education or entering the job market, you have the opportunity to begin this new phase of your life on the right foot. That includes your health.

Classes and jobs have a way of derailing healthy goals. We’ve all had those nights where the only things keeping us awake long enough to finish that project were a Monster energy drink and jalapeño chips. Everyone has eaten a less-than-stellar breakfast (or skipped it altogether) simply because they were running late in the morning. And I’ll be the first to raise my hand and admit that I’ve skipped a workout because I was too busy or too tired.

These things will happen from time to time because, hey, life is what it is. But if you see that these scenarios are becoming the rule rather than the exception in your life, you’re going to find yourself with some nasty side effects (weight gain, increased blood pressure, decreased cognitive performance, and increased injury risk, just for starters). How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle in the face of busy challenges?

Get enough sleep. I know, easier said than done, especially for a student enjoying their first dorm experience. But if you can discipline yourself to get 7-8 hours of sleep on most nights of the week, your body and brain will be much more able to cope with the times you don’t.
Prioritize your workout. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of activity at least three days a week. That’s really not so bad; only 90 minutes out of the 10,080 minutes in every week. Fitting it in might mean skipping one TV show or spending a little less time online, but the benefits (including reduced stress and a faster metabolism) are worth a thousand dumb sitcoms.
Eat regularly. Going for long periods without eating wreaks havoc on blood sugar levels, making you more susceptible to lapses in judgment and emotional outbreaks, and when you do finally get food, you’re more likely to overeat and make poor choices nutritionally. When you need to be at the top of your game, whether mentally or physically, eat evenly spaced, balanced meals.
Don’t lose it during your all-nighters. Many people allow the exhaustion of an all-night study or work session to override their better judgment when it comes to food types and amounts. If you want caffeine, stay away from sugary energy drinks and instead reach for unsweetened coffee or tea. For a snack, try something relatively insignificant, calorically speaking, such as sliced bell peppers and sugar snap peas. If you decide you really need a sugar rush, choose fresh fruit.

It’s always exciting (and sometimes bittersweet) to begin a new phase of life. Make the time to prioritize your health, and you’ll be sure to have good things ahead of you. Congratulations to every graduate, and keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

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