Sunday, February 28, 2016

Life Hacking

I feel like I've seen that title somewhere before at some point. But "how to balance life, health, people, things you love, and sanity" seemed a bit much for a title, so "life hacking" was the best I could manage.

So, you probably know what this post is going to detail!

How to balance life, health,  people, things you love to do, and sanity!

I don't claim to be an expert on the matter, but since I've had the schedule of two and a half people for the past couple years, without having a health or mental breakdown, I'd say I at least I could give some helpful advice on the matter! Why do I think this? Allow me to give you my credentials:
I take between 17 and 21 credit hours a semester, and manage to maintain mostly A's.
I work 40+ hours a week at three different jobs, one of which is about thirty minutes away.
I still exercise on a regular basis.
I still have a social life.
I still make art (drawing and writing).
I'm still learning two different languages, and creating my own.
I still get through a non-school-related book about every two to three weeks, depending.
I still maintain three instruments (though, I will admit, not as well as I'd like).
I've only gotten really sick (more than a bit of a stuffy nose) once in the past year.
I've not yet gone insane! Yay!

So yes. There are my credentials.

First, possibly most importantly, taking care of mental health!

1) Make time for people. Not having any social life and becoming a hermit is the first step toward slipping into an unhealthy mental state. Hanging out with friends is super important. And I'm not saying that as an extrovert. I consider myself an ambivert, but I'm slightly more introverted. I need my alone-time as much as any other introvert, but people are still important. So hanging out with friends at least once a week is important.

2) Next, is making time for things that you enjoy. For me, that entails taking some classes that are for pure enjoyment, making time for language learning, art, and reading. Lucky for me, since I attend classes, that gives me time for art and some language, since I need to be able to doodle to focus properly anyway. Also, driving time is something that is often overlooked as wasted time. Some people listen to podcasts that they find interesting, I play my language audio lessons or brainstorm for stories, some people listen to music they like. Breaks at work are another aspect I used to overlook. They are perfect for getting some reading done, or working on writing.

3) Take time to chill. Fun things are great. Hobbies are great. People are great. But whether you're an introvert or extrovert, you need quite time. Meditation has gotten a weird sort've rep, but it is super healthy. Just spending time sitting, not letting yourself think about school, or work, or anything worrisome, just focusing on a soothing sound or image.

Second is taking care of the body!
Seriously, this is one of the ones that so easily get overlooked, and you can't optimize your time if either your body or your mind are messed up.

1) Make time for *some* kind of physical activity. This could be anything from a fifteen minute workout session (T-tapp can be good for this), to a walk, to a dance class, to whatever. Anything that gets you up and moving! I take a Ballet class twice a week, as well as a karate class once a week. When the weather isn't wretched, I try to walk my dog once a week as well. This isn't super intense, but they help keep me in a habit at least!

2) Eating healthy. This can be the hardest, but it's still important. If nothing else, cut out certain unhealthy foods. For me, that's been cutting out chewable sugars. That sounds stupid when I say it, but it actually cuts down on a lot of my sugar consumption. Because that mostly just leaves coffee drinks, ice cream, and pudding. Which I get tired of pretty quickly, and don't have unlimited access to.
Also, just adding small things helps as well. Drinking matcha on a regular basis (yay antioxidants and stuff!), fruit flavored V8, taking supplements, etc. And at least attempting to eat somewhat healthily. If budgeting is a factor, you can look at this here post I wrote about eating healthily on a budget: Poof!
Also, this may seem obvious, but actually take time to eat. For a while, I decided that eating was too problematic to deal with, so I ate less than half of how much I should've been eating. That is not a good idea, fyi.

3) Related to eating healthy, but I figure I should say it because I've heard of so many people ignoring this: Stay hydrated. Coffee and soda and energy drinks, etc. are not replacements of water. Eight cups a day *of water*, at least! 

4) This is super simple. Essentially, just SLEEP. I can't stress how important sleep is. This is coming from someone who first took sleep totally for granted, and then just plain old stoped being able to sleep like a normal person.
Seven to eight hours of sleep is optimal. Not seven to eight hours of laying in bed-- seven to eight hours of *actual* sleep. Which means that you need to be in bed at least ten minutes before you need to actually be asleep. You know your sleep best-- some people can fall asleep in just a few minutes of getting in bed. For me, it takes anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to fall asleep.
If you have trouble sleeping like a normal person, look into supplements. I take Calcium and an herbal tincture before bed to help me sleep. I also sleep in a hammock, which also helps. Diffusing essential oils by my bed and having some sort of white noise going on are other helpful things that have worked for me.
Bottom line: GET THE SLEEPS. Take it from me, if you don't get the sleeps, you will not be able to do the super busy thing without keeling over.
And don't ignore the power of naps. I often will take a nap in between classes or just before work. Study cubby, car, couch... You don't need to be in a bed to take a nap! They say the sweet spot of naps is between ten and twenty minutes. More than that, and you drop into a deeper sleep that makes you groggy when you wake up, so avoid that.
I've also started utilizing "F.lux", which is a thing you can download that adjusts the color/brightness of your computer screen depending on the time of day, which lessens the trouble screens cause your sleep cycle.

Finally, something I already sort've touched on, how do you make time for these things? It's fine to *say* that you're going to exercise, but if you have all the busyness, it's harder to actually follow through on that.

Essentially, it's learning how to utilize the empty time. That is driving time, breaks at work, time between classes, etc. Driving time? Listen to audio-books, podcasts, audio-lessons... Or just brainstorm for writing or other art! Breaks at work? Read, write, nap, study language, draw, meditate, study! I was really surprised to find out much open time I had when I really looked. On the average day, I'll minimally have an hour in between one of my classes, a thirty minute work break, a fifteen minute work break, and an hour of driving time. That's almost three hours!  Once you utilize that dead-space with things that can be done in those times, you can use more open times to do more demanding things like exercise and spend time with friends.

Also, if you're a school-go'er, try to get an on-campus job that will let you study during slow times. That has been a life-saver (grade-saver?) for me, because once I finish work-related duties, I still usually have a decent amount of time to finish assignments, or get some writing or reading done, or whatever else can be done at a desk.

So yes.
It took me quite a while to finally get down a rhythm and know-how to figure out how to balance life, sanity, health, and people and hobbies I love. I hope this can help other peeps somehow!

-The Raven