Wednesday, August 19, 2015

10 Ways to Stay Healthy When You are a Parent in School

I often hear the complaint- "It is so hard to be healthy when you are a parent in school." Yes, yes it is.
When you are focusing on your education doesn't mean that you want to ignore your health, because you really can't afford to get sick. You have school and family obligations that don't go away when you need a sick day. However it can be really hard to squeeze those healthy habits in with your responsibilities that are tied to parenting, schooling and/or work.  Here are a few ideas to stay healthy while taking on school, parenting and generally trying to be awesome.

  1. Set realistic expectations- You don't have to do all the healthy things everyday. There are so many hours in a day and you have school work to do. Don't beat yourself up that you don't have a six-pack while you are writing your thesis or that sometimes your kids are not eating enough vegetables. Make reasonable health goals for yourself and realize that it's ok if you aren't perfect at all the things all the time.
  2. Find ways to multi-task- Get your exercise in while you chase your kids at the park. Do sit-ups while you listen to an online lecture. Prepare your meals while you listen to a recorded presentation. Listen to a relevant audio book while you run. Multi-tasking can be overdone, but it can work if you can combine something mindless (exercise, chopping veggies) with something that you have to think about.
  3. Commit to do something for your health everyday. It doesn't have to be running 10 miles. It can be drinking enough water, eating a salad and walking around the block. Small steps forward are better than no steps, or steps backward.
  4. Get yourself a water cup with a straw Keep it full of water and next to your computer/textbooks, so you can sip it constantly while you study. Water is an amazing substance that is cheap/free. Being well-hydrated helps prevent a multitude of ailments. Water literally enables all of your cells to function better. It reduces headaches, helps you focus, curbs appetites and cravings and gives you more energy. If you want to know how much you need take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 2/3. That is the amount of water in ounces that you should drink everyday. (Possibly more if you are exercising a lot or depending on the weather.)
  5. Ditch your chair. Sitting in a chair for hours is bad for your health. If you have to sit, try an exercise ball. Sitting on an exercise ball does a few things for you 1) It reduces back and hip pain. 2)It forces you to use your core muscles more than sitting in a chair does 3) Can help improve your balance. Standing at your computer can also be a good option if you can adjust your screen to make that feasible. Try reading your textbooks while laying down. Switch it up.
  6. Plan healthy meals- Don't leave what you eat for dinner up to whatever you can forage at the end of the day. Even if you don't have time every day to cook, commit to have 4 balanced dinners each week, or whatever you think you can handle. Over the weekend make a plan of what you will eat in the next week. Include some salads. Make sure you have the ingredients available so your plans don't fall apart while you're trying to prepare given healthy meal and your kids are demanding food and attention. When you are prepared it takes less will power to make healthy choices.
  7. Take exercise breaks After I have been studying for several hours it helps me to stay sane to walk away and exercise for 30 minutes. When the outside weather is unpleasant I like to do a 21 Day Fix Extreme workout at home. Other days I go for a run. Find whatever exercise you enjoy and go with it. You can find a short workout on Youtube or even just do a set of jumping jacks. Taking exercise breaks can make your study time more effective.
  8. Plan healthy snacks- If you have healthy food available that is what you will eat. Some easy examples: carrot sticks and hummus, apples with peanut butter, string cheese, grapes, yogurt with granola, etc. Sometimes it helps to prep healthy snacks (chop veggies, put in containers or baggies) on the weekend, so that they are convenient for you throughout the week.
  9. Find friends that support you in your goals- Find friends who are also in school and trying to eat healthy and exercise. If you don't know anyone in real life there are plenty of Facebook groups where you can find support and recipes.
  10. Take a few minutes to meditate- Take 5 minutes to take deep breaths, remind yourself that you can do this and that in the long run many of the little things that are causing you stress will not matter.
To all you parents out there who are also in school, I salute you. Don't give up!

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