Adulthood is great. It’s all freedom and cookies for dinner and staying up till four in the morning, just because you can. Adulthood is also terrible — for those exact same reasons. As kids, we never really appreciate how awesome it is to have someone taking care of us. Turns out, it’s actually great to have someone making sure you eat balanced meals and brush your hair and go to the dentist and generally make sure that you don’t die. Then, suddenly, you head off to college, and you have none of that. I think there’s also a tendency to glamorize not taking care of ourselves, the mentality of “Oh, I’m soooooooooo busy with work/school/my crazy social life/etc. to have time to eat right/bathe/go to the gynecologist.” Unfortunately, there is nothing glamorous about diabetes, or being a slob. So, six signs you need to start taking better care of yourself...
I get this. I've been there. I remember the first time a guy at work tried to make me eat kale chips, and I was just like, “These are gross” and went to the vending machine for potato chips. But, according to my extensive research (I read two health blogs, so I’m basically a nutritionist), apparently there are “vitamins” and “minerals” that my Flintstones vitamins might not be providing adequately. (Yes, I know they’re for children, I just like the way they taste.) Anyway, these nutrient things are apparently key to staying healthy, and one of the better ways to get them is fruits and vegetables. Yes, they go bad, and yes, you may actually have to visit an actual grocery store or farmer’s market to buy them, but they are surprisingly delicious and you will feel all kinds of virtuous after eating them. Self-righteousness aside, I also tend to feel physically better when I’m eating foods that grew from a plant as opposed being made in a plant.
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2. You can’t remember what it feels like not to have a stress headache.
As I mentioned, there’s a lot of pressure to be crazy busy all the time, and a lot of people seem to wear their stress level like a badge of honor. Some people really do thrive on stress, so that’s great for them. The rest of us would do well not to fall into the busy-trap. We’re allowed to take time to do things we enjoy, just for the sake of doing those things. This might seem a little touchy-feely, but I’m a firm believer that it’s just as important to take care of mental health as it is physical. I also realize that some people aren’t making themselves busy, but have actual work/life situations that demand crazy hours or are just generally stressful. I think even, and perhaps more so, it’s important to carve out time for yourself —even if it’s just a few minutes — to do something you enjoy and to remind yourself that you’re a person with your own wants and needs, rather than totally beholden to someone else’s.
It seems like every news website I read lately at some point has some article about how we’re all going to die young because we all sit in front of our computers all day. This is totally annoying, because I’m pretty sure not having a job might also lead to me dying younger, and I just don’t think I’m cut out for construction work or cheerleading or some other job where you get paid to actually move around. So, I try to combat this — at least a little bit — by exercising. Also, I just really like running. You might hate it, and that’s fine. But, I promise, if you look around and try some things, you’ll probably find something fun that you can do for an hour a couple of times a week that involves moving. I have no idea what either of these things are, but I hear people like Crossfit and Zumba.
4. Bedtime is always after “just one more episode.”
Remember the days before Netflix? When you had to actually watch what was on TV at the time, or read a book? Good thing those days are over and I have access to seven seasons of The West Wing to keep me from sleeping! It turns out, staying up till 2 a.m. with Josh and Toby is also not great. I refuse to believe any of the research I’ve read about “consistent bedtimes” and “social jet lag,” but I can say from personal experience that I’m generally a much happier human when I’ve gotten a reasonable amount of sleep. As one of my college friends (who, like me, spent four years subsisting on too little sleep) put it: “So, all this time you weren’t aloof, you were just sleep-deprived?” I know a couple of superhumans who can make do with three hours of sleep a night, but unless you’re one of them, turn off the TV and shoot for seven or eight hours. You’ll like it, I promise.
When I was little, my mom used to bribe me to go to the doctor (or do anything unpleasant, really) by taking me to get a milkshake afterward. As an adult, I’m capable of getting a milkshake whenever I want, so this isn’t a great motivator for getting myself to the doctor. Also, going to the doctor as a kid is really fun, because you get told you’re taller, you weigh more, and you usually get stickers or candy when you leave. As an adult, you get told you weigh more, which is less great, and you usually leave with paperwork that forces you to go to Quest Diagnostics and have blood taken. I know, I’m not selling this as a thing you should do. But I think everyone has that friend who’s had the terrifying health scare, so perhaps it’s time you go to a dermatologist and have that weird mole looked at. Or find yourself one of those Primary Care Physicians I’ve heard so much about and schedule yourself an annual checkup. Also, go to the dentist. It’s no fun, but do you know what’s less fun? Dentures.
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6. You can’t say for sure when you last brushed your hair.
I’m not someone who tends to put a lot of effort into my appearance on a daily basis. I don’t work at one of those Devil Wears Prada-jobs where I have to spend an hour blow drying my hair, which is great because then I have more time for Netflix. It's not so great when I start breaking hairbrushes because my head suit has become so tangled that nothing can fix it. I used to think that if I was just putting my hair up in a bun again, I didn’t really need to brush it out, and I don’t want you to have to learn this lesson — which pretty much involves unintentional dreadlocks — the hard way. In general, I’ve found paying a little more attention to personal grooming goes a long way. I’m not saying you should wake up an hour early to go through a hair and makeup routine — unless you enjoy it — but there’s something to be said for making yourself look nice, whatever your definition of that might be.
My point is this: Taking care of yourself can easily become an afterthought. Spending time making sure you’re happy and healthy can become something you decide to put after all of your other commitments, but it should actually be the thing you’re doing first to make sure you can get through all of the other things in your life. It can feel selfish, but it’s actually self-preservation.