Get out of the "it's all or nothing" mindset.
As much as people try to say it is, life is not black and white. It's all in shades of gray. You don't have to say, 'everything is hinging on this one opportunity' or that 'to be healthy, I need to cut out carbs, eat vegan, and not even look at another cookie again.'
Please don't do that. Health -- and usually life-- doesn't come in extremes. In fact, extremes are bad. Why do we always throw in the towel after something goes wrong? You eat one piece of chocolate and you might as well give up healthy eating. You mess up one interview question and you're a failure. STOP THIS NONSENSE.
You're not a failure if you mess up. You're not a failure if you "mess up" more than once. Life is all about balance. Moderation, give-and-take, these are all words for it. We just need to become more accepting of the fact that it's natural to go off the "plan" sometimes.
It's called being human.
So give yourself a break. It's not "all or nothing." You should go easier on yourself because you're an incredible human being with hopes and dreams and goals, and the only way to reach them is to let yourself off the hook. To be human. And that's not only the key to health, and success, but to happiness as well.
Cut out as many processed foods as you can.
Just do it. If you have weight to lose, you'll shave it off without really trying (trust me), but more importantly, you'll feel BETTER. You don't know how bad heavily processed foods like chips, cookies, granola bars, pastry products and fake meats make you feel until you get rid of them. It's like being born again. Becoming a new person. The energy and sheer HEALTH you'll feel are entirely worth giving up preservatives and excess sodium. And the best part about it is you won't crave those foods anymore. Seriously.
Give it a week. Just one week without any processed junk. Eat clean, whole foods like veggies, fruits, quality meats and dairy, and whole grains. And I guarantee you that after a week, you won't want to stop.
Focus on doing one important thing per day.
Got a goal you're working toward but are intimidated to start? Try breaking it up into smaller, more manageable pieces. Are you more of a "throw it all together at one time" kind of person? That's ok, just be sure that every day you throw it all together toward one specific goal.
Got a project for work on the horizon? Send emails out to the needed people in the morning so it won't be on your mind all day. Need to check your bank account but are dreading it? Make it your day's most important task and bite the bullet. The "most important thing" doesn't have to be something huge, it just has to be the thing that needs to be done before everything else, or to free up some mind space. Getting it done early helps you ease some stress as well as energize you (you've checked something off the list! You're on a roll!). And who doesn't want that?
Don't let other people's standards be your own.
It's good to set standards-- just let them be dictated by YOU. Every dang day we are bombarded by things that tell us how our lives "should" be: you SHOULD be eating this way, you SHOULD be getting this education, you SHOULD be working on a career, getting married, having kids, exercising moderately for 150 minutes a week, etc etc. When the media (and it really is predominantly the media) tells you that you have to have it all together when you're 23, or that you have to look a certain way to even think about being comfortable in your own skin, it's a huge problem.
Throw all the "advice" you've ever heard out the window. Throw it right out. YOU should do what's best for YOU, and what makes YOU feel good. People always tell you that funny guys are the best, but you secretly prefer your dates slightly boring?
That's ok! Your best friend does boot camp every other day and downs green smoothies like they're water, but you prefer yoga and the occasional Hershey kiss? Embrace it! Everyone is different, and most people don't truly realize that. What works for someone else doesn't mean it will work for YOU.
So toss out those damn standards that come from everywhere else. All you need is what feels right in your heart.
Really. Slooooow dowwwwn. After spending some time traveling, I realized that most cultures across the world aren't as fixated on work or "achieving" as Americans are. Instead, other countries value family, good food, and taking the time to enjoy life-- and work. Of course, it's a generalization that all of us Americans are success-oriented workaholics, but it's not without some truth. We have been trained by the media that life needs to be 'go-go-go' all the time: to achieve at all costs, that time is money, that if you relax you've fundamentally failed, that it's ok to push people down in order to get a leg up.
Well, forget all of that. Life is better when it's enjoyable. And it's hard to enjoy it when you've got your blinders on, focusing on the future and all the 'could-be's' and ignoring the now.
Take time to breathe. When you find yourself rushing, stop and ask why. Will it kill you to be a few minutes late? Probably not. I've learned this from experience, and I used to be the girl that absolutely HATED when people were late.
The more you learn to let things go, the better you'll become at it. And, even better, the less stressed you'll be as a result. Slowing down helps us stress less, and that is tantamount to our health.
And there you go! Take this advice to heart and you'll be living a healthier, happier existence in no time :)
Kayla Maneen received her BFA in Creative Writing and minored in adventure and fun. After graduation, she worked on an organic farm in Ireland and taught English in Italy, and learned all there is to know about chasing sheep and eating long, leisurely meals with family. She is adamant about people living out their passions and reaching their highest potentials. Always follow that fire in your heart!