In the spirit of helping the next generation of PhD-ers as well as those who, like me, have already begun to wade into in the deep end, this week I am participating in a sort of academic tell-all. Need a bit of context? Check out the first post in the #PhDTag series: Everything You Wanted (and Didn’t Want) to Know about Doing a PhD.

Hopefully my experiences (or lack thereof) will prove to be of some use to those looking to do the same, particularly those toying with the idea of coming to Spain. Spoiler alert: be prepared to throw all preconceived notions of efficiency and institutional organization out the window.

How do you maintain quasi-healthy habits when super busy?

There isn’t one recipe for survival (it ends up being more like treading water). After four years of working and volunteering throughout undergrad and somehow juggling three jobs while doing my Master’s degree, I like to think that I’ve finally stumbled upon my own formula to help keep myself sane and my head above water. In no particular order:

1. Make sure your lunch is prepped and ready to go the night before. 

I’ve found that having tomorrow’s lunch all set before going to bed not only helps the next day go way smoother, but I also fall asleep easier because I’m not thinking about whether I need to get up earlier to run by the grocery store and pick something up.

This tip could also extend to having your bags packed and an outfit in mind, if not already laid out, but the latter’s already approaching pro status. It’s also related to:

2. When you do cook, make sure you make enough for several days. 

Eating is something I definitely enjoy doing. To a certain extent I also enjoy cooking, but it’s one of the first things to slide when I’m super busy. My college diet consisted mostly of popcorn and Trader Joe’s edamame hummus. Nowadays, McDonald’s delivery is just so easy and tempting when I have a million billion other things to do. Solution: Batch Cook Sundays.

I started this little ritual in the in-between period after undergrad and before my Master’s so that I’d have something to eat at work other than the dry school cafeteria bocadillosThere are some weeks when I would definitely have rather not bothered, but in the end spending a few hours on Sunday catching up on podcasts and simmering something on the stove is preferable to having to subsist all week on squished grocery store croissants.

The best Batch Cook Sunday dishes are ones that can easily be made in bulk, with minimal effort and as high of a healthiness-to-cost ratio as possible. I usually rotate between the same seven or eight recipes, occasionally changing ingredients or grain base. There’s a running list of my favorites on the fridge for when grocery inspiration is needed.

Some of my tried-and-trues:

Chili-Sometimes over rice, sometimes plain and topped with cheese.

 Coconut chicken and veggie curry-I usually stuff it full with as many types of vegetables as I can fit in the pan.

Mexican inspired quinoa-It’s great the same day but even better the day after.

Shoyu chicken over rice-Super easy because you leave the chicken to marinate overnight and then just simmer until tender. You can take the girl out of Hawaii but you can’t take Hawaii (or shoyu) out of the girl.

Curried chickpeas and spinach-Sometimes I change it up and use lentils instead.

If none of these recipes tickle your fancy, you’re in luck because the Internet is teeming with more: 17 Easy Dinners, 20 One-Pot Meals, 11 Batch Cooking Recipes.

I also try to have pre-cooked lentils on hand to throw in salads or use as a base in a lunch bowl. Perennial favorite: lentils sautéed in olive oil with paprika topped with feta cheese, tomatoes, garlicky spinach and a runny egg. Change up as needed.

3. Squeeze in as much walking and/or exercise as possible. 

I spend way too much time sitting and can only really get myself to go to the gym if I’ve had McDonald’s delivery one too many times in a row (oops). I do walk more or less everywhere I need to go, but then again I also live in the center of Madrid and most places I need to go aren’t much further than a leisurely half hour walk away.

Even if you do live somewhere where a car, bus, hovercraft, etc. is necessary to get from A to B, chances are you’re going to have to rely on your two feet to get you at least part of the way there. There are a million and one suggestions on how to incorporate more walking and exercise into your routine. Walking to the corner store to stock up on writing snacks instead of ordering them with the grocery delivery definitely counts.

My personal favorites are:

adding little bursts of exercise to your day.

Doing a few jumping jacks and squats in the morning right after you get out of bed or while waiting for the kettle to boil is a good way to wake up and get your blood moving. Also it helps you feel super accomplished for doing something healthy so early in the day.

tracking your steps.

I try (emphasis on try) to take 10,000 steps a day, but there are some days where I don’t even come close and others where I go way over. It’s called balance. Or at least I hope it balances itself out.

taking the stairs down instead of up.

I like this better than taking them up because you end up at your destination less sweaty but still get your steps in. Win-win!

4. Set a bedtime alarm. 

Admittedly I need to get better at doing this myself, but I think it’s a great idea in theory. I will definitely start doing it…eventually.

Gretchen Rubin suggests setting an alarm on your phone to remind you when it’s time to go to bed. Whether you actually follow through on it or not is up to you because you are (technically) a capital-A Adult, but it’s a good reminder that you should probably get at least a few more hours of sleep.

Healthy Habits TL;DR:

  • Make sure things for the next day are ready to go the night before.
  • Batch cook. Batch cook. Batch cook.
  • Do jumping jacks while waiting for the kettle to boil.
  • Set an adult bedtime.

Stay tuned for the next #PhDTag installment: PhDroductivity.

In the meantime, take a look at the PhD section of Scholar Escolar or at the Case Studies series to see what other people are saying about going to graduate school in Spain.

Also make sure to check out what the other #PhDTag contributors have started saying about their own experiences and healthy habits. They are a pretty fine bunch of leading ladies.

Absolutely Elisabeth, Academique RoseAverage GradBookworm in GhGraduate PerspectiveKaitlyn MaeThe Lit ScholarMariel FreshMason and MilesNerd to FitOkidokibokiPeace with ShaPhD MumScholar CultureSujaneeYeka Science

Update: check out the full #PhDTag series Everything You Wanted (and Didn’t Want) to Know About Doing a PhD, Healthy Habits (What are those?), PhDroductivity, Getting Up Close and Personal

6 thoughts on “#PhDTag: Healthy Habits (What are Those?)

  1. I fail at batch cooking, I did try this once and the veggies became “ewy”. That’s how my son describes it. I do not know how to describe it. But this reminds me to work hard on planning my days or the week. so plan plan plan. thanks for this!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can totally feel his ewy pain! I try to make dishes that get better as time goes on (chili and thai curry are staples), but the truth is that we usually end up eating all of the food by Wednesday 🙈

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the idea of having a bedtime alarm! I’m in serious need of some more routine in my life! Thank you for sharing! So many takeaways that I can apply, even while traveling! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

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