From Guest Contributor: Maddie Pelchat
Regular self-reflection is a key tool for general health and well-being, so at the end of the first month of co-op, I looked back on my first few weeks masquerading as a working engineer, and realized I had not prepared myself well for the transition from school to work. Don’t get me wrong, my co-op is much better than my first. I am so grateful for my shorter commute, beautiful view, wonderful friends, and learning experiences, BUT I realize now that I had no game plan for maintaining my health with my new 9-5 schedule.
I added BS/MS last year for Environmental Engineering, which I see as an exciting addition to my career path, however, to do so I had to switch co-op cycles, which meant that I was in classes from Spring term of 2018 through Winter term 2019 (4 straight terms–good riddance!). I had become so used to my flexible class hours where I could come home and eat a snack, take a nap, or do some yoga if I really needed a break or some extra energy between classes and studying. On co-op I leave the house at 7 and don’t return until 5. Most nights I go straight to a night class or extracurricular meeting. The first few weeks of co-op I failed to take time to cook real, healthy meals, stopped doing yoga (my mental and physical exercise), and consistently slept significantly less than my body had been accustomed to. My co-op schedule was definitely different than my class schedules, but I knew it couldn’t really be as bad as I was making it out to be for myself. Therefore, with some self-reflection and planning, I made some changes to my routine that allow me to both physically and mentally thrive.
First, I joined my co-op’s (free!) gym, which I know is a special perk so I’m taking advantage of it! Joining this gym means that I don’t have to go out of my way to work out, which was preventing me from exercising the first few weeks. Through this gym I am able to take two yoga classes a week! Secondly, I started biking to work on good weather days, keeping my bike in my co-op’s bike room and using the locker room showers to get ready each morning. This change was really hard at first because waking up early and immediately throwing oneself into heavy exercise can be rough, but after telling myself to get over it a few times, I ended up really enjoying my biking commutes. Lastly, I started making an effort to grocery shop in a way that made for faster, but still healthy meals that could easily be taken on the go, such as instant oatmeal or veggie snacks. I also realized that when I really didn’t have the time the night before, I could always fall back on the salad bar or healthy entrees at my co-op’s cafeteria. Through self-reflection about my situation, I found that my co-op held a lot of the answers to maintaining my health and well-being. As this is an adjustment for most working individuals, you may also be able to ask your coworkers for tips on how they maintain a work-life balance. They may have some great ideas or resources that you didn’t know were available to you until you ask. Ultimately, I believe it’s possible for anyone to utilize self-reflection during transitional periods to see where changes could be made to adapt to a new healthy and happy schedule!