By: Hiram ’22
IB English A Language & Literature
I was at a breaking point during the start of summer break. I was miserable, away from family, burnt out from school, imprisoned at home, and had what seemed like an insurmountable number of tasks to accomplish before the start of my senior year. I knew I had abused my body; skipping meals to get work done, not eating enough of the foods I needed to sustain a healthy lifestyle, not exercising regularly, and sleeping 5 hours a night. I was beaten and broken, feeling weak, and had come to the realization that I needed to invest in my body if I wanted to place my best foot forward, to have a healthy and successful final year of high school. I needed to carve out a routine I could follow and give me a sense of discipline and improvement. I needed to stray away from the toxic association I had manufactured somehow directly placing myself worth the success I achieved in school. That’s when I found Ryan Flaherty.
Flaherty is a senior trainer at Nike. He hosts a weekly podcast that features a health expert, scientist, or professional athlete as they focus on one of the 5 facets of health: movement, mindset, recovery, nutrition, and sleep. As I listened to Flaherty, I realized how little I was doing to look after myself, with my body always getting the short end of the stick during the semester in an effort to accomplish the copious amount of school assignments and responsibilities. I started to realize I had a lot I needed to change about my current lifestyle if I wanted to truly give my mental and physical health the attention I require to operate at an optimum capacity.
I completely reworked my schedule. The rule I set for myself was 8 hours or more of sleep every day, no less and only more. I started to eat 3 meals a day again, focusing on the amount of fruits and vegetables I was intaking. Nutrition is something students often sacrifice, thinking their body can take the beating of an excess amount of salts, sugars, and unhealthy fats due to a faster metabolism. According to a study done in 2020, 15.5% of high schoolers in the U.S. are obese and an additional 16.1% are overweight. Having the knowledge that diabetes runs in my family, I understood the best way to keep the disease at bay is to not give it the light of day to develop. Flaherty understands the importance of gradual change, thus I slowly reconstructed my diet to form positive eating habits, including eating on time, intaking nutritious meals, and paying attention to hydration. Sleep and nutrition gave me the foundation I needed to work towards improving my health.
I used to convince myself that I simply do not have enough time in the day to get my tasks done. So, I started downloading time tracker apps onto my phone. I established new habits like creating easy-to-do lists so as to not scare myself into not starting my goals. Goals as simple as doing a breathing exercise for 2 minutes or having a short conversation with my mom in the afternoon. I started re-evaluating where my time went and how well spent it was. Spending 2 hours a day on various social media platforms a day meant I lost 43,800 minutes a year aimlessly scrolling on my phone. I decided this was a giant waste of my time and deleted all social platforms for a week to test it out. I occasionally wondered if someone had messaged me or sent me a funny video, but after 2 days of vanishing from the face of the digital world, the freedom I found let me see social media differently. A week quickly became 40+ days, and over that period of time, I developed new habits and re-kindled old hobbies.
I started taking a walk every day during the sunset. I could brainstorm possible college essay topics, take in the majestic view of the sun’s rays gently washing away in the ocean’s waves, and discover new genres of music. I looked forward to these walks, and they quickly became runs. I was addicted to getting outside, running 5 miles a day while enjoying the world around me. Little things made me happy, like finding the perfect running song, seeing kids learn how to ride bikes and looking at owners bond with their dogs on the trail.
Now that the semester has started, I try to incorporate walks and runs into my daily life as much as I can. Whether it’s a 6-mile walk, 5-mile run, or 2-mile jog I do my best to give myself the proper time I need to decompress or let out my frustrations. It’s okay if I’m too busy on a certain day, I try to make time the next. I started to rely on my phone less. According to a 2019 ABC news report, teens spend an average of 7 hours and 22 minutes every day on a screen purely for entertainment purposes. I did my best to stray away from this and activated the screen time functions on YouTube and other apps but eventually found myself drawing or painting when I wasn’t working on my summer assignments and college preparation.
If I learned anything this summer, it’s the importance of putting yourself first. I refuse to not get enough sleep during school days now because I understand how much better I operate with 8 hours, so I’m willing to prioritize rest. I understand the compulsive nature of social media, so I do my best to stay away from it. I understand the importance of physical and mental health now. I am a happier, healthier, and more motivated person now. I believe starting with something small like taking a walk every day can bring anyone on a journey to experience this as well.
- Information, Health “Take Charge Of Your Health: A Guide For Teenagers | NIDDK”. National Institute Of
Diabetes And Digestive And Kidney Diseases, 2021,
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/take-charge-health-guide-teenagers. Accessed 6 Oct 2021.
- “High School Obesity Rates – The State Of Childhood Obesity”. The State Of Childhood Obesity, 2021, https://stateofchildhoodobesity.org/high-school-obesity/ Accessed 6 Oct 2021.
- Jacobo, Julio News, ABC. “Teens Spend More Than 7 Hours On Screens For Entertainment A Day:
Report”. ABC News, 2021,https://abcnews.go.com/US/teens-spend-hours-screens-entertainment-day-report/story?id66607555. Accessed 6 Oct 2021.
https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/teenagers-and-sleep. Accessed 6 Oct
- “TRAINED | Nike | Analogfolk “. Analogfolk.Com, 2021, https://analogfolk.com/work/trained
Accessed 6 Oct 2021.