Last year I made three purchases that changed my life for the better. They weren’t flashy or expensive items or even stocks for that matter, but they have given me the tools to become more balanced and achieve a greater wellbeing. Up until that point, I was constantly running on fumes trying to balance between my classes, labs, study, work, life…you get the gist. And while my book, desk, and lamp weren’t miraculous cures for my chaotic lifestyle, each item helped me to create more structure in my days and build meaningful habits that improved my wellbeing in countless ways. From a self-help book providing wisdom on how to better manage stress to a standing desk that combated exhaustion from sedentary work sessions and a Himalayan salt lamp filling up the atmosphere with a soothing presence — these purchases set me up for success. Even more, they taught me the importance of having patience and investing in myself, something that I’m still doing today.
I’m a student Physical Therapist. Wow, it still feels strange to say that. Throughout high school and undergrad, I had mastered the habit of studying for an exam, passing the exam, and then moving on to the next exam. Graduate school was a game changer for me in that everything was actual appliance based. Instead of just regular multiple choice exams, there were lab practicals with real life scenarios where the answer is never black and white. Instead of the correct answer being answer choice “C”, the correct answer was often “it depends”. And instead of pictures and model dummies, there were real people with scary things like heart disease or advanced osteoporosis. Needless to say, every day was an unknown and it felt like I was failing more often than succeeding. Of course, then there are questions of whether I chose the right profession, or am I just spending thousands of dollars on a dream that sounds nice?
Enter a self-help book.
This self-help book included many principles that I was familiar with such as meditation, growth mindset, embracing discomfort, gratitude, and being in the present moment. Yet, it made me realize that while I knew off all these principles, I had never actually put them into practice. Much like how I had studied exercise science, I had never actually put what I learned into practice; this explained why graduate school was so foreign to me. It’s always difficult to explain this kind of lightbulb moment in words. It’s like the answer to your problems was always in front of you but you just never took the time to acknowledge it because it seemed too simple. It made me realize that feeling discomfort was a sign of growth and progress, and any doubt or anxieties were just barriers in disguise created by my fear of failure. So basically, I had to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is easier said than done, but with every passing day, I take it as a token of growing used to the discomfort.
With hours of lectures upon hours of studying on my laptop…oh now that I think about it, I also sit down for dinner, and then I sit down for Netflix after that. I was sitting a lot.
Honestly at times, my bottom was more sore from sitting than my strength workouts. Not to mention, my shoulders and upper back often felt stiff and tired. I had also learned all the ways sitting can contribute to low back pain, and other muscular imbalances in class. So, I decided to invest in a standing desk. It was a simple, self-assemble standing desk that I found on amazon.
I started with standing for just 10 minutes in between hour long sessions. Now, I’ve worked my way up to sitting for half the time and standing for the other half. Standing has become part of my routine much like sitting was before.
My standing desk has not only improved my physical health, but it also serves as an important reminder to stay active throughout the day. I often found myself marching in place or stretching for a few minutes during my standing session. My body feels more energized, and as a result I have become more productive. Bottomline, I’m not looking back.
My Himalayan salt lamp is adorable. Not that it’s magical in any way, but it has become a solid part of my self-care, evening routine. When the clock strikes 9, I turn off my room lights and screens, and turn on my Himalayan salt lamp. No matter what happened that day, the next 30 minutes are my dedicate me-time. Whether I’m reading books or doing some gratitude journaling, this is the perfect way to disconnect from the day and give myself some much needed peace and quiet. Incorporating this method into my daily routine has been very beneficial, allowing me to establish a consistent bedtime and, ultimately, get better quality sleep. It’s amazing how such small changes can bring about so much improvement in our well-being. Plus, it’s very aesthetically pleasing; I could easily YouTube some fire crackling sounds, and stare off into my lamp.
Side note: I did come back one rainy day to find my Himalayan salt lamp sitting in a pool of water. Apparently when the lamp isn’t on, the salts gather the humidity from the air, and “sweat” water. On the bright side, I guess this means it’s real!
All in all, I had to express my gratitude for my book, desk, and lamp. The magic isn’t in the purchases but in what each purchase has come to represent to me. The book served as a guide to reframe my mindset, my desk serves as a reminder to stay active, and my lamp serves as a reminder that at the end of the day, so long as I try, all is well. Each of these items have helped me in different ways, but ultimately leading me to the same goal: improving my wellbeing and happiness. After all, my greatest investment is me (just as your greatest investment is you).
I’m only halfway through PT school. I’m sure not every day will be sunshine and rainbows. But for now, I’m content.
Priya Patel is a student physical therapist at the University of Delaware. When she isn’t prepping for her upcoming exam, doing clinicals, and diving into research projects, you can find her creating applicable content for her health blog. In the end, she hopes to instill in you the importance of making both your mental and physical health a priority, and empower you to live your best life.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.