20 Health and Wellness Tips To Help You Survive Your 20s From Melissa Kirsch's 'The Girl's Guide'

Say what you will about Millennials — like we’re narcissistic, or our personal boundaries are dangerously nonexistent, or we’re to blame for the world’s kale- and rose-shortages — but we come by (some of) these ills honestly. Growing up is hard to do, especially in today’s overstimulated, über-competitive, Photoshopped-image-plagued world. As a wise lip-ringged man once said: “Nobody likes you when you’re 23.”

So it’s not totally true that no one likes you once you settle into your 20s. Mostly it’s that it can be hard to like yourself once you’ve flown the college coop (and by “once” I mean “immediately-to-10-years-after-graduation”). And in Melissa Kirsch’s The Girl’s Guide , “a colossal cheat sheet for your post-college years,” the writer recognizes that it can be hard to take care of yourself properly (and by “properly” I mean “in a way that feels right to you, not to your parents/friends/Pinterest guru”) during these nascent adult years. “For the first time,” Kirsch writes, “we’re running our own shows.” That means not only preparing our own meals, balancing work and play, and generally keeping ourselves alive; it also means being responsible for our mental and emotional wellness, too.

In addition to providing guidance on relationships, careers, money, and other of life's biggies, Kirsch’s book provides easily accessible tips and tricks about how to stay healthy, balanced, and positive, both in body and in mind. Here’s a smattering of Kirsch’s wisdom, both practical and inspirational, that'll help keep your sexy self in check.

On Seeing Your Body As It Really Is

“Psychotherapist Risa Giordano advises: ‘Dare to think for yourself. Start to look in the mirror and see your body as a unique work of art. Visually embrace its actual size and shape. Appreciate your own physical self. Don’t accept at face value the socially prevalent “norms.” Who says they’re right? Ask yourself, “How would my life change if the societal judgments about fat and size did not exist?”’”

On Feeling At Home In Your Body

Suzanne, 34, says: “I have so much power in my body. I can build things with it, I can have sex. I can create another human being. I know that I have to be comfortable enough with my body in order to have fun with it, so being comfortable is a huge priority for me.”

On Meditation

“‘If you can breathe, you can meditate,’ says Sharon Salzberg, a meditation teacher whose books and teachings I like very much. I started meditating by sitting in a chair for five minutes a day with my eyes closed, gently drawing my attention to my breath, in and out. That’s it. You could start with thirty seconds to see if you like it.”

On Stress Management

Katherine Keil, M.D., says: "The most important habit to cultivate is to take time out of your busy schedule for yourself each day — even if it’s just taking ten minutes to read a book. We always hear how much healthier Europeans are than Americans. In Europe you don’t see people running around with to-go cups of coffee. They’re drinking a leisurely latte in a café, chatting with friends.”

On the Power of Mantra

“Repeat a soothing phrase or mantra over and over, aloud or in your head. Someone advised me years ago that 'smaller, smaller' was a good mantra, and I’ve used it ever since. It reminds me to break my work, problems, or irksome issues into tiny pieces that feel more manageable.”

On Approaching Exercise From a Place of Positivity...

“Too often, we exercise because of what we don’t want rather than what we do. We don’t want to get fat; we don’t want to feel guilty; we don’t want to waste our expensive gym memberships. It’s far easier to get yourself to exercise if you figure out what you do want and make your workout about affirmation: I want to be strong; I want to dance or run or bike, to be conscious of my body’s amazing capacity for movement and grace; I want to clear my head; I want to blow off steam; I want to feel great about myself.”

...and From an Eastern Perspective

Sandra Chiu, MSTOM, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner says, “From the Eastern perspective, being fit means having strong internal organs and strong qi, or energy flow — it’s not just about having strong muscles and tight abs. Slower, gentler activities help strengthen the internal organs and improve energy flow. It’s important that you balance your exercise regimen by engaging in physical activity along with a more restorative or meditative practice.”

On Balancing a Desk Job With Movement

Apparently, “you burn more energy chewing gum than you do sitting still in a chair.” So it’s important to “schedule regular breaks — get up, walk around the office, walk around the block. There are simple apps (I like Time Out for Mac/Workrave for Windows) that will freeze your computer for 10 minutes every 50 minutes to remind you to take breaks to move and stretch.”

On Gynos vs. PCPs

“Many women have gynecologists as their primary care physicians so they don’t have to go for two checkups a year. I’m inclined to urge you to go to a PCP for total health and see a gynecologist for pelvic exams, birth control, and other lady-specific issues, but more important than which doctor(s) you go to is that you go.”

On Full Disclosure

“You know the saying: Never lie to your doctor or your lawyer. Let’s amend that: Never withhold information from your doctor because it’s embarrassing or you aren’t sure it’s worth bringing up. The more information you can give a physician, the better care you’ll get, so be totally open about your medical history and lifestyle. You can be sure that your doctor has heard it all.”

On Relieving Menstrual Cramps

Christiane Northrup, gynecologist and author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom says: "Give up ice cream, cottage cheese, and yogurt; many women get relief from menstrual cramps from a dairy fast.”

On Insomnia

“If you have chronic insomnia and changing your habits isn’t helping, talk to your doctor. Frequently, insomnia is caused by anxiety or allergies that aren’t going to go away no matter how little caffeine you consume.”

On Enjoying Your Meals

“…Food should be something we enjoy. You can eat healthfully and still get pleasure from it. As Julia [Child] wrote in The Way to Cook, ‘The pleasures of the table — that lovely old-fashioned phrase — depict food as an art form, as a delightful part of civilized life. In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal.’”

On Food Shopping

“Shop around the periphery of the supermarket, where all the fresh food is; the middle is full of processed food.”

On Carbs

“Carbohydrates have been wrongly vilified over recent years. They provide the body with its main source of energy, allowing proteins to be used for the body-building functions for which they’re intended. The best place to get carbohydrates is by way of whole grains. Whole grains are grains that aren’t processed, so their nutrients are still intact. Whole grains include brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and oatmeal.”

On Multivitamins

“If you’re eating a healthy diet, why do you need a multivitamin supplement, or any supplements at all, for that matter? The simplest answer is that most of us are not getting the vitamins we need from food. We’re not eating five servings of fruits and veggies a day, and even if we are, national farming practices may make it hard for us to get the nutrients we require from food.”

On Therapy

“You might want to see a therapist when there hasn’t been an obvious ‘event,’ when you’re feeling down, nervous, or confused, or feelings of ugh persist without any tangible reason…Sure, we all have stress, and sometimes we accept that the accompanying anxiety, fear, or depression is just a part of life and we need to suck it up and deal. But if you’re finding yourself frequently overwhelmed or even the little things set you off, it might be time to talk to someone. You might ask yourself: ‘Why should I suffer if there are places to get help?’”

On Medicating Psychiatric Disorders

“One psychiatric nurse practitioner described the use of antidepressants without therapy as ‘putting a Band-Aid on a slowly bleeding wound.’ It’s widely believed that drug therapy is most effective when paired with regular psychotherapy. So don’t fire your shrink when the meds kick in — now’s when you can really get down to business.”

On Health Insurance

“With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, you are required to buy health insurance if it’s not provided for you by your employer or parent’s plan. If you don’t buy insurance, you’ll be fined by the IRS. There are so many ways to get affordable health insurance now that I want you to promise me you’re not going to go without and pay the fine … Paying a bit up front is almost always cheaper than not having coverage.”

On the Bottom Line

“Here’s the bottom line: We have only so much time here — let it be spent on doing things that make us like ourselves.”

Images: Jesse Warren; www.audio-luci-store.it (2); Ville Valkeisenmäki; Chiot's Run; Bradley Stemke; ashley rose/Flickr; WiffleGif (14)