L-R: 8 years ago, 9 months ago (at my PhD commencement), and a few hours ago. Aside from more mature-looking eyes, I successfully counteracted the aging effects of grad school. I did 7 things, ranging from minor shifts to major lifestyle changes, to make this happen:
1. Ditch SLS
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a detergent found in shampoos, toothpastes, etc. My mom’s doctor recommended she get SLS-free products to help with some of her health problems. I decided to do the same and feel like my hair’s a lot healthier-looking for it. If you use an SLS-free shampoo, just expect your hair to look greasy for a few days – it’s not stripping oils the way regular shampoos do and your scalp will chill out soon.
2. Don’t Be Stingy with the Sunscreen/Moisturizer
Despite living in a vampire-friendly region of the country, I still neurotically apply moisturizer and/or sunscreen. In spite of being regularly teased for my ultra-pale complexion, I think it makes a huge difference.
3. Ditch Caffeine and Get the Sleep You Actually Need
I never was a big caffeine drinker, save for the most stressful times in grad school. However, I decided to give it up completely. In addition to becoming quite the herbal tea connoisseur, it’s forced me to get the 8-9 hours of sleep per night that I need to function well.
4. Ditch Booze
A cruel irony in life: if you want to look 20-something as a not-20-something, you can’t in any way act like a 20-something. Being a musician who doesn’t drink is definitely a buzzkill, but at this point I don’t really care.
5. Do Hot Yoga (Almost) Every Day
I’ve done hot yoga consistently for 3 years, but at the end of last year I decided to up my game to going every day. The sweating and flexibility-building are major sources of rejuvenation. I try to take an occasional break to prevent burnout and injury.
6. Cut Out Bad Carbs
Cutting out starches and sugars was by far one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. As I’ve written about, I then had to deal with the psychological ramifications of losing weight too fast. I’ve added in some good carbs (and low-carb ice cream) to maintain my sanity. All told, I’ve lost at least 25 lbs. in the last month and a half. Between that and a much-improved mood, I’m willing to keep at this.
7. Be Yourself
This sounds simplistic and corny, but to me it’s made the biggest impact. I spent years chasing other people’s ideas of success. Right now, I’m gradually developing my own brand of performance and teaching – one that breaks the mold in both jazz and academia. I’ll be making some major changes on the blog and website as I develop my vision, but for now I’m taking a moment to celebrate the results of my hard work.