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The last year has contained major reassessments for many of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way people interact and live their daily lives. Habits have changed, new commitments have been made, and people are considering their health and wellness more seriously than ever before.
In addition, many people are checking in with their health and wellness much earlier in their lives. One could call this check in, occurring in between the post college years and midlife, a “quarter-life check in.”
Project Best Life spoke to three Buffalonians under 30 who described the healthy habits that they committed to during this check-in, the importance of medical check-ins, and the necessity of listening to your body. All of them completed the Roswell Park Cancer Screening and Prevention Questionnaire, and shared with Project Best Life how that questionnaire informs or impacts some of their habits.
Mary Kate O’Connor | Project Best Life
An athlete in high school, Mary Kate lives her best life by committing to running or walking a mile every day. She also has committed to a burpee challenge, where she tries to complete 100 Burpees a day. She started this challenge with some friends from college. She says, “We all kind of live in different cities now, so [the burpee challenge] was one thing that we did virtually together to try and keep everybody connected.”
Since starting her exercise practice, she says “I’m definitely happier. I feel like I am more motivated. I’m more awake. I’ve noticed that my days feel a little longer. I have more energy, and I am just ready for the rest of the day. You know, it contributes so much to your overall health, and it’s really beneficial to keep your body active to prevent injuries.”
“I think that taking the cancer screening assessment and, you know, doing whatever activities that you can to kind of stay on top of your health is super important in the long run. We say that ‘health is wealth,’ You’re going through your every day, whether you are going to work or hanging out with friends, your health impacts how you’re feeling, and allows you to do certain things or not to do certain things…So it’s really important to kind of try to keep that all in check.”
Alyssa is active in team sports. “Well, the main thing is volleyball. I coached for a college team high school team and a club team. I played in college and all growing up. So, I think that gave me the structure of how I wanted to live my best life. When I moved to Buffalo, they had a flourishing adult league for volleyball. During Covid, they did a really good job of structuring outdoor playing, and limiting it to ‘two on two.”
Alyssa is an adept yoga practitioner. When asked how she got involved, she told us, “I look at yoga a lot different than I would any other sport or working out because I use it a lot to help me mentally with my ADHD and depression. I really only started that about two, maybe three years ago. I really love the movement. It was a challenge unlike anything in the weight room, and holding poses was really interesting. You are working completely different muscles. After my first class, I was sweating in a way I never have before. I just kind of fell in love with it.”
Alyssa’s advice to anyone completing a quarter life check in would be to consider their mental health. She says, “the biggest thing I learned in the past year over the shutdown is the real importance of mental health and having an outreach and feeling safe with the people that you trust with that.”
After taking the cancer screening questionnaire, Alyssa reflected on her cooking. “I’m a hundred percent Sicilian, so I cook with a lot of oils, and I cook with a lot of butter. That was one of the questions. And that was something I do very frequently. So, it made me think about that, along with ordering out and just socially drinking because I answered [questions] a little higher then I guess I would have liked. I think the biggest thing that I learned from the screening would be to try and cook with less fats added to foods.”
After a back surgery in 2017, Zoe searched out health practices in order to recover and strengthen her core and back. She was seeing a trainer pre-pandemic, and then switched to zoom training during quarantine. She also tried to stay moving as much as possible.
But, during her quarter life check in, Zoe started to notice a change in her body. “I have been feeling ‘not great’ for a while. I’ve sought out doctors for at least two or three years because I was extremely fatigued. I was always told that I was anemic, but the iron would never help, and I had just a really bad feeling of just ‘not feeling good.’ And then, I started getting fevers, which were low grade fevers, and obviously everyone thought it was COVID, even though I got two negative COVID tests. I ended up having to go to the emergency room because I needed to be examined, because I was short of breath and I was having chest pains. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma about a few weeks ago.”
Zoe has remained optimistic. “The prognosis is very good. It’s very treatable. Very curable. I just have so much support, especially from Roswell [Park]. Roswell has been amazing. Every person that works there is just amazing and it’s really helped me through this process, especially mentally when, you know, your doctors are confident in what they’re doing and how they’re treating you. It really makes a big difference in how you feel… So if you’re feeling extremely tired or under the weather, definitely seek medical help.”
Vincent, currently enrolled in college, embarked on his “quarter life check in” a little earlier than most. A gymnast in his youth, he has rekindled his love of movement by practicing acrobatics. When asked to describe his practice, he says, “acrobatics is similar to gymnastics, but it’s a little bit more lenient. It’s similar in that it has similar techniques and ideas and fundamentals, but acrobatics is a little bit more laid-back when it comes to execution and style, and in gymnastics there are more rules.”
Vincent re-engaged with this activity after being diagnosed with depression. “I was always generally a happy person, but then I didn’t feel like myself. On top of that, I was gaining a couple pounds and that makes you more depressed, because you don’t want to see yourself get out of shape, especially if for your whole life you have been physically fit. When I saw that I was getting out of shape, that was sort of like the realization that I needed to do better for myself.”
Vincent taught himself acrobatics by watching videos on YouTube. He started with smaller movements, and eventually graduated to more advanced combinations. He recognizes, however, that this form of exercise might not be for everyone. “It’s just a really fun way to exercise… It might not be the safest way to exercise, but it’s really fun and it gets your adrenaline going. And I’m an adrenaline junkie. But aside from that it’s also really therapeutic. It is always a good way for me to cope with any stress or any type of negativity that may be experienced.”
Even before his quarter life check in, Vincent is taking his health seriously. He completed the cancer screening questionnaire, and said that he learned a lot. “It’s a good tool for somebody who might have questions about that type of stuff. It asks about what you’re doing or how you’re maintaining your health. I think that’s a good tool for you to sort of just give yourself a quick check up. The questions were very straightforward and overall simple to take it and it took probably less than 10 minutes.”
If you are looking for Vincent, you might see his acrobatics work on YouTube. He now posts videos on the platform, after learning so many skills there. He recommends that people “find a hobby that [they] can partake in, especially for people my age who are in school because school can be really stressful. Especially if you have a job in the background, you’re going to feel overwhelmed and I think it’s important to have a sport or anything for you to sort of like lean on for you to sort of just be in your own world.”
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In tough times, our efforts to maintain fitness, healthy nutrition, and personal wellness can fall by the wayside as we direct all our energy into navigating our individual storm. Yet, in the face of what’s happening in the world around us, it is essential to make space for self-care and experiences that fortify our physical and mental wellbeing.
Check out Project Best Life’s personal assessment tool. Get personalized health insights and a cancer screening checklist by completing this health assessment. This questionnaire will only take you around 10-15 minutes to complete.
Trying to manage a proper work-life balance, saving for your future while paying all your bills, all while keeping strong relationships with friends and family… We know that life can get pretty stressful, and it’s easy to forget what’s best for your health both physically and mentally. Project Best Life is here to help with our podcast: Happy and Healthy. We provide tips from experts and share stories that will inspire you to live your best life, whatever that means to you. Listen now on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google