It's the last day of August, so by now you've either completed your first week of the fall semester or are just about to start. Whether you're a returning upperclassman or a first year student experiencing college life for the first time, living on campus presents a whole new set of challenges to face on a daily basis, one of which is how to stay healthy in college.
Living on campus can be a tough transition from the comforts of home for many students, and, even if you've lived on campus before, getting back into the routine of things after a long summer break can be just as challenging.
As young adults with few health concerns to worry about, we often take our good health for granted and can easily succumb to unhealthy habits notoriously common among college students. But it's so important to keep an eye on your health - not only for your well being now, but for the future as well. Read on below for 4 easy ways to maintain good health in college all semester long.
1. Get Enough Shut Eye
Unfortunately, college life and sleep deprivation often go hand in hand. Juggling a busy schedule packed with classes, study time, activities, and socializing can be a tough task to tackle, and somehow, getting adequate sleep is often left out of the picture.
Time management is a skill that you will need to master to keep up with the many demands of college life, but make sure you don't skimp on sleep in order to make room for everything. Lack of sleep drastically impairs our mood, energy levels, memory, and ability to focus and concentrate, and therefore substantially hinders academic performance.
Sleep is one of the most important things the body and mind need in order to function properly so make sure you schedule at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night as a top priority.
To help make your home away from home as comfortable as possible,
- Invest in a good mattress pad - it will make a world of difference when it comes to getting enough shut eye. Most mattresses supplied by colleges are old, thin, and stiff as a board. You can't put a price on your health and a good night's sleep, so spending a little extra money on a thick, high-quality mattress topper will be a purchase that you won't regret.
- An eye mask may be helpful to block out light if your roommate likes to stay up late.
- Using earplugs to block out noise from your roommate or neighboring residents may also be a good idea if they're on different schedules than your own.
- Be sure to bring plenty of fans if your dorm lacks air conditioning. Your body temperature naturally drops when you fall asleep, so keeping your room cool will make it easier to catch some Z's.
2. Make Healthy Choices
Eating healthily in college can be a challenge - especially if you're used to having your parents cook for you all the time - so make sure to explore what choices are available at the different dining locations on campus.
Shy away from anything greasy, fried, or battered and opt for healthier options that are grilled or roasted. Instead of pizza or a burger for lunch, try a salad or wrap made with fresh, wholesome ingredients, and stock up your room with healthy snack options to help you make smart choices when hunger strikes.
Always eat breakfast! It's called the most important meal of the day for a reason. Skipping breakfast impairs focus, concentration, thinking, and problem solving ability, and going throughout your day without eating negatively affects your mood and energy level.
When it comes to eating breakfast, make healthy choices that incorporate fresh fruit, whole grains, and protein. Stay clear of sugary cereals which have a high glycemic index, meaning that they spike blood sugar levels which dramatically dip after an hour or two. Foods with a lower glycemic index, like oatmeal, are digested more slowly and provide you with long-lasting energy to sustain you throughout the day. A sudden rise and fall in blood sugar negatively affects thinking, concentration, and information recall, and will leave you feeling hungry shortly after a meal.
3. Schedule In Physical Activity
Exercise is essential for maintaining good health on so many levels. Obviously, physical activity is good for our bodies by getting our blood flowing, pumping oxygen to our brains, revving up our metabolisms, and strengthening our muscles, but regular exercise is key for our social and emotional health as well.
Staying active can be a great way to meet new people and build friendships essential for our overall well-being. Look into joining a varsity, club, or intramural sports team or check out what type of fitness classes your school offers - yoga, Zumba, kickboxing, and Pilates are all great, fun options that will keep you from getting bored! For more ideas, check out our post on ways to stay active in college.
Regular exercise is also a very effective way to manage stress, anxiety, and depression. It can help take your mind off of things, give you time to de-stress and reorganize your thoughts, keep you energized, and release mood-boosting neurotransmitters and endorphins to help you feel your best. It's easy to get worn out by the worries of college life, but a little exercise will go a long way for helping you stay on track and feel great physically and mentally.
4. Don't Stress Yourself Out!
The transition from living at home with your family to living on campus while learning how to deal with a roommate, wake up for class on time, study, participate in activities, study more, spend time with friends, and do everything else needed to function independently spells out one thing - STRESS!
In order to overcome academic hurdles, don't be afraid to seek extra help from your professors, peers, or a tutor if you find yourself struggling through a class. Spend the time early on to get the help you need to understand the material. If you wait too long, you'll get more and more confused as time goes on and your problems will only escalate.
Procrastination is also a huge issue faced by many college students. As mentioned above, time management is key for handling the many aspects of college life. Prioritize what needs to be done first and consider postponing what can wait.
Never leave assignments or studying for an exam until the last minute to easily avoid unwanted stress. There will always be opportunities to hang out with friends, but making sure you start your assignments long before they are due will guarantee that you are never unprepared for class or never have to turn down an offer to spend time with friends.
Another important thing to remember is to keep everything in perspective. One bad grade doesn't mean you will fail a class or drop out of college and one bad day doesn't mean you have a bad life. Take things one day at a time and be the best that you can be. Don't try to live up to unrealistic expectations placed upon you by yourself or others. All that matters is that you try your best and always strive for improvement.
Are you excited to be back on campus? What are your tips for staying healthy in college? Let me know in the comments below!