Between exams, papers, and maintaining an active social life, many college students might believe they don't have time to focus on their own health and wellbeing until sickness strikes and knocks them off their feet. Few things, however, are more vital than good health!
According to the American College Health Association's (ACHA) 2019 National College Health Assessment Report, the key issues that most severely affected academic functioning for students were: stress, anxiety, sleep problems, depression, and illness. This year, students entering college will encounter issues that previous generations did not have to deal with. With COVID-19 still having an impact on students' educational experiences, many students might be wondering how to stay healthy while in college.
In this article, we are going to go over some ways you can ensure that you're taking care of your mental and physical health while you study.
Tips to relieve stress
Long-term mental and physical well-being are key components of stress management. Short-term stress plays an important role in that it permits us to respond quickly to risks and avoid injury. Long-term stress, on the other hand, can result in mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and it can even affect our physical health.
Furthermore, multiple studies show that high levels of stress impair our ability to deal with physical illness. While it is impossible to eliminate all stress from our lives, students can certainly learn to manage stress in a healthier way. Here are some quick and easy practices that can help you alleviate stress:
- Take deep breaths: Blood pressure and heart rate may be lowered by taking slow, deep breaths. Consider trying pranayama breathing, a yogic technique for relieving the anxiety that involves inhaling through one nostril at a time.
- Go for a short walk: Take a little walk around the block if you're feeling overwhelmed or having trouble focusing. Not only will you feel better, but you will also benefit from some solitude, physical exertion, and get to enjoy some nature.
- Stretch: Standing up for a little stretch will assist in reducing muscular tension and help you unwind after a long day of studying or sitting at your desk. You can even perform some stretches from your desk chair, by doing some shoulder roll-outs or chest-opening stretches.
- Close your eyes: Close your eyes for a brief respite from a hard day. It's a simple method to recover your composure and concentrate. Try to keep them closed for at least 20 seconds, this will also help prevent eye strain from too much screen use.
- Practice progressive relaxation: Progressive relaxation is a technique that entails tensing the muscles of one body region at a time to induce tranquility. The technique is an excellent strategy to aid with sleep and anxiety. Try it!
- Organize your space: Clutter can be a source of anxiety for most people. Tidy and declutter your room and we guarantee you’ll feel more productive after.
- Take time to meditate: Find a comfortable location in a peaceful area and concentrate on your breath. Slowly, you will notice how your fears begin to dissipate. There is evidence that a daily dose of two brief periods of quiet meditation help alleviate symptoms of stress and depression.
- Drink some green tea: Do you happen to have some green tea around? Green tea contains L-Theanine, a chemical that aids in stress relief.
- Write it down: Sit down and write down what’s causing you to feel stressed or anxious. By writing down our feelings, we can make them seem less threatening.
- Call a friend or family: When something is really upsetting you, it might be beneficial to have a much-needed vent with someone you trust like a family member or a friend.
- Get professional help. Most universities offer a mental health service to students struggling with mental health issues. If you think you may need professional help, don’t be ashamed to reach out and ask for it.
Practice healthy eating habits
With access to college dining halls, campus bars, and late-night food delivery it's no wonder that so many college students gain weight. The average college student is often strapped for time, stressed, and eats on the go. It may also be tough to break unhealthy habits like missing meals or regularly drinking too much alcohol, but your body and your mind will thank you for it.
A healthy diet is also very beneficial for the brain. Research shows that people who eat nutritiously and have a balanced diet learn and remember new information faster and easier. As a student, you want to make sure that your diet won’t hinder your ability to study and memorize for tests and exams. Healthy eating habits have also been linked to improved happiness, less anxiety, and better sleep. Adopting healthy eating habits in college has so many benefits. The good news is that you can develop healthy eating habits even if you are on a tight budget and have a hectic schedule. Begin with these ideas for some better eating habits:
- Eat a nutritious breakfast: Studies show that missing breakfast has a detrimental effect on academic success. Even if you don’t have time to prepare something fancy, try to grab a piece of fruit before you head off to your lectures in the morning.
- Drink plenty of water: Your body needs an adequate amount of water every day and may require more if you exercise regularly. Make sure you carry a water bottle to classes and keep it nearby for late-night study sessions instead of opting for coffee.
- Avoid sugary drinks: Avoid soda, juice, and energy drinks. Many supposedly healthful beverages, such as fruit punch and sports drinks include added sugars. Instead, blend your own fresh fruit juice or choose milk or water instead.
- Keep a supply of healthy snacks on hand: Ditch unhealthy snacks for healthier ones. Healthier snacking options can include fruits, vegetables, dips, rice crackers, and other nutritious and filling options you can opt for when those hunger cravings hit.
- Consume a variety of calcium-rich meals: Students in their early twenties need calcium reserves to avoid developing osteoporosis later in life. If don’t like milk, you can replace it with low-fat yogurts or low-fat cheese.
- If you need to lose weight, do so sensibly: Starvation and bad dieting are very bad for your health. The only way to safely lose weight, feel good, and keep it off is to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly.
- Consume alcohol in moderation: If you drink alcohol, keep in mind that it is high in calories but low in nutrients. A light beer, a glass of wine, or an ounce of liquor all have roughly 100 calories. Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption is very harmful to your health, so remember to take it easy.
- Take some vitamin C: Maintaining a healthy immune system is critical at university, particularly when it comes to avoiding colds and the flu. Vitamin C also aids in the maintenance of healthy skin, blood vessels, bones, and cartilage.
- Buy a cookbook and cook your own meals: Not only will you gain a vital life skill, but cooking is also a terrific way to relax, and cooking in your own kitchen allows you to save money.
Clean and disinfect your dorm
In the wake of the pandemic, and this year especially, it's crucial to keep your dorm room clean and disinfected. A cleanroom will lower your chance of contracting Covid and other viruses.
Although dorm rooms are generally small, you'd think that keeping such a small area tidy would be simple, but as a student, you're probably frequently pressed for time. That's why it's a good practice to clean a little bit every day; if you don't, filth and debris will quickly collect and can wreak havoc on your health.
Cleaning and disinfecting your dorm will ensure your safety and the safety of others around you. Here are some ways you can keep your dorm clean and sanitized:
- Wash your bedsheets: Not only will having clean sheets make you feel better, but it will also help remove oils, perspiration, and other disgusting things that accumulate on your bed.
- Dust and disinfect all surfaces: Dust and then clean your room with an all-purpose spray. Make sure you dust ledges, shelves, and other surfaces as you work your way down starting from the ceiling down to the floor. Remember to also dust your devices and gadgets.
- Clean the bathroom: Clean out your bathroom and organize what remains on shelves, shower caddies, or in a cabinet. Remove any damp towels and clothing, and then thoroughly clean and disinfect your bathroom too. If you have one that is; not all students have the luxury of their own bathroom.
- Sweep and vacuum: It is very important to vacuum carpeted areas on a regular basis. Particularly if you suffer from allergies or other sensitivities. If you don't have your own vacuum, you may be able to borrow one from the dorm floor or the resident desk.
- Clean your trash can: Take out the rubbish and clean your trash can, then spray some air freshener to make your living area smell pleasant.
Regular exercise can help you feel less stressed, more energized, enhance your memory and cognitive skills, and keep you trim and toned. If you can’t afford a gym membership, fret not.
There are many quick workouts to stay fit on a budget you can watch on youtube. You can do them from home and many don’t even require any equipment.
There are several other ways you can ensure you’re getting enough exercise while living on campus. Even if you feel you don't have time for exercise, try taking at least 30 minutes 3 times a week to engage in some physical activity. Here are some great ways to get your body moving:
- Walk to class: Don't take a lazy stroll to classes; instead, power walk! Before you have to sit through a long lecture, it’s always great to get your blood pumping. This will make you feel less lethargic too and you’ll be able to concentrate better.
- Take the stairs instead: Although the elevator always seems like the more tempting option, take the stairs instead. It might take you longer, but it’s definitely the better option for your health. It will raise your heart rate and help you burn more calories.
- Ride your bike around campus: Bike riding is not only the quickest method to navigate those winding campus routes, but it also burns calories.
- Park as far away from your classes as possible: If you have to drive to campus, park farther away than you usually do so that you are forced to walk a little more to get to and from your car.
- Take off-campus field excursions: Leave campus and go do so hiking, swimming, ice skating, or dancing. Parks, pools, skating rinks, and clubs in your college town and nearby region can be a great way to help you keep active while having fun.
- Do some quick fitness workouts with YouTube: This option is great for those rainy days or if you don’t want to go to the gym. You don’t even need to leave your room. Invest in a yoga mat and follow some YouTube workouts to get in shape in no time.
- Buy a wearable fitness tracker: Buying a Fitbit or an Apple Watch will not force you to exercise, but a tracker can be motivating. Especially if you set an achievable step target (most trackers set to 10,000) and push yourself to reach it every day.
- Enlist a friend's help: If you are having trouble exercising on your alone, invite a friend to be your workout companion. Not only is it more fun, but there is the added benefit of being able to socialize.
- Workout at your student housing complex. Sunrise Village has a basketball court on the property where you can have fun and get a killer workout in!
Remember that bettering your health and developing healthier habits take time and effort. It won't happen overnight, but by committing to a healthy diet, exercise, and habits that will improve your mental health and minimize stress, you will undoubtedly improve your college experience. These healthy habits will also provide you with the extra energy and focus you need to achieve your academic goals.