10 Tips to Stay Healthy in College
During your school years you may have wondered when you would go off to college. You may have aspired to live on campus and away from your parents due to many perceived restrictions that you think you face. But for a youngster going to college or university as a student often means living away from the parents for the first time for an extended period of time.
When you leave home you will miss a great deal of what you take for granted. At home you will probably have a functioning kitchen with food, a refrigerator and freezer with ready to eat food, your laundry taken care of and family support. Living on your own means that you have to learn to be responsible for your own health and well being, make sure you have food handy, find places to eat and buy groceries and try and stay within budget.
In case you are apartment sharing, you may have a decent kitchen that you will have to navigate. If you are in a room that has minimal cooking facilities, you may have limited appliances at your disposal, perhaps a hot plate, a microwave and any other gadget you can accommodate in a small space. Or you may live in a dorm that may or may not have kitchen facilities.
When sharing a kitchen you will also have to learn to share the chores, keep the kitchen clean and usable and perhaps take turns in cooking meals if you decide that it makes sense practically to do.
Staying healthy in college encompasses many aspects of living away from home. Here are 10 tips that will help you stay healthy.
- Eat Right to stay Healthy
Stock your kitchen and refrigerator with healthy foods. Don’t just eat sugared cereals, ramen and oats and lots of ready to eat and instant foods. Make sure that you have more balanced and healthier meals by eating a variety of vegetables and fruits along with meat, eggs, dairy and whole grains. Don’t forget greens and salads.
Avoid living on campus staples like pizzas and burgers that are in the category of fast foods and junk foods. These are high in calories and provide minimal nutrition. Have them only occasionally. For the same reason give high fat milk shakes a miss (keeping them occasionally for a treat), stodgy desserts, pies, pastries, doughnuts and other foods that are high in fats and refined flour and sugar.
Packaged snacks like cookies and chips may find a place in your kitchen cupboard, but don’t binge on them. If you are hungry at odd times, do not have time to make dinner or go out for dining, then stock up on some ready to eat soups and have with toast and peanut butter or cheese in a pinch.
Don’t count coffee, sodas and beverages towards your liquid intake. Drink water often and in sufficient quantity to stay hydrated. When taking part in sports, water is all the more important. If you get a sports bottle and keep refilling it, you save money on buying bottled water and also reduce the environmental costs. Sufficient water helps build your immunity and get rid of toxins in the body.
Juices – even fresh fruit juices – have high sugar content. Bottled or packaged juices often have additives and preservatives and flavors added apart from the sugar, so are not a good option due to all these reasons. Sodas are best avoided. For nutritional reasons avoid vending machine snacks as well.
- Get Moving
Studies, course work, projects, extracurricular activities all eat into your time. You may have a part-time or weekend job as well. No matter how busy you are, you need to get your fitness levels up and not just because you want to avoid putting on weight. Try and take part in some sports, on or off campus. This will automatically help your fitness.
If not, you can exercise on your own, go for runs, bike (most campuses have tracks and outdoors for biking) and follow some kind of workout program, preferably in the morning before starting your day. You can join a gym or a fitness class, if you don’t like working out solo. Even if you have a small room, there are many exercise routines you can do in a small space (check YouTube videos).
- Sleep and Rest
When you are living on your own, the alarm is your best friend to wake you up. You cannot depend on your parents to do it anymore. While you can no longer say, ‘just 5 minutes more’, you do need your sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will face memory and concentration problems and your studies will suffer.
Aim to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. If you still feel sleepy, then try and have a short power nap in the afternoon if possible.
To ensure comfortable sleep, check that your bedding and pillows are adequate to support your frame and comfortable as well. Try and keep your bedroom as dark as comfortably possible and minimize noise and other distractions. You should also see that the temperature of the room is even and not too hot or too cold to ensure better sleep. Depending on the weather and the temperature you may require a duvet or a blanket.
- Are Vitamins Required?
Most youngsters in college are still growing, if not physically then at least mentally and emotionally. When you are staying away from home, have an erratic diet and face greater pressures on the brain you have to ensure reasonable good health and high immunity. Being sick away from home will only make you more miserable.
Sometimes, you can cover various dietary and nutritional deficits by take a good quality multi-vitamin, multi mineral supplement with anti-oxidants. This should cover your minimal requirements in the very least. Check that it has calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamins B and C and iron.
You may take more than one supplement if they don’t contain the same ingredients and if you feel that you need to take. However, don’t over indulge in supplements and not take care of your diet.
- Alcohol, Smoking and Drugs
It is simply not possible that you are not aware of the danger of alcohol, cigarettes (and other smokes) and drugs. Being on campus and a student, you are more likely to be exposed to all these. And you seemingly have the freedom to indulge since you are not under your parents’ supervision.
It may be easy to get hold of alcohol, but you should be aware that alcohol is not good for health and can impact your mental prowess as well. If you drink too much even on occasion you may not be able to meet your study deadlines and suffer from lack of concentration and focus in the classroom and when studying on your own. Alcohol can lead to high blood pressure and liver problems. Just have an occasional beer or wine if you must, though a recent study shows that even in small quantities alcohol is dangerous.
If you have never smoked, then avoid starting under peer pressure. If you do smoke, then you may get campus support or check out help lines and support groups that will help you quit. Smoking is dangerous, can lead to cancers and heart disease apart from reducing your lung function.
Drugs, even soft drugs like weed, can be quite addictive if not physically then psychologically. Drug use has an adverse impact on higher education and puts you are greater risk of addiction and high risk behavior. Taking expensive drugs can lead to downward spiraling consequences as well. If you feel that you cannot function without drugs then seek immediate help. Addiction can have a disastrous impact on your health and well being.
- Sexual Health
Living away from home gives you some freedoms that you did not have under your parents’ roof. College students are often sexually active, particularly in advanced western countries. To ensure your sexual health, you should make sure that you take advantage of at least annual testing for sexual diseases that are offered by many colleges either free or at a low cost.
While the fear of pregnancy can lead to girls being on the pill more often than not, that is not a solution or protection against sexually transmitted diseases. So make sure that you always use barrier protection when indulging in sexual activities.
If you are male or female and sexually active or plan to be, then get the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccination that is available. While this virus may be dormant for years, it can lead to many diseases even at a later stage if it becomes active.
Don’t get pressured into sexual activities you are not comfortable with – it can have a long standing and deep rooted adverse psychological impact. And if you are not sexually active by choice, know that is fine as well.
- Time Management
College is the time you have to learn time management. There are many activities available both on and off campus, so don’t spread yourself too thin. You may feel that you should join as many teams, clubs and activities as possible – and these help develop your personality and hone your interests as well – but there are just so many hours a day.
It is important to prioritize your time commitments. First comes your studies – you must make the time to attend classes and complete your assignments. Next are your extracurricular activities. Don’t forget you also need to eat, sleep and take care of your health. If you do not have time, then don’t take up extra responsibilities and time commitments. It’s better to say no at the outset.
- De-stress and Relax
In order to cope with the stressed of student life while in college, you need to make some time for yourself as well. If you are busy during weekdays, then plan for some relaxation on weekends. For this reason, don’t procrastinate on your study, project and homework/assignment commitments and leave them for the weekend. You do need some time to de-stress.
Some discipline is important so that you can switch off when you need time off. Relaxation and de-stressing is important for your mental, psychological and emotional health during your college years.
Activities may involve visits home, if possible. Or you can simply choose to indulge in a hobby, watch television, read a book, go for walks or meditate or just hang out with friends. Do keep in touch with your family and friends back home, even it is via regular phone calls if you cannot visit.
- Me Time is Important
You can’t always be so busy that you do not have time think. Sometimes, do think only of what you want to do. If you just want to sleep and not get up, if you want to indulge in some foods that you otherwise don’t or just take some time out, do so. You should not always do what everyone wants you to do.
This will stop you from getting overwhelmed by your life and give you chance to re-group and refresh. You will return stronger and with a clearer mind and go back to your studies with renewed focus and energy.
If you need any help – get it. Whether it is educational and study related counseling or psychological counseling or a friends’ support system, don’t be shy of getting help. For the same reason, if you are actually ill then go to a doctor and follow medical advice.
At the end of the day you have to figure out your own support system, make the right choices and learn to be independent. For this you have to first take care of your physical health so that you are fit and then the rest should fall into place.
Going to college and completing your education is a stepping stone to a career and work and becoming independent in life. That means you finally become an adult and become responsible for your own actions, commitments and the results you get.