Remember your first day in college when you told yourself you would thrive and bloom where you’ve been planted? How about a couple of days after, when the first batch of deadlines started to pile up and you started living on caffeine, energy drinks, and chocolate bars?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by your workload as a college student. When your internal alarm goes into overdrive and you anxiously start telling yourself things like, “I need to write my essay in 1 hour or I’m done for,” or “I’m so stacked that I can’t think straight anymore,” you start to do things from a place of stress, even burnout. And we know these things don’t usually turn out well.
The good news is that there are simple ways to stay healthy in college, and we are here to share some of those tips with you! Let’s get started, shall we?
1. Don’t skip those meals. Please.
As much as possible, stick to an eating schedule and don’t run out on your breakfast (there’s a reason why they call it the most important meal of the day!). But we understand that there are days when this is just not possible.
For times like these, there are creative ways to “eat smart” on the go. If you don’t have half an hour to sit down and enjoy a full meal, at least choose your “bites” wisely. Here are a few nifty hacks:
- Swap that candy bar for trail mix or a granola bar, and always have a few in your bag.
- Make time on the weekend for quick and simple meal prep. Do a couple of servings of overnight oats or protein balls, store them in the fridge and freezer, and whip them out whenever you need them.
- Stock up on fruits and veg that you can freeze, or smoothie mixes that you can easily pop in the blender before you head out for your first class.
2. Mind your mental health
Sadly, it no longer comes as a surprise that plenty of college students struggle with anxiety or depression. Who can blame them, with family expectations, academic pressure, complicated relationships, and homesickness all creating the perfect storm?
While you don’t think much of it at first, these little moments build up and become patterns that you could carry with you long after graduation. They can affect your career performance, the way you navigate through adult relationships, even the way you see and respond to situations.
Remind yourself of the following things:
- It’s okay not to be okay.
- It’s okay (and sometimes necessary!) to ask for help.
- There are resources available to support you in your college years.
- Counseling and prescription medications are completely valid ways to cope.
Surround yourself with a great support system that you feel safe with, especially in your vulnerable moments. Whether this is just a couple of people or an entire community, allow yourself to open up to “your people.” That’s what they’re there for.
Finally, make time to check in with yourself at the end of each day. Journal if you can and celebrate your progress! Check out these sample questions you can use:
- What am I most proud of accomplishing today?
- What did I struggle with and how did I address them?
- What am I most grateful for today?
- What do I look forward to tomorrow?
3. Get moving. It really helps.
You don’t need to train for a marathon or spend hours lifting weights at the gym to maintain physical activity. Honestly, sometimes the best ways to stay fit are the ones that naturally fit into your daily rhythms. What can this look like?
- Going for a brisk walk in the morning and soaking in all that Vitamin D.
- Getting involved in your favorite sport or learning a new one.
- Organizing fitness dates or get-togethers with your friends.
- Stretching before you sleep.
Of course, if you do have access to the gym or a regular fitness class, make the most out of it! Make it fun and sign up for movement classes with your friends.
4. Seriously, hydrate.
We know your mom has told you plenty of times to drink your water, and we’re here to echo it. As a college student, you’re bound to forget to take a swig from that water bottle because you’re trying to beat a deadline or rushing to your next class. Real talk, you need to keep your fluids up or you could end up dehydrated and unable to perform well in your classes. You could also end up with a nasty UTI.
Try to get creative to up your fluid intake. Here are some things you can try:
- Bring a 1 or 2L water bottle wherever you go and aim to finish it by the first half or end of the day, depending on the size of your bottle.
- Set a “water alarm” when working at your desk every half an hour so that you remember to drink regularly.
- Load up on hearty soups and broths. These are great alternatives when you’re craving something flavorful.
5. Get as much shut-eye as you can.
Sleep can be elusive when you’re in the thick of exam preps and a truckload of papers to finish. While the 8-hours-a-night ideal can sometimes be impossible to accomplish, do your best to schedule your study days so that you have at least one or two nights in between to catch up on your overnight sleep.
During crunch time, don’t underestimate what even a 10- or 20-minute power nap can accomplish. Before you reach for that coffee maker, try to get a quick snooze first to get refreshed and re-energized. Always make time for a solid nap the day after an all-nighter.
Sometimes, the key to achieving sleep success is good time management and foresight. Don’t cram a good night’s sleep. Instead of doing the typical crash-and-burn after a night of no sleep, make it a habit to block off nights to do a full recharge. You are more likely to still perform well if you are generally well-rested, not overtired, and cranky to begin with.
Oh, and lest we forget, avoid screentime two hours before bedtime. We know you just want to hang out with Netflix and Amazon until your eyes can’t take it anymore, but this never translates to quality sleep. Work on your sleep environment so you can make it easy for your brain and body to wind down.
So there! We hope that with these simple and doable tips, staying healthy in college no longer has to be the oxymoron that every student smirks and laughs at.