Be Well, Do Well: Tips for Staying Healthy and Successful in College
The transition to life as a college student comes with many changes and challenges; from new daily routines to exposure to new surroundings, you are responsible for keeping up with more than just your coursework.
As the academic year progresses, you will become more and more inundated with schedules and courses, and the work ebbs but never stops. While students tend to focus on meeting deadlines and cramming for exams, attending athletic events or working on- or off-campus jobs, they often put self-care on the back burner. Although I don’t fault them for wanting to excel in all aspects of their college journey and make sacrifices to do so, studies show that students who feel well tend to do well academically.
Below are four key tips that you can follow as you strive to stay healthy and successful throughout the academic year:
1. Get enough rest
College students quickly learn how precious sleep is to power through days of classes, assignments, study sessions, co-curricular activities, work, internships and more. Studies show that adequate sleep is essential to your academic performance, physical and immune health, mental well being and general daytime functioning.
Getting sufficient rest and effectively managing time in order to do so can help boost your success and overall wellness. Experts recommend aiming for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night as studies reveal sleep’s importance in retaining information, memory and attention span. I also recommend developing and following a daily bedtime routine, which includes avoiding technology (smartphones, laptops, television) at least 30 minutes before bed, avoiding heavy meals right before bed, and following a regular waking and rising schedule to help regulate your body’s internal clock.
2. Maintain a clean living space and habits
The lives of college students, especially for those who live on campus, are inherently social. Each day, you are constantly sharing spaces with one another: in classes and common spaces, dining and residence halls. While there are plenty of positive qualities of this lifestyle, it is also important to remember that increased exposure to new environments, especially shared or highly-trafficked, also increases your body’s exposure to various viruses and bacteria.
For many residential students, their move to their college dorm is their first time living away from home and, as such, it comes with responsibilities to keep their own spaces tidy and hygienic. The germs you encounter in these shared spaces don’t have to knock before entering your dorm, but can be kept at bay by simply keeping your spaces clean: laundering clothes and bedding often, dusting and disinfecting surfaces regularly and, of course, washing your hands frequently.
3. Find balance in your diet
Going to college is the first time many students like yourself are truly responsible for making food choices on a day-to-day basis, whether at the campus dining hall or with meals sourced from local grocery stores and restaurants. Likewise, you are responsible for choosing your own dietary options, and the nutrition you get from food is critical, like sleep, to your academic performance.
In order to eat healthy, I recommend that you make an effort to maintain a balanced diet throughout the academic year, which means regularly getting the right amount of fruits, vegetables, proteins, fats and carbohydrates from meals and focusing on portion control. Also, try to avoid late-night snacking and make an effort to work in healthy meal, snack, and drink options through the busy weeks—and remember to drink plenty of water daily.
4. Prioritize your mental health
The academic year, though exciting, can bring about high levels of stress. With busy schedules and a heavy demand on brainpower, it is important for you to take time for yourself to incorporate both relaxation and leisure time to help manage stress or anxiety. I also recommend finding time to get outdoors, with at least two hours of dedicated fresh air every week, and to practice mindfulness strategies when possible.
College is a unique and challenging developmental time in which it is especially important for you to be cognizant of your wellness needs, and to seek support from your friends and family, or from your institution’s counseling services when needed.
There are many ways you can take care of yourself throughout the academic year and into your professional life. Figuring out the right methods to do so and seeking helpful resources along the way will greatly influence your overall well being, and therefore your success, as you forge the path through your academic journey.