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Learning how to stay healthy in college is a HUGE topic. Health of all kinds is difficult to manage in college for a number of reasons. College is likely your first time solely caring for yourself. It takes time to build healthy habits in a new environment. College kids are just like toddlers: always ill. Academics and social life can be extremely stressful. Cafeteria food is almost always terrible (in taste and nutrition). I could go on, but you get the point. During my freshman year, I didn’t prioritize my health, and boy do I wish I did.
I had a chronic cough starting two weeks in that lasted the entire first semester. And then I got mono early in the second semester that ruined my entire month of February. The only time I had ever felt more sick was when I had pneumonia in the third grade. Fortunately, I stepped up my sophomore year and was only afflicted by a short cold, but now that coronavirus is part of the mix this year, everyone needs to be vigilant. Here are some of my best tips for staying healthy in college and focusing on your mind, body, and soul. Trust me, I learned these through some tough lessons:
1. Self Care is More than a Face Mask
I speak about this topic in one of my very first blog posts. Sure, a face mask feels deluxe and fun and can definitely be a relaxing part of your routine. However, when it comes down to the really hard parts of life, a face mask won’t be the tool that mitigates your true feelings. Ultimately, self care encompasses every routine and action you use to take care of yourself. Essentially, everything I recommend in this post goes into self care. Knowing that self care isn’t just a face mask is the first step, and if you don’t feel better after using one, that’s okay.
2. Take Frequent Brain Breaks
You’re working your brain all day every day in college and it’s important to take some time every day to turn it off. Give yourself a ritual or two that you can do everyday to turn your brain off and just be present in that moment. I like to use my night routine as a brain break where I turn my phone off and shower, go through my skin care, and get in bed to watch Netflix. I’m fully immersed in the moment and helps me relax.
3. Remember to Breathe
Breathing is literally a natural function of life and yet I forget to do it. Usually I fall asleep instantly, but about once a month I get all riled up with anxiety and stress and simply cannot fall asleep no matter how hard I try. After an hour or two, I finally realize that I’m not breathing, and literally remembering to take a few deep breaths can lift a weight off my shoulders.
I am a huge advocate for journaling. When the going gets rough and you really need to let it all out in a fuming rant to one of your friends, sometimes it’s impossible to find the privacy to do so. That’s where your journal comes in. Just let it alllll out. Be mean. Be absolutely BRUTAL. The satisfaction afterwards is unlike any other.
1. Prioritize Sleep
If anything, this tip is probably my most important when it comes to staying healthy in college. All nighters aren’t cool. They seriously aren’t. Even if you haven’t paid any attention to your class all semester, they still won’t help you. All nighters are only detrimental, so prioritize your sleep. Even on the weekends when you think you can stay up late since you can sleep in, try to prioritize a good night’s sleep. I’m all for a good time, but please try not to stay up past 4am on both nights of the weekend every weekend. That’s how I ended up with a chronic cough all semester that would wake myself and my roommates up in the middle of the night.
2. Drink TONS of Water
In the warmer months if you’re lucky enough to have AC, your dorm room is dry af. And then in the colder months, the dorm heat is even dryer. And then the air outside is dry. Hydration is so key to staying healthy in college in every way. Having a water bottle with a straw lid allows me to just drink constantly and has saved me with my hydration habits. Get a humidifier for your room as well. They are actual life savers.
3. Get Some Exercise
You don’t need to be a health freak, or a gym rat, or anything extreme to stay healthy. Get your heart rate up three times a week at least and maybe take the stairs. Just break a sweat and you’re good. No need to go absolutely ape on treadmill or with the weights. If you want to, by all means go for it. But I HATE exercising, so if you’re like me, the bare minimum still does the trick.
4. Wash Ya Damn Hands
I don’t know WHY, but some people think it’s normal to not wash their hands after they use the bathroom. I had girls in my hall freshman year who would go to the COMMUNAL bathroom barefoot, put their phone on the floor (?) while they were in the stall, and then leave without even looking at the sink. All around disgusting. Even without coronavirus this is so fundamental, but with a pandemic it’s even more so. Don’t be four year old. Washing your hands = staying healthy in college.
5. Eat Well
If you’re on a meal plan without access to a kitchen, I know that this can be difficult sometimes. Cafeteria food isn’t the best, and maybe the other dining options on campus aren’t the most healthy. Find what works for you. Personally, I would try to incorporate vegetables into smoothies and have fruit on hand in my fridge in my dorm room. Ultimately it’s about balance, and treating yourself to a cookie every night after dinner is fine. I just think it takes more of an effort to get your veggies in at college, so staying mindful about your intake is important.
1. Have Hobbies
Yes, while your main priority in college might be your academics, I think having a ~college experience~ is equally important, whatever that means for you. Maybe you love to hike, or run, or go to museums, or volunteer. The best part about college is that it makes it easy to engage in your hobbies through clubs. There’s a club for everything. Personally, I’m better at dedicating more of my time to one club than spreading myself over many clubs, but whatever works for you, go for it. Don’t wait until after freshman year. Just do it.
2. Know Your Worth
Some honest truth here: in high school, everyone says college is great because no one cares what others think and partying isn’t a measure of “coolness” and cliques don’t exist. In my experience, that’s not always the case. There will be people in college who still care what others think and try to completely change themselves to fit in to what they think is cool. People are still toxic and cliquey in college. That’s not to say that everyone is, but there’s a chance you’ll come across these people.
If you find yourself in the wrong crowd, don’t be afraid to cut ’em off. People find new friends every year of college, so if you don’t find “your people” in the first few weeks (or even the first year) of college, don’t fret. Don’t feel like you need to stick with people you don’t like out of fear of being alone.
3. Embrace Independence
College is so amazing because you literally live with your best friends. But alone time, I’ve found, is one the best parts of the college experience. As an extrovert myself, sometimes I feel lonely when I’m not constantly doing something with others. But the independence that college provides has helped me become more confident in my own abilities. Getting in touch with yourself and your own capabilities not only helps you stay healthy in college, but also helps you grow into yourself.
I usually spend most of my day alone going to class and then finding time to do school work. I used to get sad when none of my friends wanted/couldn’t do anything over the weekends because I thought that I couldn’t do anything either without them. But by sophomore year I learned that I was more than capable of going into the city alone, dining in a restaurant alone, and just going to do what I want to do alone. While it’s important to surround yourself with lots of people in the first few weeks of college, don’t be afraid to go do something even when no one else wants to.
4. Don’t Take College Too Seriously
While it’s important to value doing well in classes and getting involved on campus, don’t prioritize those things just have a built up resume or strong job application. Especially as college goes on, every opportunity sometimes gets boiled down to a “resume builder,” which then gets prioritized as what’s most important. This goes for choosing a major as well. Pick something you love. Don’t worry if you don’t figure it out immediately. Don’t just choose a major based on your future occupation. Maybe I’m being cynical or maybe I’m realistic, but most jobs right now require a master’s degree for any sort of job mobility. Your undergraduate degree is a time to explore topics that fascinate you, because odds are you’ll need to go to grad school before you settle into the job you really want.
I mean to say by all of this to enjoy college for what it is. Sure, it’s an important and sometimes necessary step for your professional life, but that’s not all that college is meant to be. Don’t make every choice in college a choice to set yourself up for the future. Be present and have fun. It’s only 4 years, and believe me when I say they go by insanely fast. I know everyone tells you that and you don’t believe them but it really does. You’ll never get these 4 years back after they’re finished, so enjoy it.
And there you have it: all of my best tips for staying healthy in college. Health of your mind, body, and soul are all interconnected. Make sure to listen to yourself when one doesn’t feel right. It also goes without saying that social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing your hands often are essentials to this list. Be safe and be smart 🙂
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