College is the perfect storm for poor health. The very culture promotes it. You wake up at seven and grab a leftover slice of pizza for breakfast. You have a cheeseburger for lunch and numerous caffeinated drinks throughout the day. Then you go out to eat with friends have one too many alcoholic drinks. When you get home, you try to get some studying done. At two o’clock in the morning, you realize it’s futile and fall asleep.
So if the very lifestyle of college is against you, how can you still maintain your health? Well, first, know that it is possible. Second, let us give you these five helpful tips for managing your health while you’re in school:
1. Get enough sleep.
College = all-nighters. All-nighters = bad student performance. When you get less than eight hours of sleep, your brain misses out on two hours of REM sleep, during which your brain is supposed to integrate new information. That means, no matter how much you study, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your brain won’t retain the information you studied.
As contrary as it may seem to the college lifestyle, go to bed when you should. Try to plan your social activities so that they don’t conflict with sleep time. And definitely don’t use the time that you should be sleeping to catch up on studying. It is counter-productive.
2. Go easy on the junk food.
The average college student gains between three and 10 pounds between his freshman and sophomore year. This has been linked to poor sleeping habits (see below) and putting all the wrong stuff in your body. Food from vending machines, soft drinks, eating out at restaurants, and cheap fast food are all culprits. You buy this stuff because it’s cheap and available, and you are usually too busy to do real grocery shopping.
Our advice: if you have a kitchen or even a mini-fridge, take the time to go grocery shopping. You’ll find yourself choosing better foods and probably saving some cash. If you eat at an on-campus cafeteria, skip that extra helping triple-layer fudge cake in favor of an apple or a salad.
3. Drink responsibly.
For whatever reason, alcohol has been part of the college experience ever since colleges first came into existence. It’s woven into the very social fabric of college. In fact, according to one survey, college freshmen drink 5.7 drinks per week. Eighty-four percent of all students surveyed reported that they drank alcohol within the last year. Excessive alcohol usage can take a toll on your body and your brain, seriously inhibiting your ability to perform as a student.
Alcohol use has been linked to all sorts of maladies, like sleep disorders, high blood pressure, and heart problems, not to mention increased aggression and violence. Also, anyone who’s consumed too much alcohol knows that waking up the next day can be a challenge–a challenge you don’t need when you’re trying to get to your eight o’clock class on time.
To keep yourself free of these problems while you’re in school, if you choose to drink, drink moderately and then call it good. Your brain, your liver, and your grades will thank you.
4. Make time to exercise.
No matter who you are, nothing controls stress, depression, and the immune system like regular exercise. But when you’re “busy,” exercising feels expendable–you don’t get a grade for it and it doesn’t make you any money. But, in combination with everything we’ve already mentioned, failing to exercise can be a recipe for disaster.
You don’t need to get in an epic, three-hour power workout everyday to fulfill this requirement. All it takes is 30 minutes of good, solid cardio-vascular activity three or more times per week to keep your bones and muscles healthy, your weight down, and your mental health in check. Now that’s something you can squeeze into your packed schedule.
5. Manage your time proactively.
Stress can take a toll on any of the aforementioned areas. Dangerous stress levels are usually the result of poor management. You can lower your stress levels by pulling out the old calendar and planning out your daily activities, when you will finish that paper, when you will read that case study, and when you will make time for your friends. Time management lets you do a diagnostic on your life and assures you that everything is good. Your mind and body love the “everything-is-good” feeling.