Taking care of yourself in college is challenging. Students balance the pressures of school, work, and a social life, all while trying to make decisions about their future careers. With all of these pressures, it’s no wonder that poor mental health and burnout are common.
However, students can fight burnout and protect their health by developing a set of simple, healthy habits. Here are 10 ways that college students can take care of their health this semester.
- Plan to Sleep
American culture vastly underestimates the importance of sleep and its impact on productivity. Without proper rest, your body and brain will start to have trouble functioning. Although every person is different, the human body is wired to work on a cycle where sleep is very important to wakefulness.
Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you’re serious about getting enough sleep, make sure you create a bedtime routine that allows you to turn the lights off when you actually need to. There is always something else to do, but you won’t have the energy you need for tomorrow without a good night’s rest.
- Move Your Body
By the time they reach college, the typical American student is used to sitting still for long periods of time each day. However, the human body does not respond well to long periods of inactivity – it was made to move. One of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health is to get active.
Sign up for a group exercise class or workout with YouTube in your dorm. Even doing jumping jacks or push-ups for five minutes can help you get your blood moving and refocus on your homework. Two of the most basic needs your body has are movement and rest, and meeting these needs will make it much easier for you to reduce stress and stay healthy.
- Watch Out for SAD
During the spring semester, more students are likely to experience symptoms of depression. There’s less sunshine, students aren’t spending much time outside, and they’re already tired and stressed from the fall semester. During these darker months, it’s especially important to care for your mental health.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) describes the way winter conditions can cause seasonal symptoms of depression. Thankfully, there are several things you can do to combat these feelings. Taking vitamin D, investing in a sunlight therapy lamp, and exercising may all help to reduce symptoms so you can finish the semester strong.
- Outsmart Stress
Before “stress” was used to describe feelings of anxiety, it meant to put pressure on something. Constant stress puts pressure on your mind and body, weakening your immune system and making you feel sick. It’s important to find ways to reduce stress in your daily life to keep yourself healthy.
Start by identifying what causes you stress. For college students, stressors could include getting poor grades, uncertainty over the future, low finances, and relationship challenges. Confronting the issues that are causing you anxiety can help. For instance, talking through an ongoing conflict with a friend or making a financial plan for the semester can reduce your levels of daily stress.
- Eat Whole Foods
Every article out there about health for college students mentions eating well. While it may get repetitive, consuming whole foods and drinking plenty of water are two of the best ways to invest in your health this semester. The typical American diet – full of processed carbs and sugar – is a disaster waiting to happen for your health.
Proper nutrition improves sleep, memory, focus, and your ability to respond well to stress. The food you eat is the fuel you’re giving your body to run on. Especially in college, you need this fuel to be top-notch. Although you shouldn’t rely on too much caffeine for energy, coffee in moderation can be a good source of antioxidants.
- Build Friendships
Prolonged isolation is incredibly damaging to your physical and mental health. People need connection, so taking the time to build friendships is an investment in your health. Time spent with friends can help you unwind from school and refocus on what matters most in your life.
College is an ideal time to build friendships and connect deeply with others. You are surrounded by people your age who are facing the same challenges you are. Students can support each other during this phase of life by promoting healthy habits and offering emotional support.
- Work Through Your Thoughts
Taking care of yourself physically will go far toward supporting your health. However, many students are carrying such a large load of stress and anxiety that these foundational steps may not be enough. If you are practicing self-care but find that you’re still overwhelmed, it may be time to focus more closely on your mind and emotions.
Studies have shown that people who journal are better able to process their thoughts and find peace in challenging situations. Meditating on healthy ideas can also help you keep worry at bay. You should never feel embarrassed about talking to a certified counselor or therapist – this is one of the best investments you can make in yourself.
- Enjoy Fun Hobbies
Hobbies are another way to take care of your health this semester. A hobby can be something as simple as baking every Friday night or something as complicated as running a YouTube channel on the side. The important thing is that you find an activity outside of school that brings you joy.
After you leave college, hobbies are a part of your daily routine that you can take with you. They can make the transition from school to adult life easier, and they offer stress relief. Hobbies improve productivity and may even give you insight into your future career path. Although they may feel like a guilty pleasure, they are well worth your time.
- Focus on Giving
Looking outside yourself and giving to others can also increase your mental and physical wellbeing. Volunteering and donating to worthy causes are two ways you can incorporate giving into your weekly schedule. However, there are many meaningful ways you can support the people around you each day.
Calling your parents, sending a stressed friend a card, and driving another student to the grocery store are all ways to give back. Even smiling has been shown to have powerful health benefits. Practicing kindness can raise your spirits if you feel low and encourage those around you.
- Celebrate Everyday Moments
Because it can be hard to slow down during college, one strategy is to make the most of small moments. For instance, you can take time to notice nature and the weather while you’re walking between classes. You can also plan small moments of enjoyment throughout the day, like stretching for ten minutes in the morning or drinking tea while the sun goes down.
Celebrating the everyday is sometimes called “romanticizing your life.” This is based on the idea that you’ll find what you’re looking for – whether that’s more stress or a moment of peace. College students in particular can benefit from taking deliberate moments to slow down and remember to enjoy their day.
Health Is a Priority
Caring for your health is important, especially for students who are experiencing high levels of stress at college. Investing in your health will keep you focused, emotionally stable, and ready for whatever curveballs college life throws at you.
Follow these 10 tips to stay healthy and make the most of your college years. Feeling good is worth the extra effort, and every step you take matters. You’ve got this!