College’s party reputation is on the way out as students face graduating into a world in the midst of a polycrisis. From the climate crisis to war in Ukraine and the rising cost of living, self-care has never been more important for today’s youth preparing to tackle the biggest challenges of our time.
College years are a time of exciting new experiences and opportunities. But it can also be a time of great stress and situations that encourage bad habits, threaten time management, and promote poor nutrition, substance abuse, and inadequate sleep. Making college a good investment has never been more urgent than today as college students prepare to inherit a planet in great crisis.
Data show habits are indeed changing. A 2020 survey found college students are partying less than public perceptions would have most people believe. The survey of 2,500 students found 42 percent had either never consumed alcohol or hadn’t had alcohol in the two weeks prior to the survey. Seventy-three percent of respondents said they had less than four drinks the last time they were in a social setting.
Still, alcohol use disorder affects a large number of college students — as much as nine percent, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
But it’s not just partying that takes a toll on college students. Pressure from the classroom, from parents, and from work, can make college an incredibly stressful time.
According to the American Institute of Stress, 80 percent of college students experience frequent episodes of stress, with 23.5 percent citing anxiety. More than 60 percent of college students report seeking counseling for issues including anxiety, depression, academic performance, family issues, and relationship problems.
“Stress is there for a reason. It’s there to help mobilize you to meet the demands of your day, but you’re also supposed to have times where you do shut down and relax and repair and restore,” says Emma K. Adam, professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University in Illinois told U.S. News.
Wellness tips for college students
International Medical Aid shares how to get rid of bad habits and cultivate a self-care routine that supports wellness for an optimal college experience.
1. Create a bedtime routine
Your body needs between seven to eight hours of sleep every night. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body will be tired, and you’ll have difficulty functioning effectively throughou0t the day. You may also be more prone to illness and fatigue.
Building a bedtime routine right before sleep is an excellent way to prevent sleep deprivation. This may include getting rid of your phone for an hour before bed or creating a calm sleeping environment. Try meditating, reading (a book), or other calming routines.
2. Adopt a healthy diet
You may think eating fast food or junk food is better than eating nothing. However, these foods are notorious for leading to the “freshman fifteen” and continue to cause health problems and extra weight throughout college.
Try to make room for healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Instead of eating processed food and sugary beverages, choose fresh fruits and vegetables packed with nutrients and vitamins.
A growing number of college campuses are improving the quality of cafeteria options, bringing an emphasis to healthier and more plant-based options.
3. Take a multivitamin
When taking on multiple responsibilities in college, you must ensure you get the nutrients you need in your diet. If you don’t have enough funds or time to cook healthy meals, you may not get the vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy.
A good multivitamin can help supplement these essential nutrients to ensure your body has what it needs. You can also look at supplements like omega fatty acids and probiotics. While they shouldn’t replace your diet, they can boost your immune system health.
4. Consume plenty of water
Dehydration can affect your productivity in school because it can make you tired and lead to headaches. This can impact your ability to focus on academic tasks, which may result in poor grades.
You can avoid these issues by drinking more water. Bring an insulated water bottle to your classes, and refill it in between. Try adding lemon or cucumber slices for flavoring and extra hydration.
5. Practice meditation
Your mind is a powerful tool, and you’ll need it in college. It’s common to feel emotionally tired as you struggle with the workload and other stressors. This can lead to depression and anxiety and interfere with your academic goals.
Meditation is a recommended option to relieve stress and improve your mental health. This activity reduces stress, provides relaxation, and enhances concentration by calming your mind. Try meditating with essential oils, which can bring extra relaxation and help you to stay in the present moment and take each task individually so you won’t feel overwhelmed.
6. Find a support group and stay close
It’s essential to stay connected with your support group throughout college. This can be family members, friends, mentors, or fellow classmates. Staying close to them will help you feel less stressed during the semester and more confident.
You can stay in touch with them by having weekly family dinners or regularly having lunch with your friends. This allows you to talk about your college struggles and milestones while creating a stronger bond with them.
7. Make time for hobbies
Success in college isn’t just about grades. Who you connect with and how much you enjoy your time there are equally important. So, keep up with your studies while still having fun.
Hobbies may include joining a sports team, dancing, or exploring art or music. Taking part in clubs helps you stay creative while expanding the connections that will help you once you graduate.
8. Set limits
Whether it’s your bedtime routine, your food, your study habits, or your overall schedule, managing your time and setting limits will give you the boundary you need to focus on your studies and your self-care. Setting these limits can actually make you feel less stressed because a routine can prevent you from making unhealthy choices.
It can seem like a low priority with everything else on your plate, but making time for exercise will help with all other areas of your college life. Exercise will help you to sleep better and will also help your focus and academic performance.
Walk to class when possible, use campus facilities (most have pretty nice pools and gyms), or join a club on or off campus to encourage physical activity.
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