Looking forward to my freshman year here at SDSU, I was initially a little perplexed as to whether or not the good practices I have developed over the past few years could persist. I thought it was going to be difficult to maintain healthy habits in a new place with a new schedule, but I've actually been surprised by how easy it's been. Here are my tips for how to stay healthy in college...physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially.
1. Track down healthy food options.
Eating healthily is important in general for overall well-being, but especially in college, when you're constantly working, moving, and flexing that brain muscle, getting adequate nutrients becomes essential for optimal functioning.
Find which places on campus, such as dining halls or restaurants, have healthy options like fresh produce and protein options and utilize these places to build simple meals. Making sure that your meals are simple yet substantial means including good carbs such as grains and vegetables, proteins, and fats. For example, I built the simple bowl pictured above using greens, roasted sweet potatoes, quinoa, zucchini, and chicken, all from the dining hall.
Another way to make sure you're eating healthily in college is to track down the best places to get healthy snacks. Snacks are so, so, so important to keep you energized and focused throughout the day, so check out places on campus such as convenience stores, coffee shops, and markets to see what natural and nutrient-dense snacks are available to you. My go-to healthy snacks lately have been roasted chickpeas, kale chips, Perfect bars, and Health-Ade kombucha. If there aren't that many healthy options on campus, see what grocery stores or markets are located close to campus so that you can pick up a few things every now and then to keep stocked up in your dorm.
2. Move in whatever way that you want to/can.While it may seem like college can be pretty hectic between classes and homework and extracurricular activities and work, moving in a way that works for you is an extremely important way to stay healthy physically--and happy mentally. There is no one way to move, so figure out what works for you and your schedule, what makes you feel best, and what makes you feel empowered.
Try out classes at the campus gym, go for a run, practice some outdoor yoga, join intramural sports, or simply go for a relaxing walk. Whichever way it is that you enjoy moving, set aside time for yourself each day to engage in that activity. I've personally found that my mornings at the gym boost my energy and mood before classes and generally lead to a much more productive day.
3. Find a hobby and engage in it weekly.College can be very demanding at times, but doing things that make you happy every single week can really reduce stress levels and make those long reading assignments and essays less draining. It can be as simple as writing, reading, hiking, listening to new music, or finding inspiration on Pinterest; pursue whatever it is that you truly enjoy and allow yourself to enjoy it.
I personally struggle with this a lot, because I have the mentality that "work is play" and often forget how much of the day has been taken up by schoolwork until the day is almost over! So even though school is always a priority, you are also a priority and deserve to have a few blissful moments every day. Sometimes some ‘booch and some Netflix is all I need for a relaxing night after a long day of school work!
4. Get involved in a club!Feeling alone in college is a seriously sucky feeling, so try to branch out and make those connections that can make you feel more integrated on campus. The majority of you reading this are most likely already members of Student Nutrition Organization...which is awesome! I encourage those of you who are to treat the club not just as a club, but also as an opportunity to get involved and get out of your comfort zone. You can also try something you've never tried before, or join a club that relates to something you're already extremely passionate about. Whatever the case, clubs are a great way to relate to like-minded people and establish new friendships, as well as to do activities that feed your soul. I just recently joined SNO...so who knows, I might meet some other kale-loving kiddos to nerd out about nutrition with!
5. Sleep, sleep, SLEEP!It took me soooo long to actually start sleeping. Six months ago, five hours of sleep would have been the norm. Now I'm averaging eight hours per night and thank goodness I made that transition!
Sleep is a vital part of storing and processing the information that you received during the daytime, so if you're only getting four, five, or six hours of sleep a night, those eight hours of studying may have gone to waste. Sleep is also when essential hormones, such as growth hormone, are released to keep your endocrine system running effectively, so if you're depriving yourself of sleep, your hormones can become imbalanced and nobody wants that! Additionally, if you are sleep deprived, your body will produce cortisol, which is a stress-inducing hormone which has all kind of negative side effects (including loss of the menstrual cycle, for all ma lady friends out there).
Aside from the scientific reasons behind getting adequate sleep, let's face it, being well-rested just makes for an overall better day! Sleeping well keeps your energy levels, mood, and metabolism in check so that you can function optimally without crashing or crying or all of the above (been there, done that wayyy too many times). Try to aim for 7-10 hours of sleep per night. Personally, eight is my "happy" spot. It also helps to establish a routine bedtime and wake-up time so that your internal clock stays on track.
I hope you found my list of five ways to stay healthy in college helpful for discovering what works for you in this new phase of life! College is an extremely exciting time where you can study what you're passionate about, explore new places, and make connections that can last a lifetime, so remember to take extremely good care of yourself so that you can fully enjoy everything that college has to offer.
Freshman at SDSU. Foods and Nutrition Major.
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