College is an exciting but stressful period that can be difficult to prepare for. While every collegiate experience differs, one thing is sure: staying healthy and on top of your physical and mental well-being during this time is vital.
Many college students struggle to stay on top of their new, busy schedule because they struggle to adapt to this lifestyle while maintaining a healthy standard. If you are unsure how to stay healthy in college, worry no more: here are our top 15 tips for how to stay healthy in college and achieve your academic dreams.
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1. Prioritize Sleep
First up on our essential list of how to be healthy in college is sleep. College can be hectic, and staying up late to finish assignments and projects can be tempting. But getting a good night’s sleep is essential for staying healthy. While you may be content with a few hours of rest every night, the reality is that college-aged students need between 7-9 hours of sleep to remain alert and avoid issues caused by sleep deprivation.
While young adults need an average of 7-9 hours of rest per night, the reality is that most students neglect this need: 50% of college students report daytime sleepiness, while 70% report insufficient sleep regularly. Sleep is essential to maintaining high grades–in fact, research has shown that the GPAs of students receiving at least nine hours of sleep per night were much higher (3.24) than students receiving six or fewer hours of sleep (2.74).
Bottom line? Get into a steady routine and stick to a solid sleep schedule. Avoid all-nighters at any cost and make rest a priority, and you’ll be well on your way to improving your mental and physical health.
2. Eat Healthy Meals
Eating healthy meals is essential for a college student looking to stay healthy. Consuming nutrient-rich foods as part of a healthy diet will give you the energy and sustenance to stay focused during class and on top of your work.
Not sure what steps to take to eat healthier in college? Follow some of the tips below.
- Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up and include protein-rich foods
- Eat regularly, ideally every 3-4 hours
- Prioritize healthy food options, those with essential vitamins and nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, and iron
- Eat plenty of fresh fruit and choose darker vegetables with more nutrients
- Choose lean proteins, including chicken, turkey, cottage cheese, fish, etc.
- Skip processed foods and keep the junk food to a minimum
- Practice smart snacking habits–try incorporating two food groups into your snack for a balanced treat
- Avoid late-night snacking
- Avoid overdoing it on stimulants like caffeine or nicotine
- Stay hydrated
- Don’t drink alcohol excessively
3. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise is an excellent way to stay mentally and physically healthy. Aim to get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise every day, whether going to the gym, playing a sport, or taking a walk. Weekly, college students should aim for 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity and 2 days of muscle-strengthening activities.
4. Develop a Steady Routine
A regular routine can help you stay up with your studies and physical and mental health. Having a schedule to follow will help you stay organized and balanced and can reduce the stress that comes with not being prepared for a busy day. Developing a routine that suits you will make college life much more manageable and doable.
5. Take Breaks When Possible
Regular breaks are essential for staying healthy in college. Research indicates that taking breaks between 5-60 minutes when studying can significantly refresh your mind and body and increase your productivity, attention span, and energy.
What should you do on your break? Try some of the following:
- Take a walk
- Take a refreshing shower
- Listen to music
- Clean your space
- Do a mini-meditation
- Spend time drawing
- Make a phone call
6. Find Time for Fun
College can be stressful, so make sure to find time for fun. Whether going to a movie, playing a video game, or hanging out with friends, take time to nurture your mental well-being–college is supposed to be fun, too!
7. Take Time for Yourself
Taking time for yourself is essential for staying healthy in college. Having time to rest and recuperate is vital for your mental well-being during college and can help you stay calm when things seem overwhelming.
First-year college students prioritizing regular alone time typically display more positive psychological health than those who do not. Additionally, taking time for yourself is valuable for the following reasons:
- Alone time allows college students to detach from social pressures and encourages them to focus on their values and interests.
- College students can improve behavior regulation and develop autonomy and choice by being alone and focusing on their values.
8. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is vital for staying healthy in college. Take time to be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Practicing mindfulness may involve deep breathing, meditation, journaling about your day, or any other practice that helps you remain present and mindful of your feelings without self-criticism. By remaining mindful, college students can focus on their studies and keep calm when things get hectic.
9. Join a Club or Organization
Joining a club or organization can be a great way to stay healthy in college. People with similar interests will surround you, and you’ll have the opportunity to participate in activities you enjoy. Interacting with your peers during college is vital to maintaining your mental and emotional well-being and enjoying your time away from home.
10. Learn Stress Management
Learning effective stress management techniques is essential for college students. Given the massive stress many students feel to perform well academically, effective stress management measures are essential to maintain physical and mental well-being. When academic stress isn’t managed, mental health issues may arise, including anxiety, depression, and mental burnout.
Find a stress outlet, such as a hobby or activity, to practice when you feel overwhelmed. Additionally, practice self-care and positive thinking, or take up a hobby like journaling to organize your thoughts and develop actionable solutions to your stress.
11. Get Involved in Your Community
Getting involved in your community is a fantastic way to stay healthy. Volunteering for a local cause or organization can help you get involved, and it can also help you stay connected to others. The benefits of volunteering are plentiful, and many students don’t realize how much volunteering in their community can help their overall well-being. For instance, volunteering in your community can benefit you in some of the following ways:
- Gaining real-world experience and developing vital skills, including leadership, problem-solving, and time management skills
- Apply classroom learning to real-life scenarios
- Making connections with other people and exploring potential career paths based on these connections
- Volunteers experience, on average, an 8.5% increase in mental well-being and a 4.3% decrease in depression after developing a volunteer routine.
- Boost your resume and increase your chances of employment by 27%
12. Seek Out Support
If you’re struggling with mental health, don’t be afraid to seek support. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, or contact a mental health professional. Mental health is just as crucial as physical well-being during college; the two are often inseparable.
Whether you’re feeling depressed and anxious over the sudden environment change or stressed with your workload, external support is vital to a positive academic experience. Check out the mental health resources available on your college campus if you need help figuring out where to start.
13. Practice Self-Care
Self-care is essential for staying healthy in college, and setting aside time to focus on your personal well-being can make a massive difference in your academic experience. Practicing self-care is vital to reduce stress levels, avoiding mental burnout, and improving your overall well-being.
By practicing self-care, you can develop healthy, lifelong habits, maintain your mental health, and stay connected with yourself and your peers. Healthy habits for college students are crucial to your academic success and future career path.
14. Take Time to Reflect
Taking time to reflect is vital for college students. Too often, students focus on their failures while neglecting to consider their successes academically and socially. By taking time to sit and reflect on your current situation, you can identify how you’ve succeeded and grown, a great way to validate how your mental and physical health are progressing.
Additionally, taking time for self-reflection can help you identify your weaknesses without being overly self-critical and devise a plan to make positive changes in your collegiate life.
15. Take Advantage of Campus Resources
Take advantage of the resources available on your college campus. Your college may offer counseling services, health services, or student organizations to help you stay healthy and positive, even when you feel overwhelmed.
Additionally, many colleges provide students with some of the following essential resources to stay healthy no matter their workload:
- Tutoring services
- Career services
- Financial aid help
- Academic advisors
- Dining services
- Recreational services and facilities, such as a gym
- Intramural sports
The Bottom Line
Staying healthy in college can be challenging, but with the right strategies, you can stay physically and mentally fit. With these 15 wellness tips for college students, you can achieve academic success and prepare for exciting future opportunities.
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