Between classes, exams, parties and a host of new responsibilities, finding time for your health in college can seem impossible. But even with all the new stresses and obligations, keeping healthy habits doesn’t have to be hard. So grab your notebooks (read: laptops) and get ready to take notes, because here are 8 tips to keep you healthy this semester.
- Choose nutrient-rich foods
With a full day ahead, it’s easy to grab a cup of coffee on your way out the door and call it breakfast – and the same might even go for lunch. It might seem like saving this time will make you more productive, but in reality, skipping meals impacts your mental clarity – and gets in the way of getting things done.
Or maybe it’s the opposite: College life offers a lot of eating options, and it can be tempting to indulge in the dining hall’s all-you-can eat buffet, skipping fresh fruits and veggies in favor of fatty processed foods, but this can make you sluggish and lead to unwanted weight gain. Prioritizing a balanced diet packed with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats can help keep your mood up and your brain sharp so you can power through that study guide.
- Guzzle water and carry a refillable bottle
In college, three key beverages can easily become staples in your diet: coffee, energy drinks and alcohol. While powering through on sugar and caffeine might seem like a good option, leaning too hard on these drinks can lead to bad habits and long-term health issues. A better solution? Water. It seems simple, but it’s essential to health, and so many of us don’t drink enough. Water cleanses your body and transports nutrients to your cells for energy. It will also improve your skin, boost your concentration, and keep you from overeating. Aim to drink about half a fluid ounce for every pound of body weight each day. If water is a struggle for you, try carrying your water bottle with you everywhere you go; it’s the easiest way to make it a habit.
- Remember to sleep
If sleep is scarce for you, it’s time to prioritize your zzz’s. You might feel the need to pull regular all-nighters, but lack of sleep can lead to brain fog, making it harder to concentrate on your studies. Sleep allows your body to rest and restore, helping improve your productivity the next day. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. If there are nights that you do stay up late, try to schedule a 20-minute catnap in your breaks to help refresh your mind.
- Exercise and enjoy
Staying active in college can lower your stress levels, improve your mood, increase energy and strengthen your heart. You might think you need to pencil in a one-hour sweat session every day to get all the benefits, but that’s not true. Just keep moving and stretching as much as possible: Go on a run around campus, hit the gym with your friends or even join a club to stay motivated.
- Keep healthy dorm snacks on hand
That sleeve of cookies might give you a quick spike in energy, but it won’t last long. Sugar crashes can wreak havoc on your body—leading to poor mood and making it harder to focus. Rather than reaching for sugary, calorie-laden snacks, keep nutritious options on hand. Stashing fruit, nuts or granola in your bag or dorm room will give you longer-lasting energy and is better for your health.
- Practice good hygiene
Between classes, study groups, dorm rooms and parties, you’re continuously in close contact with hundreds of your peers, making it easy to catch a cold. If you don’t want sickness to keep you out of class, one of the best things you can do is to wash your hands regularly. Just think about all the germ-infested things you touch daily (…err, maybe don’t think about it too hard!). Wash your hands often and carry a bottle of hand sanitizer in your bag for the times when you can’t get to soap and water.
- Don’t forget self-care
College is stressful, but it’s also a time for fun and finding yourself—so make the most of it! Make time for the things you enjoy and commit to a self-care routine. There’s enough time to pack in work and play, so slather on a face mask, run a bubble bath and watch your favorite TV show!
- Fill gaps with supplements
Sometimes, even if we try to do everything right, we can use a little more help. Supplements can help fill nutritional gaps and support your body to function optimally. But remember: they should be used to complement a healthy diet and lifestyle—not replace it.
Gabby is a nutritionist with a master’s degree in strategic communications. She loves using her nutrition-fluency with storytelling to encourage positive change. Before Persona, she worked at a mental health clinic helping clients manage stress, anxiety and other mental health issues through diet.