Take Care of Your Physical Health
Welcome to Part Three of our 2023 edition of How to Succeed in College. Part One was about how to develop a success-based mindset. Part Two was all about working smarter, not harder. Today, we’re talking about wellness.
The stuff you’ve heard before about food, sleep, and hygiene
Before you roll your eyes, don’t worry. We’re not going to lecture college students on stuff they already know (we save that for the classroom). But it’s also important to prioritize your physical and mental health in college. College students have a lot to balance between classes, socializing, stress, and sometimes even work (or fun). So it’s no wonder that many of them are sleep-deprived, subsisting off of cold pizza and bad beer, and practicing questionable hygiene routines.
Every college student knows that it’s important to get enough sleep, eat well, and practice good hygiene. But it’s not always easy to do these things, especially when you have so much going on. That’s why it’s important to make an effort to prioritize your physical and mental well-being.
Taking care of your physical health in college for realists
How to actually get enough sleep
One important way is to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can affect your mood, memory, and ability to concentrate. It’s important to establish a regular sleep schedule and create a sleep-friendly environment in your dorm or apartment. We know that in reality, college students won’t do this; it’s not always practical or even in their control (we’ve all had that night owl roommate or 7 AM practice). Heck, you might even end up with one of those super-fun but crazy astronomy labs that meets in the middle of the night so you can spot aliens or whatever.
But try your best to get enough sleep. Even a 40-minute catnap in the afternoon between classes can help. Try white noise (either from a machine, or an app, or whatever works for you), a sleep mask, or earplugs if they work for you. Just make sure you can still be awakened by your alarm clock, a fire alarm, and so on.
Eating Right in College
For what the school charges for your meal plan, you should be dining off of fresh truffles and fine china, but that’s not the case (unless you’re Ivy League, in which case, you probably aren’t the core audience here since you’re set for life). What can you do if you want to nourish your body the way your college education is nurturing your mind, but you have a Dollar Store dining budget?
First, focus on lean proteins and fresh fruits and veggies whenever possible. A dining hall banana may not look as filling as a Hot Pocket from a vending machine, but you’ll be surprised. Same with some almonds. Consider going in for a CSA (Community Share of Agriculture) to get some healthy produce for cheap, or even just sharing a bulk store membership with some other students so you can buy almonds, bananas, and other brain-nurturing snacks.
Exercise takes many forms, and most of today’s successful college students are well aware of its benefits. Be sure you know what facilities and resources your school offers, including gyms, exercise classes (both for credit and for fun!), and discounts to other facilities. You’re already paying a ton for school, so don’t be shy about using a gym.
But you won’t always have time to do a 90-minute bulking routine three times a week, and you might not want to do that in your “free time” (we laughed at that idea, too). That’s OK. Force yourself to get up and stretch, and walk everywhere. Campus parking sucks at every school on the planet, so commit to walking as much as you can. Walking to class can be a great way to meet new friends, too!
The Mind-Body Connection: Essential for College Success
We’re not going full woo on you, but there is a clear, documented connection between physical and mental health. If you’re not a meditation person, and it is completely OK not to be, consider practices like journaling or even a quiet walk. Consider activities that take you off campus and into the real world, like cleaning up a park, volunteering at the animal shelter (excellent for college students who might miss their furry friends at home!), or even just exploring the surrounding area.
Therapy sessions: The successful college student’s best-kept secret?
As you continue your quest to maximize your college experience by using any and all resources that the school offers, consider therapy – especially if your school offers it. Even if you’re doing great, why not use it? In a worst-case scenario, you might learn a little about what doesn’t work for you; in a best-case scenario, you can develop valuable coping and resilience strategies for when times get tough. It can be helpful to just have someone to listen and offer insight. As little as two hours of therapy sessions, at any point in your life, can help you bolster resilience and improve your well-being.
Controlling your environment: No Marie Kondo Necessary
Even little things can improve your mental health. Studies show that making your bed every day has a surprising correlation with happiness (yours, that is; it probably makes your mother very happy as well). Why not get into that habit? Just one hour of tidying and cleaning a week can make a big difference in your stress levels: Knowing where to find things, not having to clean up urgent messes, and not being distracted by all the clutter in dorm rooms can all help you stay focused. Don’t become your roommate’s maid or anything like that, but do dedicate time to organization and cleaning and if you are very short on time, use an essay writing service .
Thanks for tuning in to Part Three. In Part Four, we’ll focus on how to actively engage with your studies to get the most out of college.