Motivated

Health Studies: Taking Care of Your Mind and Body at College


by Richard C. - September 26, 2016


Rich Cooper is a writer based in London, England. He is a Senior Writer at JOE.co.uk and freelances for Canadian Pharmacy World. He enjoys writing about mental health, food and technology.

Photo Credit: Siena College
Photo Credit: Siena College

Going away to study is a major milestone in the lives of thousands of young people every year, but the dramatic change in lifestyle comes with many health implications. College is a wonderful experience and many people look back on their time as the best years of their lives, but make sure you’re taking care of yourself while you’re there. This article will help you do that.

SEE ALSO: Sex Ed: Five Things Every School Should Be Talking About

Stress

Photo Credit: Helga Weber
Photo Credit: Helga Weber

College can be an extremely stressful time, with students feeling the pressure from several angles. Naturally the burden of schoolwork contributes to this - papers, deadlines, exams, extracurricular commitments - but also the very experience of being at college can be stressful. Particularly at more prestigious institutions, academic excellence is demanded of students at all times, and the weight of expectation can be difficult to shoulder. A lot of students place a great deal of pressure on themselves to get the grades and beat their targets, which can lead to a multitude of health issues.

Stress, combined with a lack of sleep, dependency on caffeine and other stimulants to get through the day, can wreak havoc on the body. Unfortunately, some of this has to be expected; stressful days and long nights are a part of college life, but that’s not to say that there’s nothing you can do about it.

The best way to counteract stress is to be proactive: perfect planning prevents poor performance, as they say. Stress occurs when you feel like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it in, and while this may be like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs, if you organise your life in such a way that you have enough time to do your work at the start of the academic year, you will thank yourself at the end of it. There will doubtless still be late nights of frantic scribbling, but the less of those you have, the better.

If, however, you find yourself up to your knees in the tar pits and reaching for a rope to pull yourself free, there is a way out. The first thing to do is remember that old adage, “This too shall pass”. What you’re going through now will end; you will be free of it soon. That may be some small comfort, but when things are at their darkest, know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The next thing to do is to take care of your body. Make sure you’re not skipping meals and what you are eating is substantial and nutritious; a healthy salad takes little time to prepare, while fruits and nuts are good for snacking.

Next, try to break up your work into hourly chunks. In those hours, work solidly, with focus and application, then give yourself 10 minute breaks to give your mind a moment to breathe. You might feel like you’re wasting time, but you’ll get more done by taking regular breaks than working yourself into the ground. But above all, find the time to vent. At college, you’re surrounded by people who are in the same boat as you, so get together, grab some popcorn and let it all out.

Homesickness

Photo Credit: zilupe
Photo Credit: zilupe

For many students, this will be the first time that they’ve been away from home for any significant length of time. Friendship groups are uprooted, families are left many hundreds of miles behind; it can be an unsettling and uncomfortable experience for even the most well-adjusted student. Most people experience homesickness to some degree, and in dealing with it we develop better coping mechanisms to manage our discomfort, but some people suffer with homesickness to an almost debilitating degree.

Homesick students are more likely to drop out of college than those who are not homesick, and while going back home is the most immediate cure for the ailment, it means giving up a great opportunity and potentially wasting a lot of money. Most people will naturally adjust to their new surroundings over time, but if it’s a conscious issue then there are ways to tackle it.

Distraction is a key method; going out and having a great time so that you think less about home and associate your new life with positive feelings. Changing the way you think about time can help: instead of thinking that you’ve left home forever, think that you’ve only left home for a few months and that you’ll be back for Christmas - break the year up so it’s easier to manage. It’s great to keep in touch with people at home with Skype and FaceTime, but it can also be good to take a break from them too. You can’t fully adjust to being in your new home if your emotional attachment is still at home.

Making strong emotional bonds with your college town helps you feel more settled in, and the best way to do this is by making friends. College is not like high school and there are so many opportunities to make friends; it’s the kind of place where you can go up to anyone and start a conversation. Your town itself can be a friend to you. Go exploring, find things to love about the city you’re living in. Make it your home, make it your own. That doesn’t mean you’re leaving your hometown behind, it just means you have two places that are dear to you.

Drinking and partying

Photo Credit: Craige Moore
Photo Credit: Craige Moore

If college is known for one thing, it should be education, but often it’s the party lifestyle that it’s most notorious for. Young people away from their parents for the first time, in a place that they can call their own, where they do what they want without fear of parental discipline - it’s no wonder we go a little wild. But there’s the good way to go wild, and the bad way.

Obviously drinking is part of college life to some extent, and while we can’t condone it if you’re underage, we can advise you on how to deal with being around it. As an adult, you have to be responsible for yourself while drinking; your words, your actions and your health are yours to keep in check. There’s nothing wrong with getting a buzz on, but there is a problem when you drink to excess and lose control of yourself. The best advice on drinking is to always keep an eye on a) what you’re drinking and b) how much you’re drinking.

Mixing your drinks is a bad idea. Your body doesn’t like to deal with different kinds of alcohol, so stick to one if possible. Pace yourself. Sure, it’s fun to shotgun beers and do shot after shot after shot, but all that alcohol has to go somewhere, and usually it’s either to your brain or back out of your mouth again. Never leave your drink unattended when you’re out, because you don’t know who’s around. Date rape drugging is an all-too-common occurrence, so keep an eye on your drink and your friends’ drinks. The number one rule when it comes to alcohol is this: use your common sense. You know it’s a bad idea to keep drinking when you’ve had enough, you know it’s a bad idea to get so drunk that you pass out in a club, so listen to yourself. Have fun, but take care.

Sex

Photo Credit: Pexels
Photo Credit: Pexels

It’d be naive to think that sex wasn’t a big part of college life, but it doesn’t have to be a defining part of it. Lots of people will arrive already having had sex, lots of people will arrive who have never had sex. Whether you have or you haven’t, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you practice safe sex while you are at college.

The first thing to consider is your physical health. Your parents, teachers, guidance counselors and doctors will have drilled this into you, but it’s no joke when they tell you to use protection. Make sure you carry a condom with you (because hey, you never know when it’s gonna be your night), but more importantly, make sure you use it. It takes seconds to put on and could be the difference between a great night and an unfortunate morning.

Other forms of contraception are available, and whatever works best for you is up to you, so consult your doctor on what you can get, but only a condom will effectively protect you from sexually transmitted diseases. If you suspect that you have caught an STI or are worried about your sexual health in any way, go to GetTested and find your nearest health centre. You can find free and confidential testing and advice to help you take care of yourself.

The other side of sex worth talking about is the psychological side. There is a lot of pressure on young people to act a certain way when it comes to sex, but you have to know that the only way to approach sex is in the way that you feel comfortable approaching it. If you’re not ready to have sex, or feel as though someone is pressuring you into doing it, then you are 100% in the right to say no. Your body is your body and only you can decide what to do with it.

The main thing to do at college is enjoy yourself, and the key to enjoying yourself is taking care of yourself. It takes a lot of hard work to succeed in your studies, but success is all the sweeter when you’ve had a good time getting there. Yes, there will be 14-hour days and more than a few hangovers, but if you balance them out with a good diet and happy mindset, you’ll never have reason to grumble. Looking after your health, both mental and physical, will help ensure that you look back on your time at college with fondness - and a degree hanging on your wall.

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All photos licenced under Creative Commons.

Comments:

Nibby says at 2017-10-26 11:00:32:
The puchrases I make are entirely based on these articles.

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