Updated: Nov 15, 2020
PHHS '18, Georgetown University '22
Going to college is one of the biggest transitions of your life. Many of you will move away from your parents. You will develop your own habits in the absence of rules that have been set for you. Yet, in this newfound freedom, too many college students neglect their health. I am not just talking about the Freshman 15. Health is holistic.
In my first two years at Georgetown, I have had to navigate adjusting to college life and have made my lion’s share of mistakes. Looking back, the best and most honest piece of advice I can offer an incoming freshman is to take care of your physical and mental health before anything else. Grades, internships, research, and other accolades don’t really matter if you can’t take care of yourself. Here are some tips for staying healthy:
1. Do not compromise on sleep.
Aim for 6-8 hours a day. Before a test, getting a good night’s sleep is more important than studying that extra two hours. You can’t learn if you’re falling asleep in class. Sleep is crucial for your mental health too. When you want to sign up for that one extra club, sleep is the first thing to go. DON’T make this mistake!
2. 20-minute power naps are your friend, not boatloads of coffee.
If you are studying late at night or are falling asleep in class, take the time to nap on the quad, in your room, or in a library cubicle. Power naps improve your focus and mental health. Learn to nap whenever you need.
3. Take time to practice gratitude and mindfulness.
Your mental health is extremely important. College life can be extremely stressful and hectic. I am no mental health expert, but meditating has helped me manage during my more difficult days (there are tons of great apps or guided meditations on YouTube). Take the time to reflect by reminding yourself of what you are thankful of at the end of your day or by journaling. Experiment and see what works for you.
4. Eat a piece of fruit with every meal.
Seriously, 3 servings of fruit a day. There are plenty of carbs and protein in college dining halls. Eating fruit with every meal as a rule is the best way to keep up with your nutritional needs. Fruit slaps anyways.
5. Spice things up.
College food is repetitive, and it is hard to eat healthy when you are eating the same salad, or chicken and broccoli, every day. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your food! Add cranberries or sunflower seeds to your salad, or carry your own hot sauce. There are so many ways to spice things up and make healthy food just a little more palatable.
6. Find a form of exercise you love.
Lifting isn’t for everyone. Running isn’t for everyone. Find a form of exercise that you love to do. This could be Zumba, ballet, or Ultimate. You’re not going to be consistent doing something you don’t enjoy.
7. Intramural and club sports: exercise and a great way to make friends.
Try to stay involved in sports you have played or try something new by joining an intramural or a club sports team. It is a great way to stay active, make friends, and have fun! Exercising with your friends makes it so much more manageable, and you become a part of a family (Running Club is my family at Georgetown).
8. Treat exercise as your down time. Try to exercise at least 4 times a week.
You don’t have to be putting in 2 hours every day. Even a 20-minute yoga session will do if you are pressed for time. The key is to prioritize exercise and staying active. Do what works for your body, and treat it as your time to de-stress.
9. Limit the partying.
We’re college students. We are going to party. Frankly, it’s fun. However, it is really important to be balanced. There are plenty of calories involved, but more importantly, there are the effects on your mental health and social life. Have fun, but remember to be balanced, take a break one weekend if you are feeling burned out, and cultivate meaningful relationships not connected to partying.
10. Seek help when you need it.
Whether a class is stressing you out, you are having trouble with a relationship, or you are struggling with mental illness or substance abuse, it is extremely important to seek help out when you need it. Reach out to friends, family, professors. Familiarize yourself with campus mental health resources. Get help sooner rather than later.
College is a transformative time. Staying healthy holistically will help you make the most of your experience. I hope this helped just a little and would love to talk with anyone who has questions about college (I’m rather candid). Good luck!