Transporting that futon from the car, up the building steps and into your dorm room — that will be tough. Leaving the comfort of home and family for a campus full of strangers in what is likely your biggest life milestone so far — that won’t be easy. Taking Harvard University’s Maths 55 class, deemed on the school website as, “probably the most difficult undergraduate maths class in the country” — that may be a bit of a challenge for those who sign up.
But being healthy in college? That doesn’t have to be so difficult. You can do it; here’s your guide.
Build relationships. College is a whole lot easier (and more fun) with an on-campus support network. Here’s how to build it:
- Before you even pack the car, find five people to be in your “corner” — like your trainers in the boxing ring, says Harlan Cohen, best-selling author of “The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College.” Dig around the college website or ask alumni, and scout out professors, advisers, resident assistants, tutors, orientation leaders or staff of an academic resource center who you can count on. “Those people are already there for you,” Cohen says.
- Make friends by doing what you love, Cohen suggests. Passionate about painting? Sign up for an art class. Reigning debate team MVP in high school? Join the college debate team. Chances are, you’ll meet people who share the same interests.
- Someone who may (or may not) become a friend is your roommate, should you choose to have one. The relationship you have with your roommate can greatly affect your happiness at school, so take a look at these tips from U.S. News Education for getting along with him or her.
[Read: The Do’s and Don’ts of Friendship.]
Eat healthy. Even with late-night pizza places and limitless soda refills in the dining halls, you can eat wisely in college. Here’s your plan:
- Befriend your dining hall, not because many of them have endless supplies of soft serve, but because just as many offer salad bars, vegetarian options and fresh fruit. Take advantage of these healthy choices by filling your plate with colourful, nutrient-dense foods.
- There are many reasons why the plea to “drink responsibly” is worth repeating, including the fact that, you know, alcohol is illegal for folks under 21 and can be unsafe if abused. For those of any age who choose to imbibe, calories are at stake, too. Keep healthy snacks nearby to avoid that 2 a.m. drunk call to Jimmy John’s, and remember that calories from alcohol alone add up quickly. (To see what constitutes a single drink, check out the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website.)
- Here’s something college students should drink lots and lots of: Water. You can lose a lot of water without even realising it while walking around campus. Loading up on H20 fights off dehydration and hunger. Make a habit of bringing a water bottle to class and around campus.
Work out. The freshman 15 is not inevitable. Make these healthy exercise choices:
- Forgo that ride to class or cross-campus bus and walk as much as you can. Walking is perfect for gym-wary students looking for low-intensity, practical workouts. Bonus: You can learn a lot about the campus layout as you trek from building to building.
- You’re more likely to make time for exercise if others hold you accountable, so look into intramural sports or recreational clubs. These opportunities help you continue activities you love and learn new ones. Plus, you may make a few friends in the process. No club for the sport or activity you’re interested in? Find others who feel the same way via message boards and flyers and make your own club.
- When the weather is unforgiving or your schedule is too packed, you may need to squeeze in a dorm-room workout. Look into exercises with resistance bands and stability balls, both of which are available at most major retailers.
Manage stress. The exercises above will help you deal with stress, which is an inevitable part of college. The activities below will help you reduce stress, too:
- Meditate by simply walking at a slow to medium pace and focusing intently on your feet — your toe touching the ground, your foot landing flat on the ground and your toe pointing back upward. When your attention drifts (and it will), gently bring it back to your feet. The skill you’re honing — of noticing when your mind wanders and bringing it back into focus — may be handy when you find yourself daydreaming in class.
- There are likely many ways to sneak in some downward dog between classes. Check if your school’s recreation center offers yoga classes or if you can even take a yoga course for academic credit. There are also many online yoga resources available, as well as DVDs and books.
- If you don’t want to go the active route for stress management and need to slow down — way down — try this breathing exercise from Eat + Run blogger Keri Glassman: Breathe in, and count to eight in your head. Hold your breath for two heart beats, and then slowly exhale for eight counts.
Sleep well. Concentrating in class is tough when you’re running on fumes. Too little sleep can not only zap brain power, but it can also affect your mood, happiness and food choices. Shoot to get at least seven hours of sleep each night by practicing proper sleep hygiene:
- Try to use your bed for just sleeping. If you’re studying, watching TV, scrolling through Facebook and occasionally dining in bed, you’ll have a harder time falling asleep when you want to. It may be hard to avoid using your bed for multiple purposes when it takes up much of a small dorm room, but this is all the more reason to explore other campus hangouts such as student centres, libraries and coffee shops.
- Unplug. Falling asleep is not easy when you’re still wired at bedtime. Try turning off all electronics an hour before hitting the hay.
- It’s a no-brainer that you’re more likely to fall asleep in a dark, quiet environment. What’s not so obvious is how to pull this off with night owl roommates. Four words: Ear plugs. Eye mask.
Look good. If you’re on a tight budget, basics beauty products from the drugstore can be pricey. Try these affordable homemade — or dorm-made — concoctions:
- Eliminate under-eye bags with a classic beauty trick: applying cool cucumber slices. Keep the slices in your mini-fridge or freezer and place them on your eyes in the morning. The cool temperature of the cucumbers helps reduce inflammation.
- Sleeping in eye makeup is a major beauty foul that can leave you trudging to your 8 a.m. class with red, irritated eyes thanks to a allergic reaction, contact irritation or infection. Remove eye makeup with about a quarter teaspoon of baby wash mixed with warm water.
- If the daily grind is wreaking havoc on your pores, try mixing finely crushed almonds with a teaspoon of honey and some oatmeal to create a granular scrub. If you’re prone to oily skin, add a few drops of lemon juice.
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