When going to college for the first time, you have many new focuses and responsibilities. Your classes, social life, goals, and maybe even a job are more than enough to overwhelm you. This often leads to students prioritizing these aspects of their lives over the ultimate, yet hidden, responsibility — their health. As you enter this next stage of your adult life, here are a few health-related things you need to remember.
College introduces new levels of social exploration. Practice openness with partners regarding STIs, desires, and consent. Be willing to communicate about what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not. Being intimate can be fun, but you must consider how it affects your health and general well-being.
Make sure consent is freely given before engaging in any sexual act. This is important for legal reasons and for participants’ mental health. Protection is important to avoid pregnancy, and you must be aware of STIs’ consequences. You may want to consider birth control as you or your partner become sexually active, but it’s important to note the benefits and drawbacks of each method. Condoms are the only birth control method that works to prevent STIs, which is a reason to consider combining multiple techniques.
2. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Sleep
You’ll soon be busy running around campus, hanging out with friends, participating in clubs, and cramming for exams. Even if you have experience with time management, there is only so much time in the day. Remember that deadlines and social opportunities aside, a good night’s sleep is a great foundation for the day.
The occasional late night won’t hurt you long-term, but do your best not to cut your slumber short consistently. It’s better to study less and sleep before a test than study all night and take it while half-asleep. Studies show pulling an all-nighter can hurt your grades.
3. Develop Healthy Eating Habits
Another aspect of your health to consider regarding your newfound independence is how you eat. If you’re on a meal plan, it’s easy to stick with something you like or take more than you need. But remember, your body needs more than indulgent foods to sustain itself, so take care to vary your plate.
Listen to your body when it feels full or underweight, and you’ll quickly learn how it communicates. Eating only when you’re hungry is important whether you have a habit of eating too much or too little. Carrying healthy snacks around is a good way to ensure you’re nourished without overdoing it. You might make sure your backpack always has a granola bar.
4. Take Care of Your Mental Health
You will likely have mental health difficulties due to college experiences. It’s a fact of life, and you’re not broken or messed up for it — you’re normal. Don’t avoid self-care or outside help because mental health affects every perception you have, despite how trivial it may seem.
Taking care of your mental health means giving yourself rest in the middle of a study session and spending time watching mindless TV. It means forgiving yourself for your mistakes and acknowledging your humanity. It even means getting a therapist to help you do this more effectively.
5. Maintain Your Hygiene
You’ll want to stay fresh and keep up your hygiene routines in the chaos between studies and parties. Shower, brush your teeth, and comb your hair as often as needed for your self-image and how you present yourself. Take care of the other body parts that may also go unnoticed, like your teeth and skin.
Any aspects of yourself that you enjoy taking care of, like hair or nails, are perfect for leaning into. Maintaining your hygiene is good for your physical health, but it is also a great way to express yourself.
6. Drink Water
Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Life can get a little bus,y so remembering might be hard. Try carrying around a reusable water bottle so you always have Water available if you’re thirsty. Being thirsty is a sign you’re already experiencing dehydration. Hydration is paramount to keeping yourself lucid and energized with how much you’re moving around.
If drinking water feels like a chore, you can try variations to keep things fresh. Even if it means infusing your Water with fruits or vegetables, do whatever you need to enjoy drinking water. While coffee is a college staple, try to limit the number of dehydrating beverages you drink. Different kinds of milk and decaffeinated teas are some of the other options you have.
7. Stay Active
College involves a lot of sitting and being generally sedentary despite the amount of walking it takes to get around. Stay active can help counteract its effects and provide opportunities to clear your head. It would be best if you carved some time each day for a run or gym trip to reap the benefits.
The more fit you become, the less energy these exercises will take and the more you’ll have throughout the day. It’s the perfect supplement to a good night’s rest because they both provide similar effects.
You have more control over your life now and therefore have more responsibilities. You can have some fun and cherish your freedom without compromising your health. Don’t worry about fitting all of this in at once; it will get easier with practice. Just take in the new experiences, develop your routines, and ensure you’re taking care of yourself.