By Dorothy Richardson
Parent, wellness coach, DIY guru
The college experience is formative not just in terms of education, but also in terms of lifestyle. As students move away from their childhood homes for the first time, they have complete control over every facet of their day. What they eat, when they sleep, how much they party, when (or if) they do their homework is all up to them. While this can be a great learning experience for young adults, it also presents potential downfalls if poor lifestyle habits are adopted. Those habits can carry on into adulthood and have negative effects on short and long-term health. With that in mind, college students should make a concerted effort to build healthy lifestyle habits while still in school. Here are four ways to preserve physical and mental health, both now and in the future.
Establish a Regular Sleep Routine
A regular sleep schedule has numerous positive effects on a college student’s health. According to Scholarships.com, students who get 7 to 9 hours of sleep on a regular basis experience improved concentration and reduced fatigue. Those students may also experience a reduced appetite, which can help combat college weight gain. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note, the ill-effects of poor sleep can be severe; teenagers and young adults may suffer from poor academic performances, depression and increased social difficulties.
Unchain Yourself and Get Active
College students can spend long stretches of time sitting in class and studying at their desk. But prolonged sitting can come with consequences. Sitting for long periods with poor posture can place excessive stress on the back, leading to muscular pain and even conditions like spinal stenosis. Students should take breaks throughout their study sessions to get up and get active. Students should also be mindful of how heavy backpacks, poor diets, excessive screen time and other variables can affect their back health, according to Laser Spine Wellness. For tips and features on back health, check out online videos and resources offered by Laser Spine Institute on their Youtube channel.
Avoid Excessive Drinking
Drinking is a common pastime among college students, but it can have damaging consequences both while in college and years into the future. For one, excessive binge drinking can cause damage to the liver and other organs. Heavy drinkers face an increased risk of alcoholism, and it increases the risk of both alcohol poisoning and sexually transmitted diseases and other problems compounded by poor decision making, according to the CDC. And new research coming out of Harvard University suggests excessive drinking during the college years can actually increase an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life, while moderate drinking (up to 3 drinks nightly) can reduce this risk.
When Stress and Sadness Overwhelm, Seek Professional Help
Maintaining mental health can be a serious challenge for many college students. High stress, fluctuating moods, homesickness and depression can all create challenging obstacles to overcome. Fortunately, many colleges and universities offer free or low-cost mental health services to students in need. Students should take advantage of these services to mitigate the negative affects of their mental health conditions. By seeking out professional help, students can develop coping skills that will help them manage their current problems and even give them the tools to handle similar situations in the future.
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