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Regardless of which major you’ve chosen, college can be a stressful experience. From late-night study sessions to early morning exams and grad school applications, the challenges of college can take a toll on your body. In addition to those dark circles under your eyes, you may experience weight gain, stiffness, lethargy and loneliness as you work towards earning your degree.
While these symptoms are common, preventing them is relatively easy. All you have to do is take better care of your body.
1. Move Your Body
If you’re unsure where your campus rec center is — or were unaware your school had one — it may be time to start exercising again. Shed the freshman 15 with a good old-fashioned workout plan. Hit the gym and include both strength training and aerobic conditioning as you sweat off all those microwave dorm meals. Maintain your weight by moving your body for about two and a half hours each week.
Are you tired of hitting the gym? Use your student ID to get discounts at local fitness centers. Shop around to find a yoga studio or rec center that offers the best one and try out a class. Remember to explore your local parks and nature preserves, too. Spending time in the great outdoors can boost your body’s vitamin D production to support a strong immune system and healthy bones.
2. Eat Well
You are what you eat, so maybe swap that double Whopper for a green goddess smoothie. Fill your plate with whole foods and forego packaged meals that may have high sugar or salt contents. Apples, avocados, spinach, and other fresh produce will support good mental and physical health, so you can succeed in all your classes.
Drinking plenty of water is yet another important component of a healthy diet. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend throwing back 11.5 to 15.5 cups per day, depending on your gender and exercise habits. Increase your water intake by drinking a glass between each meal and before, duringm and after exercise.
3. Be Social
Sometimes, caring for your body is difficult to do alone. After a few days of working out consistently, sugary treats and sore muscles may distract you from your fitness goals. Stay on track by surrounding yourself with a strong, supportive community. Make a few friends at your gym or yoga studio and hold each other accountable. Encourage healthy habits and consider working out together a day or two each week.
Branching out and being social can give you a sense of community, improve your mental health and motivate you to stick to your routine. However, not every social gathering is beneficial. For example, you may be better off skipping the wild frat party or beer pong championship. Any relationships you make at these events will likely center around frequent alcohol consumption and other bad habits that can sabotage your physical health.
4. Sleep Better
Staying out late can also disrupt your circadian rhythm and impede your sleep. Eventually, those sleepless nights will catch up to you and negatively affect your overall health. Therefore, it’s wise to prioritize your sleep and aim for seven to eight hours of shuteye a night. Turn off your phone an hour before bedtime to give your eyes a blue light break and help you fall asleep faster. Unwind with meditation, a good book or some classical music. Then, slip into dreamland.
When your body has recovered, you should wake up feeling refreshed. However, if you can’t resist hitting the snooze button, you may need to establish a healthier morning routine. Wake up with an alarm clock that imitates the sunrise or use a smart alarm that will wake you up during your lightest sleep phase.
5. Establish a Routine
Tracking your diet, exercise, social life, and sleep on top of your already heavy workload can feel overwhelming. Who cares what you eat as long as you pass your exam, right? Well, if you want to be more productive and truly thrive during your college career, you must prioritize your health. Establishing a routine is one of the best ways to make sure you do so.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day and create morning and evening rituals to support your natural flow of energy. Make a to-do list, plan your meals in advance and don’t forget to attend all your classes. Establishing a consistent routine will give your life structure and will create momentum that’ll carry you through the toughest days. Plus, as your routine becomes habitual, you’ll naturally stop relying on willpower and your everyday tasks will require little to no effort.
Give Yourself a Break
Developing healthy habits and a consistent routine will help you take better care of your body. However, it may still be beneficial to break the mold every once in a while. After all, life wouldn’t be any fun without the occasional lazy day in or your weekly pizza night. So be kind to your body and indulge your guilty pleasures now and then. You might just find that giving yourself a break will help you stay on track.