8 Tips for College Students to Enjoy a Healthy, Balanced Year

There’s no way around it; college is stressful.  As a student, you’re moving to a new place with new people in new towns and handling more responsibility than ever.  Whether you’re an incoming freshman or a non-traditional student ready to earn another degree, these wellness tips are a great starting point to help reduce stress and get you through the school year mindful and balanced.

1. Exercise regularly
There’s no argument over the benefits of exercise.  Experts from country to country agree that any activity is better than none.  Besides keeping your cardiovascular and respiratory system healthy, it gives you a rush of endorphins that make you feel great![4]  Physical exercise can also help burn off stress and boosts productivity! Who couldn’t use a little extra boost when you’re staring at a mountain of homework?


2. Practice good sleep habits.
While it is amazing that college students can operate on nothing but black coffee and 3 hours of sleep to ace a final, that doesn’t mean it’s good for you.  There are plenty of negative effects that stem from not getting 6-8 hours of sleep per night such as increased irritability, reduced memory capacity, weight gain, and increased risk of mood disorders![2]  Try setting a bedtime for yourself, even if it’s late, to help make sure you’re remembering what the professor said in that 8 a.m. lecture.[2]


3. Limit the usage of stimulants.
Did you know that 78% of college freshman consume more than the daily recommended amount of caffeine per day? That amount of caffeine may be a great motivator for studying, but there’s a good chance it’s disrupting your sleep along with increasing the levels of stress hormones in your body![2]  Try sticking to one to two cups of Joe in a day, and cutting yourself off around 1 p.m. for the best sleep.


4. Find a support system.
Humans are social creatures by nature.  Psychologically and emotionally, we are healthier and happier when we surround ourselves with people we trust and who genuinely care about us![4] Since you aren’t at home with family anymore, find people (even just one!) who you connect with.  US News reported that “loneliness shows up in measurements of stress hormones, immune function, and cardiovascular function”, and none of those things are good for you or your academic career.[1]  Try joining clubs, teams, or organizations that fit your interests, and you’ll be surprised how easily your core group forms.


5. Give yourself a little “me time.”
Yes, it’s true: humans are social creatures. That doesn’t mean we don’t need time for ourselves, though!  Especially living in a dorm, you’re surrounded by others in the same exciting and nerve-wracking stage of life as you.  It helps you find your network, but it can be a bit suffocating after a while.  Taking a few hours to be alone and focus on yourself is vital for your mental health in college.


6. Recognize you’re human.
Set realistic expectations for yourself and others by working within your limits and setting attainable goals.  Sure, you’d like to have a 4.0 GPA, a social life, join all 37 clubs, and be at every football game, but setting goals that high can do more harm than good.  Since college is such a learning experience outside of the classroom as well, make those experiences positive by giving yourself space to make mistakes and learn from them!

7. Work on your negative thought patterns.­
Everyone has negative thoughts.  Self-doubt, worry, and regret are human emotions and are a part of life, but they can be problematic when they get to be repetitive. Messages like “must achieve”, “ought to be” or “mustn’t do” can set you up to fall short of your goals and to experience stress along the way.[1] If you notice yourself stuck in the negative, you can work on creating more positive messages instead! Notice when those thoughts come up, and try replacing them with affirming, self-caring thoughts instead!  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, most campuses offer counseling as a wonderful and useful resource![4]


8. Laughter is the best medicine.
Find humor in your life so you can release those good feeling endorphins, and gain some other health benefits too! It’s a great way to reduce stress, connect with friends, and even boost brain connectivity!  You’ll be in a better mood and happier throughout the day, and isn’t that what it’s all about?


Do you have any tips for the incoming freshmen? Share them in the comments below!


1. Managing Stress.

2. Sleep Deprivation the College Norm?

3. Six Science-Based Reasons Why Laughter Is the Best Medicine

4. 8 Health and Wellness Tips for College Students