Heading off to college is an exciting time in a young adult’s life! It is often the first time they are living away from home and having the chance to set their schedule, both for classes at school and how to spend their free time.

With that freedom of choice, your schedule can quickly become filled with too many options, and not enough time to incorporate everything you should be doing. Studying, attending classes, time with friends, new adventures, and unique experiences all jockey for a spot on the schedule, leaving less time for things like working out, taking a walk, or maintaining other healthy habits like eating right or retaining some time for self-care.

Here is a guide to help busy college students stay on a healthy path, as they navigate the ups and downs of college life!

Routine and Habits

This is often talked about and that is because routine and habits are key for staying happy and healthy.

  • Get into the habit of completing certain tasks, so that they become second nature, just like brushing your teeth twice a day.
  • Start your day off with a healthy and filling breakfast, to make sure you have the energy to push through the day.
  • Have a regular time that you study, complete your assignments, and take care of all your homework requirements.
  • Procrastinating to begin your papers and projects until the last minute can cause unnecessary stress and lower the quality of your work and potential on the project.
  • Go to bed around the same time each night, including on the weekends, to regulate your sleeping patterns, and ensure you are getting enough sleep.

Prioritize Sleep

When you are busy, sleep is often the first thing that gets short-changed. We exchange much-needed sleep to get in a little more study time, one more Netflix episode, or one more hour with friends.

According to sleepfoundation.org, sleep “is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly.”

The amount of sleep each person needs varies, but aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. While naps when available can help, it is important to get deep, restful sleep. Controlling the temperature of the room, sleeping with a fan on, utilizing a white noise sound machine app, or using a face mask and room darkening curtains to block out the light are all tips and tricks to explore to see which can help you get the most rest that you need.

Also, if you do have trouble staying asleep or getting a full night’s rest, ask your doctor about getting a sleep study, as sleep apnea can often be a factor that might be blocking your sleep.

Downtime / Personal Time

College offers so many things to experience and explore, not to mention the daily requirements of going to classes each day, and possibly working, trying new clubs or social interactions, etc., oftentimes downtime and personal time are what fall off the schedule.
Be sure to schedule time where you can sit and relax, and recharge from all that is going on. Whether that is sitting down alone on the couch to watch your favorite Netflix show, going to the movies, or setting aside time to play board games with friends or your roommates, having time devoted to nothing else but relaxing and doing the things you want to do can be invaluable.

Maintaining Healthy Relationships

With all the new things happening on campus, it can be tempting to let the call home to your mom or dad slip. It is important to keep in touch with your family and friends to keep yourself grounded. These relationships can be vital during hard times that may come. Additionally, be sure to add time to reconnect with those back home on a routine basis to your calendar, as there may come a time when these relationships are a lifeline to your mental health.

Safety

Being in a new environment is exciting, and leads to opportunities to try new things and explore new places.

Whether on or off-campus, be aware of your surroundings. When meeting new people, suggest meeting in public places, or even going out on group dates with others, allowing you to get to know someone, and also still have the comfort of having those you know around you.

Take advantage of self-defense classes near you, or review some techniques on YouTube and become familiar with one or two that you would be comfortable using.

Exercise

For many, the hardest to accomplish is regular exercise. In order to stay physically and mentally healthy, getting in some form of exercise, even just 10-20 minutes a day can be very beneficial.

While hitting the gym is always a great option, sometimes, that just doesn’t fit in the schedule. Be open to re-thinking the standard that “to exercise and be healthy, I have to hit the gym.”

Instead, open up to the idea that fitting in a quick jog around campus, or walking to class instead of jumping onto a shuttle or driving can do the trick.

Or, try new activities or sports where you can socialize, try something new AND get in some sweat equity, all at the same time. Maybe join a co-ed softball club, try swimming or rowing, pickleball, Zumba, or another dance class.

There are also options such as a yoga or meditation class, that can help with stress and relaxation management, to help deal with daily pressures and responsibilities.

Or take it a step further and more adventurous, perhaps post on a meetup or social board, and see if others would like to join you for a 5K or Mud Run, and even schedule some pre-event training sessions or get-togethers.

Eating Healthy

It can be tempting to order UberEATS or call for pizza delivery during a late-night study session. But eating healthy and being prepared with food on hand to eat and having snacks to partake of is essential in avoiding the dreaded “freshman 15” and the weight gain that college students often put on, due to their eating habits and changes in activity level and metabolism.

Set aside time to make a grocery list and hit up the grocery store routinely, to have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand. These days, even gas station convenience stores have fruits and healthy snacks available for purchase.

If an option, find a company that can do meal prep for you, and then all that is required is for you to reheat the refrigerated meals when you are ready to eat.

Check to see if you have a communal garden near you, and purchase a plot of the garden to tend and grow your own vegetables.
Or if you have roommates, split up the grocery shopping duties, try new recipes together to find new ways to cook while exploring new-to-you fruits and vegetables.

Instead of purchasing pre-made meal prep, maybe get a group of friends together to slice, chop, and cook your weekly meals, making it both a social event and ensuring you have affordable and healthy food to eat each week!

Health Concerns

Don’t be nervous to visit the on-campus doctor or health clinic for any health concerns. This is often included in your tuition and they have seen and heard it all. Whether you have a physical ailment or are needing assistance with stress, anxiety, or sleep issues, visiting the doctor is the first step to getting help and back on track.

Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist

College brings a lot of new experiences and can be overwhelming at times. Seek out a therapist or psychiatrist to address any mental health issues that may arise, or if you are having interpersonal issues with a friend or roommates, or experiencing loneliness that can be associated with changes in living situations.

Having a listening ear and someone to turn to who can give qualified advice is invaluable during times of transition and struggle. It may be necessary to see a psychiatrist to be prescribed medications that can help with mood stabilization, and there is no shame in asking and accepting for assistance with mental health.

Finances

Finances are often sparse while in college, having to pay for housing, food, tuition, books, etc. Often students rely on additional financial support from family and friends when there isn’t enough time in the day to work a part-time job. Staying within your budget each semester can be difficult. If necessary, reassess living arrangements, and consider if a more affordable housing solution at BYU-Idaho can save you money.

If possible, get in the habit of having a set amount that you can spend for extracurricular activities, whether that is for each day, week, or month. This habit of living within your means will be a lesson that can benefit you for the rest of your life, versus going into debt and having to dig out of that financial hole once you have graduated and are trying to move on to the next step in life.

Staying true to you

College is a time to learn more about yourself, what you want in life, and what you are looking forward to in the future. It can be scary as you have new experiences, explore new ideas and ideologies, and venture out into adulthood. Be open to new adventures, but also remember to make health and wellness an integral part of your journey, while remembering to account for your own values and staying true to your dreams, desires, and wishes!