It’s back to classes this past week for university students! As we know, back to school in college or university doesn’t just mean back to long days of classes and evenings spent in the library. For some, it also means back to living away from home, sticking to a budget, weekend (and the occasional weekday) parties or social events, and extracurriculars like volunteer or committee work. All of this on top of your studies can definitely make it hard to find time for cooking, moving, sleeping, and de-stressing. Well, that’s where I come in. I’m here to help!
I’m sharing my top wellness tips for college and university students, because let’s be real, it wasn’t too long ago I was juggling it all as a student as well. Let’s dive in.
- Sleep Smarter
I definitely attribute some of my university successes to how highly I prioritized sleep. I recognized early on how poorly I function (and feel) on little sleep and I knew if I wanted to do well in school and enjoy myself, I had to catch those z’s. I know it may feel impossible – and when it’s crunch time sometimes it is – but that doesn’t mean you can’t aim to sleep well on average throughout the semester.
Sleep allows not only our bodies to rest and regenerate, but also our brains. There’s a reason why you can’t think straight when you’re running off of 4 hours a night. While it’s tempting to put off studying until everyone else has turned down for the night, missing out on sleep will affect your memory and ability to focus. It will likely also make you feel lethargic, leading you to be less likely to partake in any sort of physical activity or movement (another tip that we’ll get to).
Here are some easy ways to get more z’s in college or university:
Use ear plugs – Living in a dorm or an apartment with roommates can be pretty unpredictable when it comes to noise levels at night. Popping a pair of ear plugs definitely helped me block out loud roommates and Wednesday night party-goers for a more sound sleep.
Limit electronic use at night – I know in this day and age it’s not easy, but trying to cut down on phone/laptop/TV time before bed can help you sleep better. Research has shown that technology use before bed can compromise our sleep. This is because the blue light from our TVs or phone screens can actually inhibit the production of melatonin (chemical needed for sleep) in our brains. Try to put away your phone and turn off Netflix 30-60 minutes before bed! If you need to study – try printing out notes or slides so you can shut the laptop down earlier.
Don’t stay up for any reason – I know that FOMO is a real thing, and there are so many reasons for late nights in college and university. That being said, I think it’s important to judge what will be worth the lack of sleep. If you and your roommates are sitting around on scrolling Instagram come 10:00 pm, it may be a good time to hit the hay. Ask yourself “Will this be worth feeling tired tomorrow?” While some things absolutely will be, others will not. You be the judge.
- Make Movement Fun
This really applies beyond college and university, but exercise is a great way to release stress and boost your mood amongst the on-and off-campus craziness. But this doesn’t mean you have to slave away on the treadmill or join the varsity teams in the weight room. Some of my suggestions include:
Ask a friend or roomie to hit the gym with you before or after class. Moving together always makes it a little more fun!
Join an intramural sports team or run/walk club. I joined a campus running club the one year I didn’t play varsity soccer. I loved meeting new people that I wouldn’t have otherwise and getting fresh air after a long day in classes.
Try group fitness classes! Does your campus gym offer free or cheap fitness classes? Are there student rates at studios in your university city/town? There are so many different classes these days that there’s something for everyone. And again, it’s a great way to meet new people.
Hit up YouTube. Roll out your mat and search the endless list of workout videos on YouTube. From yoga to HIIT and bodyweight workouts, you can just push aside the couch and get a sweat on at home!
- Plan Meals and Pack Snacks
While I believe it’s important to honour our bodies and eat intuitively, I also feel that having a guiding plan can help us save time and money when it comes to meals and snacks.
If you live in an apartment and are on your own to cook most meals, I definitely find it helpful to sit down at the start of the week (say, Sunday) and either plan a few dishes that come together easily, then write out your grocery list. Or take a look in the fridge and see what you can make that week with what you already have. Write the meals down on your calendar. This way, when you get home from a busy day you already know what you’re making and you already have the ingredients.
If you live in a dorm and rely on meal hall for most meals, it’s still important to have snacks stashed to take to class, the library, or wherever your day takes you. Some of my favourites in university were:
- Mixed nuts or almond packets and dried fruit (dried mango was my jam)
- Apples, oranges and bananas because they don’t need to be refrigerated (but beware of fruit flies)
- Nut butter packets to have with fruit or oatmeal made in the microwave
- Energy or granola bars (I try to stick with lower sugar, higher protein and fibre bars that I know will keep me satisfied longer)
- Party Hard, Hydrate Harder
College and university are absolutely a time to enjoy yourself, create memories and make lifelong friendships. This may or may not include attending events, parties, bars/clubs, etc. If it does, one way to prevent and manage the aftermath of a night out consuming alcohol is to drink more water.
Before: If I knew I was going to be going out one night, it was extra important to me to ensure I was sipping water all day long. Anything to minimize a hangover.
During: Once you’re out at the party or the bar, it wouldn’t hurt to take a break from the beer and grab a glass (or two) of water. In fact, you’ll probably thank yourself for it later on.
After: When you get home, I also recommend drinking a tall glass of water before bed. It helps to set a full glass beside your bed as a reminder. Let’s be real here, drinking water probably won’t be the first thing on your mind when you get home, so having some ready is a great way to remember. We’ve all been there. 😉
Aside from partying, hydration is generally key in helping you feel well. Try to balance out all of the coffee by carrying a bottle with you during the day. Set a goal to refill it 2-3 times depending on the size. Carrying a water bottle is just second nature to me, but I’m always surprised how many people will go all day long without sipping on the good stuff.
- Take Care of Yourself, But Not Too Much
While I applaud you for your interest in wellness while in college or university, I want you to know it’s not the most important thing. Like I said, this is a time in your life to make memories, enjoy yourself, and not take life too seriously. You’ll have plenty of time for serious stuff down the road.
While it may seem like an odd concept, 3 am pizza with your friends after a night out is a healthy, fun, “college” thing to do. As is going for ice cream with your boy or girlfriend as a study break. Just as it’s important to get (on average) enough sleep, eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods, move your body, and drink enough water, it’s equally important to socialize, have fun and maybe even be a little irresponsible sometimes.
University can be tough, and your mental health is #1. Moving, eating and sleeping well can all help to promote mental health, but so can laughter, socializing, and having friends you trust or people to talk to. Building relationships and supports – especially if you’re away from home and family – is also key to your wellbeing in college or university. If you reach a point where your health, fitness, or wellness goals are holding you back from embracing the few short years you have in college, it may be time to take a step back.
Now, just for some lighthearted fun ( and to make this post a little more relatable)I thought I’d share some throwback photos from my 4 years in university.
I’d love to know – are you studying in college or university right now? What are some ways you make sure to take care of yourself? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!
As always, thank you so much for reading. Sending love and best wishes to all of you in college and university. You’ve got this!