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Monday, August 14, 2023

Six Wellness Hacks for Maintaining Your Health During the College Semester

Posted By: Advancing Care

College is a time of transition when young adults move into a more independent phase of life. With this new independence comes a lot of responsibilities, including keeping up with your health. While scheduling your annual physical exam may not be your first priority, it’s one of a few things you need to do to make sure you stay healthy and set yourself up for success going into the semester.

Before you go off to school, know these six tips.

  1. Keep Up with Your Annual Healthcare Appointments

“College is such a busy time for young adults that it’s easy to completely forget about your health. But it’s the most important thing to maintain,” says Amanda Jacobs, MD, Section Chief of Adolescent Medicine at WMCHealth’s Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. “Start with staying on top of your annual appointments.”

Before leaving for college, visit your primary care physician and dentist for a general checkup and any necessary vaccinations. “Schedule these appointments a few months in advance so you have enough time to fit them in,” says Dr. Jacobs. “There are new vaccinations and health screenings that become important when you enter young adulthood, and you don’t want to fall behind.”

  1. Get Adequate Sleep

Sleep is integral to academic success and, without it, you may have trouble focusing in class, staying alert or managing stress. “Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep for healthy functioning, but it’s not all that different for young adults. Until 25, your brain is still developing and you may need additional sleep to help you cope with new life stressors and a rigorous academic load,” says Dr. Jacobs. “Don’t be afraid to take naps and try to prioritize a consistent bedtime, especially during finals week.”

  1. Eat Well and Exercise

Taking care of your body with a balanced diet and regular exercise is key to staying healthy and avoiding that flu going around campus, for example. “Make sure you eat regularly. It can be easy to just run right to class when you wake up in the morning, so keep something nutritious and easy in your dorm room, like protein bars or yogurt,” says Dr. Jacobs. “It’s okay to have caffeine every day, but pair a snack with your coffee so you can fuel your brain and avoid over-caffeinating.”

Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine can also help boost your immune system, energy and mood. “Any movement counts, whether it's joining an intramural sports team, taking a free campus Zumba class or just going for a walk,” says Dr. Jacobs.

  1. Prioritize Your Mental Health

College life can be overwhelming and all-consuming. Listen to your body and look out for signs of stress, anxiety or depression. “Sleep and exercise play huge roles in your emotional and mental health. Prioritizing self-care can help you cope with stress, so don’t forget to take a break from studying to engage in activities you enjoy, like spending time with friends, moving your body or just relaxing,” says Dr. Jacobs.

Be aware of the mental health resources available on campus, such as counseling services and support groups. “All colleges have counseling and mental health services. They may not always be comprehensive, but they’re a good place to start,” says Dr. Jacobs. “But don’t hesitate to talk to a friend and reach out—that’s what your health center is there for.”

  1. Practice Safe Sexual Health

Student health centers offer educational resources, LGBTQ-friendly healthcare and testing for pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). “Pay special attention to your sexual health and seek medical care if a question, concern or health issue comes up,” Dr. Jacobs advises. “It’s important to note that, if you are over 18, all of the tests, services and counseling you receive at your student health center are completely confidential. You can trust those healthcare providers and feel confident knowing they cannot share your information with anyone.”

  1. Understand Your Campus Resources

Whether you’re seeking treatment for your physical, mental or sexual health, familiarizing yourself with your student health center is the best thing you can do. Know where it is and how to get there so, when you need it, you can get the help you need as quickly as possible. If you need a higher level of treatment, your health center can connect you with the appropriate medical care.

By following these tips, college students can proactively manage their health, adapt to their new environment and have a successful and enjoyable college experience.