Written by Sophia Klomparens
I had no idea how to take care of myself when I first came to Hillsdale. As a freshman, I had a terrible sleep schedule, didn’t pay attention to getting the right nutrients, and avoided exercise like the plague. By spring semester, I was frustrated. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so awful! But as I slowly learned to care for my physical needs, I made a discovery: human beings are mind, body, and soul. If we develop our minds but don’t take care of our bodies and souls, we’re making it harder to experience the whole joy of being human.
But we’re all busy college students, and sometimes we need a reminder of how to stay healthy. Here are five tips for staying healthy in college—plus the science that backs them up—and the reasons why they’re important to remember, even when your schedule is full and you’re feeling stressed.
- Drink water. You are 60 percent water, so you need way more fluids than you think. Even slight dehydration has a negative effect on mood, so you’ll lose motivation quickly if you aren’t drinking enough water. Studies recommend that men drink about three liters of water per day, and that women drink two liters. Drinking water boosts metabolism, aids digestion, and increases your energy levels, so it’s the easiest way to improve your overall health. To remind yourself to stay hydrated, make sure to carry your favorite water bottle with you around campus. There are filtered drinking water fountains in every building.
- Move regularly. Students are prone to sit for long periods when studying, but your brain needs regular exercise to focus. If you’re too busy to get in a full workout, at least get up and take a short walk once for every hour you’re studying. But no matter how full your schedule is, you should always take advantage of the gym—after all, this is the last time in your life that a gym membership will be free! Head over to the Roche Sports Complex for a morning workout with Associate Dean of Men Jeff “Chief” Rogers, or try out an evening cycling class. Make sure you find a buddy to work out with. It’s harder to skip your workout if you’ve made an appointment with a friend. Spend a few minutes creating the perfect workout playlist, then treat your time at the gym as time to focus on yourself. But don’t worry if you can’t make it to the gym more than once or twice a week—even just walking for a few extra minutes will help you feel focused and energized when you sit down to do your homework.
- Eat real food. You’re in college, and you should definitely treat yourself to a cookie or a bowl of ice cream every now and then. You don’t have to give up all sugar or fat; just make sure to eat lots of real food that fuels your body. As a general rule, the perfect plate is half full of fruits and veggies, a quarter full of lean protein like chicken or fish, and a quarter full of healthy starches like rice or quinoa, but don’t waste too much energy on getting these proportions exactly right. Listen to your body, and eat food that makes you feel good and gives your body energy.
- Get lots of sleep. I know, I know—you’ve got a midterm tomorrow, the rough draft of your term paper is due at midnight, and you haven’t had a real conversation in what feels like days. Getting eight hours of sleep every night seems impossible, but keeping a good sleep schedule is so important for your overall health and well-being. Sleep improves your memory and problem-solving skills, so you’ll actually remember all those vocabulary words on your test. Not only that, but getting quality sleep spikes hormones linked to a positive mood, so you’ll feel happier and more motivated to study hard when you get a good night’s rest. Plus, you’ll have more energy, so you’ll actually feel like hitting the gym.
- Manage stress. As a busy college student, you probably know how it feels to be completely overwhelmed by everything you have to do. Stress can have lots of adverse effects on your health, from physical problems like headaches and upset stomachs to mental problems like anxiety and depression. Eating your veggies and working out regularly will help relieve stress, but there are other strategies you can use. Getting a planner and checking off your daily tasks can help you organize your homework and schedule. I started using a bullet journal about a year ago, and it changed my life. You should also make sure to have a hobby that will take your mind off of classes. That could be an extracurricular, a quiet activity like painting, or something simple like taking walks through town. No matter what you choose to do, make sure you have an outlet to help relieve stress.
Follow these five tips, and you’ll be well on your way toward caring for your whole self—mind, body, and soul. So write that paper, eat those veggies, and take that walk. Your future self will thank you!
Sophia Klomparens, ’21, studies English and Latin. Most days you’ll find her in AJ’s drinking coffee, obsessing over the Aeneid, and listening to unreasonably angsty music. If you ever want to have a passionate discussion about Virgil, let her know—she’s running out of people who will listen.
Published in March 2020