College is full of new experiences like meeting new friends, learning new skills, and figuring out who and what you want to be as you grow older.
Sometimes, academic life can be stressful.
Over the past few years, researchers have identified that college students are struggling with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks more than ever before.
Between 2009 and 2015, the number of college students treated for anxiety increased 6% and 3% for panic attacks and depression. Nearly 15% of college students are diagnosed with anxiety each year, making the state of mental health at college a concern for parents and college administration.
Mental health concerns are not the only problem for these young adults. Over the past 20 years, college students’ self-ratings of their physical health have dropped drastically. Substance use, like alcohol and drugs, along with limited physical activity, could be to blame for the lower overall health perceptions of young adults.
It’s vital that you learn strategies to keep yourself healthy when away at school. Whether you’re currently enrolled in college or getting ready to head that way in the fall, we’ve rounded up a few of the best ways to maintain your physical and mental health when you’re in school.
Schedule Routine Check-ups
Your parents probably chose your physicians for you up to this point in your life. However, you’re going to need a physician while you’re away at school. Getting established with a healthcare practice will make it easier to be seen if you have a flare-up of any chronic medical issues and if you get sick during your college career.
There are a few things you should take with you or know before your appointment. Ask your parents about any relevant family health history, including a list of all screenings or immunizations you’ve had in the past. Jot down any new problems you’ve noticed, too, so that you can be sure to discuss those with your provider.
If you’re sexually active, talk to your physician about any screenings you might need to ensure you’re healthy. Schedule regular check-ups with your doctor to address any ongoing issues and to get a thorough exam.
Control Stress Levels
Attending classes, maintaining your grades, and keeping up with a job and other responsibilities can pile on the stress. A small amount of pressure is normal and even healthy. However, when it becomes severe and long-term, you may experience some of the physical effects of stress like headaches, upset stomach, and difficulty sleeping. High stress levels can also cause mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
Avoiding stress in college isn’t always possible, but you can learn how to manage it before it gets out of control. Try writing down your feelings in a stress journal. Include the date, time, and activity you’re participating in when you feel stressed. This will help you identify some of the triggers of your high-stress levels so that you can learn how to manage these situations effectively.
Getting plenty of physical activity each day is vital to your overall health and wellness. When you’re deep into your studies and homework, it might be easy to forget to get out for some exercise. Strive to get a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity daily for optimal benefits such as:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Lowering your blood pressure
- Decreasing your risk of type 2 diabetes
- Increasing the strength of your muscles, bones, and joints
- Boosting your mood and energy levels
If you’re looking for ways to increase your physical activity, find an intramural sports team on campus or head to the student athletic center. If you’re limited on time because of academics, take the longer route when you’re walking to class or the library. You can convert your steps to miles to see just how much distance you’re covering each day.
Track Your Status
Staying on top of your mental and physical health in college can be a challenge. If you’re looking for a strategy to keep track of your health, consider purchasing wearable technology. You might be thinking that the wearables only track your steps and sleep patterns, but the technology advancements in these devices have changed in recent years.
Some wearable tech can identify the early symptoms of dangerous conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Your doctor may be able to obtain valuable information from the device, too. Many health insurance companies are now offering discounts to individuals who have a thorough log of health and wellness activities in their wearable tech devices, which means you might even save a little money just by tracking your status.
other valuable tips:
Many college students live on fast foods and other types of convenience foods that are loaded with bad fats and calories. You need to strive to make healthy choices and eat the right portions of food at each meal. Find reputable resources like MyPlate on Campus to learn more about making healthy diet choices.
To get started, try using smaller plates to help with portion control. Limit foods that offer little or no nutritional value like ice cream, candy, and chips. Choose nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables. If you have a long day in class, stop by the cafeteria for a salad or pack healthy snacks to keep you away from vending machines and other unhealthy items.
Here’s to Being Healthy
There’s a lot to know about mental health in college. Creating healthy physical health habits now can set you up for a healthy lifestyle for years to come. Use these strategies to maintain your mental and physical health in college so that you can enjoy this time in your life.
Image Credit: Pixabay
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