Self Care Tips for the College Student to Help Avoid Addiction
by Maurine Anderson
For many young adults continuing their education beyond high school, college represents the very first opportunity to live out on your own—making it both exciting and daunting at the same time. As a result, those first few semesters away at school can prove emotionally taxing, making proper self care all the more important for your overall health as a college student.
So whether you are a parent of a teen who has just graduated high school, or you yourself are preparing to head to college this fall, here are some essential self care tips that help ease the transition into college life.
Build a support system away at school.
This article about overcoming hardship without your family beside you stresses the importance of building a support system on your own. The same applies when you are away at school, living away from your family for the first time. Seek to create your own “family” away from home.
This means taking the time to get to know your roommates, hall-mates, and classmates, and joining extracurricular activities that excite you so that you can meet people who share the same passions as you. In short, look for fellow students you have things in common with. They’ll be experiencing many of the same emotions and hardships as you, and you’ll find as you spend more time with these people that you actually do have a “family” even when you’re not with your family.
Keep in touch with family.
This tip is simple, but essential, make it a point to keep in touch with your family while you’re away. This means something different for each and every family, but for you that might mean video chatting once a week, texting on a daily basis, sending out postcards occasionally, and/or calling on the phone a few times a week. It can help to designate a particular day and time each week for phone calls or video chatting, Sunday afternoon, for example, so that you can look forward to that time with your family each week.
Take advantage of student health services.
Many schools offer student health and counseling services right on campus to any and all students who might need them. You’ll want to ensure that you have taken the necessary steps to qualify before taking advantage of these services, but for the most part, these services are meant to benefit the student body as a whole.
So if you feel that you are experiencing new health complications while you are away at school, or if you feel that you need to talk to a counselor about your emotional health as you navigate your studies, go ahead and use these services that are available to you. Your school might also have a special hotline for those students who might benefit from receiving counseling services over the phone.
Pages upon pages of required reading and paper writing might tempt you as a college student to sacrifice exercise time for the sake of spending more hours studying, but doing so can be a major detriment to your health.
Moreover, according to this article, getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise each day (this can include walking to class) can actually help improve your grades. This is because exercise helps enlarge those areas of the brain that deal with memory and focus. So instead of treating exercise as something you’ll only fit in if you happen to complete your studies on any given day, treat it as a priority.
Practice proper nutrition.
Observing healthy eating habits can be difficult when you are away from home for the first time and enjoy the convenience of processed and fast foods. Eating in a dining hall where there are a myriad of unhealthy options to choose from doesn’t exactly help, either. Make it a point to eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in the nutrients you need to thrive both physically and mentally.
Take time for yourself.
Sure, this might not mean that you are free to spend six hours on a Wednesday consuming your latest obsession on Netflix, but it does mean that you should take some time out of each day to take care of your own needs, such as sleep, social time with friends, alone time while pleasure reading, or time spent preparing healthy foods to enjoy between study breaks.
Assess what your particular needs are as a college student, and strive to change whatever habits might be preventing you from meeting your personal needs. Do you find yourself craving social time after a long day of school work? Do you find yourself exhausted from several late nights of studying? Or do you find yourself paying less and less attention to personal hygiene as a result of all the busyness?
Keep in mind that you can plan to meet multiple needs at once. If you need to study for a big exam but want to spend time with friends, for example, consider inviting your friends to join you for a study session at the library. Or if you feel that you should be exercising more but still want to have a social life, you might join a sports club or find friends who want to run outdoors with you.
Clean your room.
Keeping your room neat and orderly can do incredible things for you mentally and emotionally, so do your best to do some cleaning on a regular basis. As an added bonus, many college students happen to find cleaning therapeutic; so feel free to treat it as a relaxing, yet productive study break.
Keep your routine structured.
Staying up until 4 in the morning one night and then going to sleep at 6 p.m. the following night doesn’t exactly say “sustainable routine.” Seek to create a structured routine that helps you know what to expect out of your week—and that builds in time for the things you need to do, like study, exercise, sleep, and socialize. A routine with structure can prove especially comforting emotionally.