Healthy Habits for the New School Year

June is over, the Independence Day fireworks have faded, and August is suddenly around the corner. College students are moving into new apartments, buying books, and making the most of the last few weeks of freedom. We all know that going back to school means friends, classes, part-time jobs, and often, not nearly enough hours in the day. With that kind of time crunch, good habits and self-care can fall by the wayside. Here are a few healthy tips to consider making a part of your routine before going back to college:


1. Think about prepping or planning meals.

With the rush of the semester, it’s easy to forget about cooking or preparing meals that work for your lifestyle and body. College campuses tend to attract delicious, fast food restaurants that make it all too easy to grab a quick bite after class instead of going home and cooking. This can get expensive and make you feel less than great. Planning meals and shopping for what you want to eat ahead of time makes eating healthy and saving money easy. That pizza after work doesn’t seem as tempting when you know you’ve got all the ingredients for a tasty meal in your fridge at home. Crockpots and slow cookers can be great for a busy schedule; you can set it on low before your morning class and come home to a finished meal in the evening. My friends like to tease me about my enthusiasm for slow cookers, but nothing beats the convenience and ease.


2. Find ways to get physical that you enjoy.

Classes, clubs, and jobs can all contribute to the typically sedentary lifestyle that students experience. Getting up and moving is good for your mind, body, and emotional well-being. It seems like a small thing, but physical activity in your routine is refreshing, simple, and overall beneficial. Students can get really used to only exercising their brains, but exercising your body can be just as important! Clubs, the student health center, and even getting together with friends can make activity enjoyable. Being in a club, I love my dance company at school because I get to turn my brain off and focus on my body.


3. Prioritize getting enough sleep.

Between balancing homework, work, and a social life, sleep can feel like it’s the last priority for students. We’re used to keeping weird hours, going to sleep late and getting up early just to do the same thing the next day. Healthy adults require at least seven hours of sleep regularly, and over time, sleep deficits can impact health long term. In the short term, being well rested will increase energy levels, make your studying more effective, and keep you from getting sick. Getting enough sleep makes you feel good, and feeling good helps you enjoy your day and get everything you need done.


4. Establish a routine that works for you.

The school year can be a super hectic time full of commitments, friends, and assignments. It easily gets overwhelming, especially coming in from a long and relaxing summer. Find a routine that makes you feel good, lets you take care of your obligations, and gives you the time to unwind and have fun. If you’re an early riser, make sure you’re going to sleep early as well. If you need time to wind down after class, plan for half an hour of free time when you think about what you need to get done. It just needs to feel good and work for you, but knowing what’s going on and what you need to do can really reduce stress and help you be effective with your time.


5. Consider your health an investment.

All of these tips come down to one thing: taking care of yourself is an investment. With everything that goes on during the school year, we can tell ourselves “I’ll sleep after this week is over” or “I’ll relax after this project is over”. Prioritizing is a great part of time management, but a lot of the time, those best-laid plans fall off our radars when the next thing comes up. Take care of yourself a little at a time and you’ll spend most of your time in peak mode, rather than letting yourself get run down. You are just as important as everything else you have going on.