College Survival Guide: 9 Ways to Stay Healthy While Living On Campus

With burnout around every corner, it is no surprise that we collegiettes worry about our health! At one point or another most college students experience the effects of an overwhelming list of responsibilities and unresolved stress. What I can say after my freshman year is: have no fear! A little adjustment, help from university resources, and self-love are all you need to reorganize your life and make your health priority number one. 

1. Get enough rest

Please sleep. If you need a nap, take a nap. I have not once regretted skipping a class to catch up on sleep, but it is important to do your best to be present too as many lectures as you can. If you can manage a regular sleep schedule, do not take it for granted. Sleep deprivation can result in poor health (like weight gain or more colds), irritability, and difficulty concentrating on your work. College students easily fall victim to poor sleep habits, but not you, right?

2. Manage stress

Too much stress (the negative kind) weakens your immune system and causes procrastination, social avoidance, and well, feeling bad. It happens. Find your methods for de-stressing and evaluate if they are healthy. Some good options are spending time with friends, reading a book, hitting the gym, or engaging with something creative. Being organized will help you stay on top of your stress.

3. Find your social niche 

I can not emphasize enough that college is the time to find your people (or person). All it takes it one conversation with a friendly person on campus. Visit student organization fairs, be active on Mason’s Facebook groups for updates on events, and when an audition, tryout, or offer opens up to join something bigger than yourself: Go. For. It. Joining a sports team on a whim is hands down the best decision I ever made in college. Community is your resilience when stress hits. Friends bring you hot soup, drive you to the ER, drag you to the gym, check up on your mental health and encourage you to do your best. 

4. Create a dorm space that feels like home

Your dorm room, roommate(s), floor, and building is one of the environments in which you will inevitably spend most of your day. Make the effort to be on good terms with your neighbors and to curate a space that is inviting and comfortable at the end of a busy day running between classes. Environment plays a big role in health, so make sure your room is a clean and safe space. If you have any issues with this do not hesitate to have an open conversation with your roommate or speak with your resident advisor (RA). Your living partners should be in agreement with how your dorm space is kept. 

5. Take advantage of the gym

Mason has three gyms as well as recreational activities that include personal training and fitness activities. Not into the gym? Go on an Outdoor Adventures excursion. For a higher level of activity consider being a walk-on for the athletics department or join a club sport. Examples include Mason Muay Thai, Swing Dance Club, and Soletap. See more student organizations here.

6. Spend time outside

Our campus -- construction aside -- has plenty of green space for studying, meditation or other activities like volunteer work. Take a walk out to Mason Pond, Innovation Food Forest or Potomac Heights Organic Vegetable Garden for a breath of fresh air or reinvigorating change of space. There are also a number of short trails around campus for jogs or walks. You can also check out a bicycle at the Recreation Athletic Center (RAC) for a full day. In addition to relieving some stress, you might find yourself wandering into a music or social event happening on campus. 

7. Make the dining hall your friend

I am a major advocate for ‘you are what you eat.’ Food is the foundation for your mood and energy levels. Mason has three dining halls: Southside, Ike’s and The Globe. Freshmen and sophomores with an Independence food plan have unlimited swipes, so what you eat is more of a concern than availability. Aim to fuel your body for feeling good. Try not to fall into the trap of pizza and breakfast cereal as your main food groups rather than opting for fruits and veggies. Look for vegetarian/vegan labels and head over to Simple Servings for healthier, more balanced options. 

Pro tip: mix and match vegetables from the salad and vegan bars with grains like pasta or rice to spice up your meals. Soups can also be upgraded by adding protein-rich quinoa, beans, and chickpeas.  

8. Know your resources

The simplest way to stay healthy is to get help. Mason has a ton of resources if you have any concerns about your mental and physical wellness. These include Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Student Health Services, Student Support and Advocacy Center, and Disability Services, all located in the Student Union Building (SUB) I. You can always ask your resident advisor (RA) or LLC peer mentor (PM) for assistance in finding resources. It also helps to talk to your advisor and professors regularly to stay confident in your coursework and keep stress to a minimum.

9. Have your own self-care essentials

College is the first test of adulthood, which means you mostly have to take care of yourself. Bring your own stock of basic first aid like Advil, Band-Aids, Neosporin, allergy meds and anything else relevant to your own specific health concerns. It's always good to have a supply of what works so you can stay in bed and nurse your cold rather than hiking out to Giant for NyQuil. This category also includes snacks like boxed macaroni and cheese or applesauce for when the dining halls are closed or inaccessible. 

We live in a world where doing the most is seen as the only way to succeed and be recognized. Burnout is the new normal. The important revelation you need to make when this attitude puts your health at risk is that you can always say no. A break for your mental or physical well-being is always worth the short term opportunities you might need to walk away from. Nothing can stand in the way of a woman that recognizes how her health can make or break her success.