In the months before I headed off to college, I got a lot of advice from family and teachers about how to prepare myself. Advice about college parties, staying safe while walking around in the city, and how to make as many meals as possible with microwavable rice. But somehow, no one thought to give me any concrete instructions on how to take care of my health. How do I treat a cold while still being a functioning human being? What foods should I eat in the dining hall to stay fit and energized? How do I find time for “me time” when I have a roommate? I was content living in ignorance, and figuring these things out as I went along, but then the unthinkable happened: I got sick.
I got the cold that had been lurking in my friend group. I was sneezing, my nose was running, I lost my voice. I was also homesick; I didn’t know how to handle self-care, and it was directly linked to me not being able to take care of my health. Luckily, I have amazing parents and friends that could help me out once, and give me some helpful tips that I can keep in mind for the future.
Boost your immune system
One of the most important things you can do for your health at any time, but especially during college, is boost your immune system. This way, you can prevent being sick before it even happens. My favorite way to do this is to take a vitamin supplement every day. An easy way to get some more vitamin C is by taking Emergen-C, which is a vitamin drink mix that comes in a powder. Since I am now a broke college student, I get the cheaper CVS brand, but it functions the same way. I open the packet, pour it into my water, shake it up, and instantly have a super easy supplement with vitamins C and B!
Not drinking water can cause headaches, fatigue, dry mouth, and can put you in a cranky mood. Yikes. It’s really important to get enough water throughout the day, especially if your major or daily life requires you to be physically active. Carrying a water bottle with you will make it easier to stay hydrated. If you don’t like the flavor of water, or find it boring, there are many products that you can use to add flavor to your water that come in either a liquid or powder form.
Eat lots of fruit and veggies, but don’t forget about protein!
Eating fruits and vegetables is a great way to stay healthy during college. However, if you only eat fruits and veggies, your body will be lacking the complex carbs and protein that it needs to get through a day of learning and possibly exercising. To remedy this, add some beans to your salad, or eat some whole wheat pasta occasionally. Carrying bags of almonds or another kind of nut with you for in between classes is a good way to keep your mind awake if you don’t have the time to get a whole meal.
Find a way to get “me time”
As a freshman in college, you will most likely have a roommate. Even if you love your roommate, sometimes it can get frustrating that you don’t have a room to yourself, especially if you were used to having your own room at home. This was the hardest part about transitioning to college for me. I’m still getting used to it. One way you can get around this is to figure out when your roommate will be in class, and make some time for yourself during that block of time if possible. So that way, if you need some alone time to nap, sing to your favorite Disney songs, or maybe even have a stress cry—we’ve all been there—you can do it without interruption. If this isn’t realistic for you at this time, you can try to find places on- or off-campus to do something independently. Try to find a hiking trail, a museum, or a quiet coffee shop (with free wifi) where you can go for a couple hours and decompress.
Mt. Washington is a favorite place of mine to go to decompress.
Photo by Mya Burns