7 Ways You’re Putting Your Health on the Back Burner

We’ve all been thereit’s the busiest week of the semester, and suddenly, in between the studying, club meetings and nights out, you get sick. When you have so much else going on, it’s easy to forget about healthy habits, but that can have some serious consequences. Before you get exhausted, overstressed or sick, make a few simple tweaks to get back on track! Here are seven ways you may be putting your health on the back burner and how you can fix it.

1. Not getting enough sleep


Between hanging out with friends, going to classes and doing work, getting in a full eight hours of sleep every night can often seem impossible. Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health, and not sleeping enough can have some serious side effects.

“Not getting enough sleep affects your immune system and lowers resistance to viruses and bacteria as well as reduces your ability to handle stressful situations and think clearly and calmly,” says Gail Stanton, a registered nurse and former nursing instructor at Holy Family University. Most adults need six to eight hours of sleep, but teenagers may require even more, says Stanton.

Sometimes six to eight hours just isn’t attainable, so if you do have a sleepless night, use the next few nights to catch up and try napping during the day.

While pulling an all-nighter to study may seem like a good idea, it will be harmful in the long run. Make a schedule or buy a planner to make sure you can plan out your study schedule in advance and still get enough sleep at night!

2. Not exercising


With a busy schedule, working out isn’t always a top priority—but it should be! Getting regular exercise is a great mood booster and a good way to help control your stress levels. Other than the physical effects of weight gain, a lack of exercise can have severe psychological effects as well.

“When you exercise, you release hormones called endorphins, which are feel-good hormones, and if you don’t exercise, you have a lack of these hormones, and it might make you feel melancholy or sad,” Stanton says. In the infamous words of Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy!”

Working out regularly can give you the attitude and energy you need to tackle the challenges that might come your way. It can be hard to find the motivation to exercise, but working out doesn’t have to be a chore! Find something you love doing, whether it’s going running with a friend or taking a yoga class at your school’s gym.

3. Eating out all the time


Without a home-cooked meal prepared by your parents every night, eating out often seems like the next best thing. Whether you’re chatting with girlfriends over some frozen yogurt or ordering some pizza after a night out, eating with friends is a social activity and a bonding experience. And for collegiettes on a budget or in a rush, fast food often seems like a quick, inexpensive option. But besides contributing to the freshman 15, fast food often doesn’t contain the nutrients your body needs to function properly.

The majority of restaurants now offer nutritional information online, says Stanton. “Try to view menu choices prior to going out, and choose a variety of foods from all four food groups,” says Stanton. “There are healthy choices if you plan ahead.” Sometimes you may choose a salad thinking it’s a healthy option, but if you look up the nutrition info online it could actually be loaded with calories from the dressing and other add-ins! So whenever possible, plan ahead to ensure you know what you’re consuming.

Dale Lavine, a Real Live College Guy for Her Campus, says he has noticed improvements in his health after cutting down on his fast food consumption. “I ate so much junk food, and that took an awful toll on my immune system and my ability to sleep well, which in turn took a toll on my focus and my academia. It's a domino effect, and it's hard to recover from,” he says. “I cut fast food down from four or five times per week to once or twice, and even that made a noticeable difference in my life.”

To cut back on eating out, plan a cooking night with your housemates where you prepare a few meals that can be kept in the fridge or freezer that you can eat throughout the week. That way, when you get busier as the week goes on, you have options at home that just need to be reheated. Check out our Health Editor’s Collegiette Eats blog for easy meals to make.

4. Overextending yourself


One of the great things about college is the plethora of clubs and organizations you can join. But if you’re feeling stressed and in a major time crunch, it might be time to re-evaluate your schedule. With so many options available, many collegiettes feel the need to sign up for a bunch of different clubs, rush a sorority or join a sports team (or do all at once!). While all of these activities can be fun, they’re also time-consuming, and a busy schedule can stress you out.

Hannah Richman, a senior at Hofstra University, says her busy schedule of classes, internships and her sorority became overwhelming and caused her to get sick. “Even though I felt sick every day, I just kept pushing and pushing until finally I couldn’t anymore,” she says. “After relaxing and sleeping for a whole weekend I felt SO much better. Sometimes you just need to take a breather!”

If you feel like you’re having trouble fitting everything in your schedule, it might be time to decide what is most important to you and let go of activities that are simply adding stress to your life. Give yourself a break every now and then–you deserve it!

5. Going out too often


In college, it can be easy to have FOMO (fear of missing out). When all of your friends are going out, it can be hard to say no, regardless of how exhausted, stressed or sick you feel. While going to parties is definitely a part of the college experience, there is such a thing as overdoing it.

It’s important to listen to you body and give it the rest it needs. Everyone’s threshold is different, but if going out is affecting you negatively, try to limit yourself to going out one or two times a week. Take time to relax and watch a movie, or catch up on some work. There will always be another party, but your health is one thing you should never take for granted.

6. Taking too many credits


It’s normal to feel stressed about a big exam or worry about a group project. But if you feel like you’re under a constant cloud of school-related stress, it may be time to talk to your academic adviser. College courses should challenge you, but not completely overwhelm you. Spreading your toughest courses out instead of taking them all in one semester can lighten your load and relieve some stress.

Dale says that his full course load on top of a busy personal life led his health to decline. “I traded in personal health for personal wealth and a decent GPA,” says Dale. “As far as I was concerned, why should I care about my body now if I can just work on it after I get my degree and start making some real money?”

Different people have different needs, and a schedule that works for your friends or classmates may not work for you. Before your workload has a detrimental effect on your grades or your well-being, don’t be afraid to ask for help from an academic adviser or a student health counselor.

“My advice to people is to budget appropriately and realize that some things—like personal health—are more important than grades,” says Dale.

7. Binge drinking


Drinking can be a huge part of college life, and whether you’re going to parties or heading out to the bars, it can be easy to overdo it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, binge drinking for women is defined as drinking four or more drinks in about two hours, and a study has shown that women actually binge drink more than men.

Other than the obvious consequences of alcohol, like a hangover or bad decision-making, overconsumption of alcohol over an extended period of time can have seriously detrimental effects to your physical health.

“You may replace healthy intake of food with alcohol calories, which may be detrimental to your overall well-being, due to [a] lack of vitamins and nutrients,” says Stanton.

You can still go out and have fun without excessively consuming drinks every single night! Before you have that extra shot or one last beer, think about how it might affect you in the long run. You can also have a sober friend promise to look out for you, or only take out with you the amount of cash for one or two drinks and a cab ride home—leave your credit card in your dorm.

 

Healthy living and college life don’t always go hand in hand, but it’s important to remember that your health should take priority in your life. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, whether that’s getting an extra hour of sleep at night, making the time to exercise or skipping a night out every now and then. Your health is important, so don’t take it for granted!