Do you imagine college being a place to eat healthy, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, get good grades, and actually have friends, all at the same time?
I am a current senior, and I’m still trying to master all of this. A lot of the times I’ve felt like I had to choose one over the other. I’ve sacrificed sleep for friends, homework for sleep, exercise for food, etc. etc. I’ve felt like I had to pick and choose to do anything, and I’ve been struggling and juggling responsibilities these past three years, like almost every other college student.
But I’m coming to you now to let you know that IT’S NOT IMPOSSIBLE! WE CAN MAINTAIN HEALTH AND WELLNESS IN COLLEGE! I still haven’t mastered everryythiinngg, but I’m pretty close, so I’ll share a few experiences and words of encouragement that I would literally tell myself various times throughout my college career (and I have them spell out “HEALTH”...just to keep the theme going here.)
H - “How many times are you going to say next time?! Just get up and go to the gym!”
In the past, my answer to this question was “as many times as I want!” It wasn’t until the summer before my senior year that I came to my senses and actually committed to consistently exercising. I was an athlete in high school, so I came to college knowing I had to do something to stay fit - there are plenty of club sports teams, there are two fitness centers on campus and an exercise room in every dorm, but for some reason it took so much out of me to exercise in any way, shape, or fashion. This year, I had to literally designate an hour or so on my busy schedule to go to the gym. I initially thought it was extra, but it actually helped me plan out my days and get in the workout that I needed, even if it was for only 20 minutes! I also found amazing workout buddies that motivate me and are always there to hold me accountable.
E - “Even though I know it’s fajita night in the Dining Hall and they have my favorite cookies and cream ice cream, fight it! I’ll feel worse afterward if I overeat!”
If I had any food weaknesses, fajitas and cookies and cream ice cream would definitely be in the top 5. It’s taken me a long time to control what I eat. I’ve been up and down with my eating habits. Sometimes they would be great, then other times I would just crash and go downhill. There is so much food all at your fingertips in college, it’s easy to consistently overeat or eat poorly. If you’ve heard of the “Freshman 15”, IT IS NOT A JOKE! I’ve had to make a serious effort to eat better for my own health, because I know how much your eating habits can affect your day-to-day. I have a few cheat days from time to time, but now, after googling health tips and experimenting in the dining hall, I’ve gotten much better at knowing what to eat!
A - “Are you really going to be productive if you stay up this late?”
Unfortunately, college is full of all-nighters. At times, all-nighters are necessary if you’ve procrastinated until the last minute and need to get an assignment done, but most of the time IT’S NOT WORTH IT! I used to get so little hours of sleep every night doing homework, averaging between 4-6 hours a night. It was a hard time for me, and it wasn’t until the summer after my sophomore year when I came to my senses. I had a full time internship and it was my first 9-to-5 work experience, and I knew I needed to get enough sleep to make it through such a long day. It was then when I realized what it felt like to actually get enough sleep and work a full day - IT WAS GLORIOUS. I felt so productive and energetic, I didn’t know such a thing existed. After this experience, I always tried to make sleeping a priority for me. It wasn’t easy for me to balance everything I had to do by the end of the night so I could get enough sleep, but I had to make it work for my own health!
L - “Lock in, focus, and do this work!”
There are sooooo many distractions in college - friends, food, friends who ask you to go get food, anything! I have had to mentally prepare myself for hours of work with these exact words to just get it done! I love my friends, but sometimes I had to put my phone on Do Not Disturb, find a new study place, and grind! I still have to say this to myself constantly, and make sure I’m not feeding into any excuses as to why I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
T - “Take a deep breath. Don’t stress about it.”
Stress is very common in college. I’ve always been the type to avoid stress at all costs because I know when I get stressed I break down … all the way down. There are times when you have to break down just to reset and get it all together again. College stress was different than anything I had experienced before I got to school - with my classes, my extracurricular activities, and everything else I’ve needed to balance, it can all be really hard! What’s gotten me through all of my stress is prayer, my friends, re-prioritizing my time, and making sure I make time for mental breaks! And when I hit those breaking points, I tell myself to breathe, take a step back, re-focus, and do the best that I can.
H - “Highlight the wins. Celebrate yourself, girl. You deserve it.”
This is sooooo necessary to remind yourself from time to time! I won’t lie, I would say this to myself even if I didn’t actually deserve it because I didn’t do nearly everything I was supposed to, but it’s fine. Mental breaks are key! Whether you treat yourself by being with friends, playing sudoku, or reading a book, don’t forget to congratulate yourself for the big and the small wins!
As I mentioned before, I haven’t mastered great health and wellness in college. I had to indulge in a fajita every time they were served in the dining hall (because it wasn’t that often and I love fajitas so much! But I got to the healthy place I’m in now because of different breaking points I’ve had throughout college. These breakthroughs came at different times of my college career. I always knew what I should have been doing, but it wasn’t until I saw the bigger picture and made a conscious, deliberate effort to change what I was doing and improve my health. I had to lock in and do the work at the right times so I could fit in my exercise, get to bed early enough so I wouldn’t be as stressed, and then benefit from the results to celebrate the big and small wins. I’ve had hard times, but it’s been a learning experience, and I’m happy to see how far I’ve come and where I’m headed along my journey of health and wellness!