A Freshman Girl’s Guide to Acing College Health and Wellness

Freshman year in college is an exciting time. After years of being guided by parents, teachers and school faculty members, you’re finally given the reigns to take control of your own life. From creating your class schedule and course load, to choosing where to live and who to surround yourself with, all your decisions will impact your road towards a successful life ahead.

Beyond where you’ll live and what you’ll major in, there are some lessons to learn in your first year of college that all, too often slip through the cracks – especially for female students. College health and wellness is easy to overlook, or in many cases jeopardize. And, although how well you care for yourself won’t show up directly on your GPA, it’s essential for achieving your goals.

Between scoring well in class and on tests, getting involved in campus activities and socializing, college students are a busy bunch. No matter what your course load and social life is, college years are an important time to learn to look after your health – physically and emotionally. Here’s how you can ace overall health and wellness from the beginning of your independent years:

Eating habits begin in early childhood, but taking personal responsibility for your diet is something that develops and ciments in your early 20s. Aside from the avoiding “freshman 15”, learning what (and when) to eat is something that will follow you into adulthood – for better or worse. Train your body to eat a healthy diet that includes lots of raw vegetables and fruits, be careful to drink alcohol in moderation and don’t smoke. These are the most basic guidelines for proper nutrition.

Get Fit
No matter your size, being fit is key for an overall healthy lifestyle. The earlier you get your body used to staying active, the better. Whether you prefer a regimented exercise routine or incorporate  physical activity into your week, being fit has a huge impact on your overall health. Not only does it increase your chances at a longer life, it boosts the quality of day-to-day life as well, and it’s a brain-booster too! Make sure to schedule at least 20 minutes a day/3 days a week to your physical fitness.

Practice Safe Sex
Some STIs (previously known as STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases) are curable, others are not. In any case, the only surefire means of prevention is abstinence, and since most people will not be sexually abstinent in the long-term, everyone needs to be aware about risk reduction for STIs. Anyone sexually active must know that there is always a potential to contract an STI, which sometimes can affect them for life.  Learn more about safe sex practices here.      

Stress Management
These are likely your first years of being responsible to balance so many aspects of your life, and with that often comes intense stress. Learning how to manage stress has benefits that will carry into the workforce and many other parts of adulthood.

Aside from eating well, sleeping well and staying fit, practicing mindfulness is a great skill to have in your set of life-skill tools. It promotes both mental and physical health including stress reduction, increased joyfulness, and improvement of your overall quality of life. It’s also been thought to help improve heart disease and high blood pressure, reduce feelings of depression, alleviate anxiety and associated disorders such as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)  and more. Building a strong mind is like building any other muscle in your body, regular exercise is key to achieving your goal. Start by practicing just a few minutes a day and with time you will strengthen your “mindful muscles”.  

You may assume that pulling “all-nighters” is necessary for getting through college, but sleep plays an important role in overall health, and should not be compromised for a grade. Lack of quality sleep deprives your body and brain of important renourishment. Your body and mind need rest in order to regenerate so that you can accomplish what the following day requires of you. One all-nighter too many will ultimately leave your body in “sleep debt”, a debt that can’t be paid up with a weekend of hibernation.  Find a bedtime routine that works for you, and stick to it – your adult self will thank you in years to come!

Many women only learn to take care of themselves after they’ve reached a point of emotional drainage. In fact, female self awareness is often considered a trait of women in their 40s, but it doesn’t have to take 20 years for you to get there!