Most universities have either already begun, or are about to begin their fall semester this week, and that means that waves of young students are starting or returning to classes. Something that I’ve always found harmful in our modern culture is how acceptable it is to treat your time in university as a time to treat your body like garbage and not keep up on mental and physical routines that would otherwise be commonplace and second nature. I also disdain the myth that students somehow need to differentiate from having fun or being healthy, as both are not only totally attainable, but easy to do at the same time.
You’re a Student First
At the end of the day, the sole reason to attend a university is to garner an education. Trade schools can prepare you for jobs, rec centers can let you play sports, and churches can act as a means to connect and socialize with people. Education is the real reason that young people flock to major cities and trade massive amounts of time and money to greedy administrators. I feel that for too long, university has been sold as a false bag of goods to so many young people, and we’re seeing the negative effects of it in the debt-burdened millennial generation, who collectively has no chance of paying off their student loans or finding employment with worthless degrees that will leave them fulfilled. As a society, we need to reorient and let college and university be what it’s truly meant to be for. Once you realize that your 4+ years at college are purely for you to learn advanced information from the world’s top scholars, and not an expensive retreat where you’ll “find yourself” and “be a kid”, you’ll be better off for it.
Scheduling is Everything
Once you make education your priority, maintaining your health is not only doable, but it’s almost mandatory. Your brain doesn’t work at peak efficiency unless your body has enough sleep, nutrition, and leisure time. This means that pulling an all nighter to cram at the library will never be as good for you as calling it a night early and reviewing in the morning. The amazing thing about college is that every professor gives out their syllabus, meaning that every single assignment, reading, project, and test is outlined clearly and should be marked down on your calendars. The fact that nothing, other than pop quizzes, will come as a surprise, means that you should never be in the situation where you’re up all night cramming to pass a class. If you’re somebody that gets behind on things, you never have an excuse in college, and there’s so many options nowadays to make sure that you stay on track. Once you have your classwork (which is the most important task) sorted, then you suddenly acquire the agency to start adding in essential tasks like exercising and cooking back into the equation.
Eat, Exercise, Pray (or Read) and Sleep
Something almost everyone fails to do is make sure they’re getting all the nutrition they need throughout the day. By the second semester of college, almost everybody wises up about not taking early classes, and if a student starts at noon, that means that they’re not waking up until close to noon, totally skipping out on breakfast. While it’s not mandatory to have a massive meal three times a day (I’d advise against that), it’s incredibly easy to slip toaster pastries, energy bars, fruit packs, and more into your backpack or purse and have something to get you through busy periods of your day. Also, it’s always worth going to bed early, so you can wake up early and have a big breakfast that keeps you going throughout your classes. I can’t explain how many times I’ve heard friends of mine shift uncomfortably in their seats as their stomach rumbled, or how many people I’ve heard complain how much easier a quiz would be if they weren’t starving or dehydrated.
Learning to cook for yourself is a must when you’re living on a college budget, and being healthy and economical can be the same thing. The trick to keeping a healthy diet is figuring out what your body does and doesn’t like, and catering your cooking habits towards those criteria. For example, I can’t eat cheese, my girlfriend’s body doesn’t react well to carbs, and neither of us benefit from consuming sugar. This hasn’t stopped us from consuming large breakfasts, as we typically consume vast amounts of sausage, eggs, peanut butter, and veggies. As far as snacks, hummus and carrots have become our friend, and dinners are typically comprised of beef or chicken cooked up with a myriad of sides. I say all this to point out that a simple grocery run once a month is enough to stock our cabinets full of goodies that keep us healthy and filled during our busy days, and once you find what works for you, it’s easy to replicate.
The final element I suggest for new students is to fill their spiritual requirements, whether they’re religious or not. Not every person believes in a deity or belongs to a religion, and that’s fine, but every human requires some level of fulfillment outside of school, activities, and exercise. If you’re somebody who does belong to a religion, university is the perfect time to stay involved, as not only will you find people from all over the world who are linked to you through your faith, but you will also be grateful as coursework progresses that you have a weekly retreat that allows you to forget about internal factors and think of the world in a much more external way. If you aren’t religious, then it’s important to have this same outlet, but through different mediums that fit your personal taste. If you like reading, hiking, exploring, biking, or even music, indulging on those passions can have the same vital effect that religion does, as long as you do it correctly. It’s so often that students can be doing everything right, their grades are high, schedules are full, cabinets are full of food, yet they still feel as if they’re missing something. I promise, these deeper activities are the vital final element to any healthy school year, and will also help lead to a healthy life.
We’re the Future
Going to university can be the best or the worst decision you make in your life, and it all depends on how well you treat yourself. As I said before, the real reason you’re willing to spend ever-increasing amounts of cash on college is to access knowledge that few others have access to. Your education is all important, and it can’t be fully earned unless you keep your body in a healthy state. Get some sleep, eat correctly, treat yourself, and stay safe, and you’ll find yourself a lot happier than all of the other zombies roaming around you to class everyday. It’s not hard to be healthy, you just gotta be willing to put in the effort.