Freshman year is a notorious threat to personal well-being: famously, the freshman fifteen, but also (as I mentioned in a previous post) the challenges presented in close living quarters and the absence of your mother to make you soup when you are under the weather. To succeed in all other areas of college life, you first need to keep yourself in shipshape and feeling peachy. What can you do to keep yourself at your best? What should you do when you aren’t at your best?
- Eat well!: It is pretty obvious, but important. Chances are, you already know how you should be eating from years of health class lectures on the importance of a balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients your body needs to function well. Ultra-processed and sugary foods pull nutrients from your body while it tries to digest them; they are like vitamin vampires. However, that doesn’t mean you need to swear off cupcakes and pancakes and all cakes forever, you just can’t eat them all the time. It helps to remember the 80-20 rule: maintain a diet of at least 80% nutritious foods and no more than 20% unhealthy foods.
- Be Active: As a freshman, it is likely you won’t have a car on campus, so you will be doing a lot of walking. Biking is also an excellent form of activity and transportation, assuming your campus is bike friendly. If you enjoy a particular sport or hobby, try to carry on with it in college, join a team or club. Most schools offer inter-mural or club sports in addition to school sponsored teams. You will probably have access to a recreation center where you can attend classes for things like yoga and aerobics too, though it may cost you a membership fee. You can also get some exercise on your own by going to the weight room, jogging, or things like that.
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: Carry a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day and refill it at water fountains. More than the half of you is water; if you aren’t drinking enough water, you can’t be anymore than half yourself!
- Use Caffeine Carefully: One of my greatest shocks on arriving on campus was discovering just how much of the college runs on coffee. I am a tea drinker myself, but I do like a good coffee. However, the body needs more than just caffeine to function: it is no substitute for sleep! I limit myself to one caffeinated drink a day, which works fine for me.
- Don’t Use Drugs and Alcohol, Period: Drinking may be a part of campus culture, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be a part of your life, particularly when you are a freshman, because you are probably underage. Choosing not to drink and avoiding all forms of substance abuse are in your best interest.
- Sleep: Try to get eight hours of sleep a night. Whether you are a morning person or a night person, you still can, and should, get a full night’s sleep. Avoid procrastinating throughout the day so you don’t find yourself staying up til 1:00 AM or pulling an all-nighter to finish assignments. Also, try using earplugs or an eye-mask to block out unwanted noise and light.
- Have A Sickness Kit: Keep some medicine, canned soup, tea, and cough drops in your room so you can take care of yourself if you are ill.
What to Do When You’re Ill
If you do not get the “freshman plague” within the first month of class, you are a wonder of nature. You will probably get sick at some point during your college career. In high school, your parents were responsible for calling you in sick, getting you to the doctor, and taking care of you. If you find yourself stuck in your dorm with a dreadful flu, here are some things you need to do.
- Email Your Professors: If you can, email the professors for any classes you will be missing. Tell them you are sick and will be missing class and ask how you should go about making up any assignments. I missed one day of class this semester, and all of my professors were very accommodating, though one did ask me to scan an assignment which was due that day and email it to him.
- Call Your Parents: They know you and know what you need. Tell them how you are doing, and they can help you decide whether or not you need to go to the doctor. Also, it hearing a friendly voice should help you feel a bit better.
- Go to the Health Center: If you decide that you need medical attention or medicine, head to the campus health center. Ask a friend or your RA to go with you if you not feeling up to going alone.
- Rest: If you are sick, stay in your room! It is the best thing for you and everyone else. As soon as you get sick or feel like you are going to, see if you can spend the day resting and recovering. It is often better to lose one day to recovery than to spend days or weeks fighting the same virus.
- Here is an article on how to beat a cold in a day, from The Daily Mail.