Illness has a way of immediately making us feel terribly vulnerable. When we are vulnerable our instinct if to surround ourselves with familiar people and things that bring us comfort and reassurance. This is why you will see most children in the hospital with their favorite teddy bear held in a tight embrace. So naturally things get a little tougher when we cannot find such comfort and reassurance in a new and strange environment.
This is why getting ill while being away from home can be so upsetting sometimes. Getting ill soon after arriving at college can be a bit frightening for some. To make sure you do everything you can to minimize the chance of having a hard time consider the following tips:
1. Always keep your family and friends from home updated on how they can best contact you.
2. Early on make sure you swap contact information with a roommate or neighbor in the event of an urgent message or the need to get you some essential items from your room.
3. If you decide to visit the college clinic or nurse then make sure you tell someone in your dorm or class so that someone is aware that you are unwell.
4. In the event of an unexpected overnight admission into the college clinic or local hospital be sure to have a prepared list of items you might need while you’re there. have a copy in your room and another in your smart phone so that you can text it to a roommate or neighbor. Consider including the following: phone charger, tablet computer and charger, earphones, toothpaste, tooth brush, deodorant, a change of clothes, flip flops, soap in a soap dish, shampoo, any medications, photocopies of your student I.D., medical record, health insurance, Driver’s license, and contact information in case of an emergency. And yes, perhaps include something comforting like an old teddy bear!
5. Don’t hesitate to share your unfortunate event on social media exclusively with your close friends. They’ll appreciate you keeping them updated and they will surely enjoy the opportunity to cheer you up upon your return or even go pay you a visit. Surely you would do it for them, so let them support you in your hour of need.
WHEN COLLEGE LIFE FLOODS YOUR DORM ROOM
downright stressful, exhausting and grounds to switch dorms or even colleges! So keep the following tips in mind when selecting a dorm and creating your own ground rules for your room.
1. Your personal health. Without your own health you have nothing, not even college. Your dorm room should be the healthiest space for you to rest, recover and recharge. If you cannot get a reliable good night’s sleep every night in a quiet, dark space with no disruptions and clear air quality then you need to consider moving or changing the rules of your dorm.
2. Your academic priority. College is, at the end of the day, a place of academic learning. If anything is getting in the way of your academic goals then it must be dealt with quickly and effectively. You need to have a place where you know you can use, at a time of your choosing, to get some good and solid work done.
3. Set your own “castle’s” ground rules. Your room is your castle and this is your chance to set the rules that suit you and enforce them. Exercise your authority to kindly ask people to leave your room when you need to get some rest and do it assertively. Most may not realize that the party couch they’re chilling out on is actually your bed. If you decide to make your room smoke-free, state so clearly and don’t hesitate to ask smokers to stay outside. Same applies for alcohol and drugs.
So just remember that with all the newly found freedom in your college living arrangements there are traps to avoid. Remind yourself what it is you are trying to accomplish and what sort of living space you will need to accomplish it.
LISTENING TO YOUR UNIQUE STUDYING PATTERNS
How, when and where we study are very personal preferences that are unique to each one of us. We all have them. Some of us can do best work sitting on our bed with the television on in the background while others can only get any work done inside a remote cubicle in the library in absolute silence. Some prefer to do their finest work early in the morning when the rest their peers are sleeping, while others do their work after class and others still prefer to wait until everyone has gone to bed to put pen to paper. The key is to identify your most productive and rewarding studying pattern and then create the conditions in your routine to allow you to replicate it on a regular and reliable basis.
Since college is ultimately about academic achievement the earlier you identify your most productive studying habits the better. While most of us have applied very different study habits in college from the ones we might have used in high school, don’t forget to try your tried and tested techniques from your earlier years!
Resist the nearly overwhelming temptation to try to do work while conveniently also having a good time. This means that if you are going to join a study group then be sure it is in fact productive and doesn’t turn into a social gathering. This also means not sitting in the library areas where you know you will get a steady flow of spontaneous visits from your best friends, or deferring your studying to the point where you expect yourself to be up partying until 3AM and then heroically get up at 7AM to put in 4 hours of super efficient quality work. Constantly aim for a natural balance that suits your most efficient study habits, a healthy lifestyle, and the academic outcomes you went to college to accomplish.
THE POWER OF NATURE IN COLLEGE
College can be a truly overwhelming experience that surrounds you and takes you on a wild ride! New courses, new friends, a new environment and the new stresses that come with it: exams, term papers, financial problems, distance from home and old friends. When things start getting tough and your perspective may be getting a little unbalanced, don’t forget to listen quietly for nature’s call. No matter where you are attending college, be it a rural setting in North Dakota or Downtown New York City, with a little thought you can quickly and easily find a little peace and quiet surrounded by nature, away from it all. A 20 minute walk along a hiking trail or even a reclaimed urban site can do wonders for your state of mind and your clarity of thought. This is particularly powerful during your week of finals when you might have been indoors for a few months pouring over books under the glow of florescent lighting and stagnant air at the library or your dorm room and you cannot recall the last time you saw a wild animal such as a squirrel burying its treasures or a bird searching for a meal. The very act of interrupting this unrelenting cramming lifestyle for a brief yet effective ‘mental health’ moment is beneficial because you will be, possibly for the first time in a while, prioritizing your physical and mental well-being over your academic goals and busy social life.
A simple nature walk, even for just 15 or 20 minutes, can have some great health benefits:
1. Stretches out your body and your strained back muscles.
2. Forces your eyes to focus on distant objects, which relaxes the muscles of your lenses relieving eye strain.
3. May lower your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, as well as decrease the levels of your stress hormones which keep you in a constant and unhealthy state of “fight or flight.”
4. If you put a little bit more into it then who knows, you might even end up doing a bit of exercise and breaking a sweat and flooding your system with feel-good endorphins! Surely this will increase your heart rate but it will be for a good physical reason not a straining mental reason (like an organic chemistry final!).
Being in contact with nature will distract your mind for the humdrum of student life and should reset your perspective on the “big picture.”
AVOID COLLEGE BURN OUT
Burn out is when you’ve worked hard, you’ve done good, you’ve been dedicated and taken your studies seriously, but as a result, you have neglected yourself. This is like when a steam boat crew are so desperate to steam on that they start using the deck’s planks to fuel the furnace driving the engine. The ultimate outcome, as you can imagine, cannot be good. Burn out is, in effect, the beginning of self-destruction with the best of intentions, and it happens to the best and brightest among us so it’s best to always keep some ground rules in your mind to keep working smoothly and effectively without burning the ship down in the process:
1. Respect your sleeping hours. We all have different sleeping patterns so get to know your own particular ones. Some of us do best sleeping 9 or 10 hours a night while others really only need 6 or 7. Some prefer to hit the hay early while others get work done first and prefer to call it a night by 11 or midnight. Whatever pattern yours might be just keep one thing in mind: Do not go into sleep debt! Make sure each day is self-contained in terms of energy spent and rest required. On occasion this might not be possible so you will have to make up on the weekend. Don’t ever let it get beyond the weekend.
2. Keep the machinery running smoothly. Exercise regularly, at least 3 times a week, even if it’s for 20 minutes at a time. Exercise dissipates stress, fidgeting hands, restless legs, tension headaches and relieves strained lower backs. Working out will rev up your metabolism and maintain your shape during your studies.
3. Supply premium fuel only. Eat right and you will perform better at everything. You will study more efficiently and have more fun during down time. Eat plenty of protein (such as beef, chicken, fish, nuts, seeds) to keep you well fueled and focused during long study sessions, without distracting pesky food cravings. Avoid large carbohydrate-rich foods like pizza, spaghetti and large bread sandwiches. Digesting large amounts of carbs may bloat you and make you fatigued and sluggish.
4. Regulate the jet fuel. Limit your intake of all stimulants such as caffeine in coffee and some teas to the equivalent to no more than 3 cups a day (equivalent to 3 espresso shots, less than 2 mugs, and a few cups of tea). Some of us are especially susceptible to various problems sleeping, concentrating and even maintaining a normal heart rhythm when ingesting too much caffeine.
5. Give yourself daily “Me Time.” Every day, no matter how busy and hectic it may be, you must be able to find at least a few minutes for yourself to chat with a friend or go for a walk. Otherwise you’ll soon begin to build up a deficit.
Overall, never forget that no matter how urgent or important the task at hand might seem, nothing trump your health. Without your health, you have nothing else!
NAVIGATING THE COLLEGE CAFETERIA’S MINEFIELD
To most of us college means freedom and new experiences. Using the dining facilities at college is part of this newly found freedom. No more “finish your peas!” More college dining services are offering fast food options within their facilities which can make college dining seem like a dream! Unfortunately this comes at a potentially serious price.
The proverbial “Freshman 15” is applying to more students than ever and it may be as much as 30 pounds in increased weight during a standard 4 year college experience! Studies have shown that the expected increase in weight is in part due to the typical all-you-can-eat buffet-type dining arrangement used in canteens. Research has also shown that college students will tend to eat less diversified meals than they might have had at home, typically choosing sugary, greasy and salty processed foods over far healthier fruits, nuts, seeds, berries and vegetables. The best way to stay healthy and feed your body right during college is to know what your cravings are, where the tempting foods are in the cafeteria, and learn to space out your meals so as to avoid gorging at chow time. Eating a lean, protein-rich breakfast (like an omelette) with the likes of spinach, kale, tomato and cheese or ham will keep you satisfied the entire morning until lunch time.
Keep your lunch somewhat light to keep you from slowing down in the early evening.
Make dinner light and healthy instead of a bomb of pizza, spaghetti and the like. The easiest rule of thumb is ensuring that your plate contains one-half of any fruit, vegetables or legumes you like, one quarter a lean source of protein like fish, chicken or beef, and the other quarter whatever else you like. Don’t forget to have it with plenty of water or diluted natural juice.
Is your hockey team going out for an end-of-season pizza night? Don’t fret it, be sure you have a healthy and fulfilling lunch and then go out and have a great time along with some pepperoni and sausage. The key is remaining conscious of your health and being moderate when consuming less than perfect foods