College Survival

College Wellness involves a lot more than fine-tuning your schedule so you don’t have to open a book ’til 2pm. In our series on self-care at college this fall, we’re collaborating with integrative nutritionist, Jennie Miremadi, to talk about simple solutions to help students stay in balance without being that “weird healthy girl”.

For many of us, college is the first time taking full responsibility for our mental, physical and emotional health – a tall order when there are so many new people, places and pizzas to get acquainted with.

Jennie has worked through her own challenges with food, self-love and self-care – this essay is a must read – so you know her advice is the real-deal.

This week, we’re sharing everything from how to conquer The Freshman 15 to managing stress without a stack of pizza boxes. Dive in below or send it to your little sister, and pop back over to TCM all week for more of Jennie’s invaluable tips

How to Manage Stress

College can be incredibly stressful.  Without the right tools in place, stress can negatively impact your overall wellbeing – and it can also affect your health and nutrition goals. Your body produces the hormone cortisol to respond to stress, but when cortisol is released, it also increases your appetite and blood-sugar levels!  Left unchecked, constant stress can make you hungrier than you otherwise would be and trigger elevated blood sugar. So, it’s important to find ways to relax and de-stress daily.  Here are a few of my favorite tools:

Make Mindful Routines. Create a daily routine that incorporates meditation and EFT — studies show that both practices lower blood cortisol levels and reduce stress. If you’re new to meditation, take an on-campus course, join a meditation group, try a guided meditation or download a meditation app.

Take a Breather. If you want to learn EFT, follow simple instructions to do the practice on your own. Use can also use deep-breathing exercises to help lower stress: Close your eyes and inhale as slowly and as deeply as possible. Hold your breath for four seconds and then exhale as slowly as possible. Repeat the exercise five times, and use as needed throughout your day.

How To Get Good Sleep

The majority of college students are sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation can impact your mood and ability to learn, but it can also affect your eating.  Even one night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin, the hormone that tells your body to eat.  If you’re always sleep deprived, imagine what that might do to your hunger levels?

Don’t let sleep deprivation sabotage your wellness. Prioritize sleep by creating healthy sleep habits. Here is a good place to start:

Lights Out. At least an hour before bed, put away your phone and computer, and turn off the TV. To help quiet your mind, listen to a guided meditation.

Gear Up. If you have to stay up late on your computer, tablet or phone, make sure you have proper screen protection. Your devices emit a high level of blue light that disrupts circadian rhythm and suppresses production of the sleep hormone, melatonin.  You can reduce these disruptions by wearing blue-light blocking amber glasses while you’re on your devices.

Score Some Silence. If you live on a noisy dorm floor, get some earplugs or purchase a white noise machine to help block out the noise.

Cut The Coffee. If you must drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages, limit your consumption to the morning.

Timing is Key. Pick a consistent time to go to bed and wake up each day. Give yourself time to get enough sleep! Even if you don’t have issues falling or staying asleep, if you only give yourself a few hours to sleep, you’re going to be sleep deprived.

How To Stay Active + energized

Many college students go from playing high school sports year-round to having no regular exercise routine in college. Even if you’re no longer involved in team sports, you should still keep exercising. When you exercise regularly, you not only feel better, you’re better able to manage stress and you’re more likely to want to eat healthy food.  Because most colleges have lots of opportunities for physical activity right on campus, it should be easy to create an exercise routine that works with your schedule. Here are a few ideas to try:

See What’s Free. Take a yoga class or dance class at your school fitness center. Block out the time in your calendar so you commit to doing it.

Join The Club. Join an on-campus club for activities like running, swimming or rowing. Because clubs generally schedule weekly practices for members, you’ll have a built-in exercise routine already created for you.

Make A Date. Plan regular workouts with a friend. Whether you go for a hike or meet up at the gym, having a workout buddy will make exercising more fun and can help motivate you to stick with it.

How To Handle Disordered Eating

While eating disorders and disordered eating have dangerous health consequences, they also take a toll on your happiness, self-worth and emotional wellbeing. College students are particularly vulnerable to developing eating disorders: A 2006 National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) survey found that almost 20% of male and female college students surveyed reported either having, or previously having, an eating disorder. 25% of women of college-age use bingeing and purging for weight management.

Many college students who don’t have full-scale eating disorders still suffer from disordered eating. Disordered eating can include the use of diet pills or laxatives, restricting food intake, bingeing, vomiting, emotional eating, frequent fasting or cleansing to lose weight, among other destructive eating behaviors.

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating, it may be difficult to acknowledge that you need help, but know that you’re not alone and there are resources to help you. Some universities such as Notre Dame, USC and Illinois State have on-campus counseling services that offer access to nutritionists and therapists trained in eating disorders and disordered eating, and individual and group counseling sessions for students in need.

Even if your school doesn’t provide specialized nutrition and therapy support, it likely has a general counseling center that can give you referrals to outside experts. You can also reach out to the NEDA or Eating Disorder Hope for resources and support.

How To Approach Alcohol

You already know there are many health and nutrition-related reasons not to drink alcohol. Drinking frequently can add a lot of empty calories to your diet, but more importantly, it can make you crave food that you wouldn’t normally eat (i.e., instead of your go-to green smoothie, you find yourself craving a burger and fries). It also takes a major toll on your liver and can cause hormone imbalances, among other harmful health effects.

But, life is about balance and even a wellness girl might drink from time to time. The key is to drink responsibly, and in moderation, particularly in college where binge drinking is often the norm. FYI, when your blood alcohol levels reach a .08 g/dL, it’s considered binge drinking. For women, that’s generally 4 drinks in the course of about 2 hours. Instead, aim for about one or two drinks in an evening, no more than a couple of times a week. And, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the night.

Explore our complete college wellness series here and here!

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. 
All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program. 

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