Written by Natalia Hnatiw
Whether you’re a student or a teacher, the transition from summer vacation to a regular schedule and heavier workload may cause you to place less focus on your health and wellness. Putting diet and exercise on the back burner can quickly catch up to you if you don’t pay close attention…the “freshman fifteen” is not solely for new college students. Here are some tips to keep your body and mind healthy all year round.
Learn proper portion size. To avoid eating too much of even the healthiest foods, keep track of how much you’re consuming. The proper amount of whole grains can range from 1-2 cups, depending on your size and activity level. Meat servings should be about the size of a deck of cards, while a serving of nuts and seeds is only about ¼ cup. Fibre-rich nutrient dense foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, can be eaten in unlimited amounts.
Eat breakfast. Whether you’re rolling out of bed at noon or up at the crack of dawn for class, make sure you start your day with a balanced meal comprised of healthy carbs, protein, fat and fibre to keep your blood sugar stable and your energy high. A good example would be organic oats with ground flax, raw nuts and seeds, topped with fresh fruit.
Pack a lunch. It can be easy to cop out and head to the cafeteria or a nearby fast food spot in between classes, but your body and your wallet won’t be thanking you in the long run. Save your health and your money by making your own food and taking it with you. Prepare dishes like hearty soups and stews in bulk and portion them out for the next few days to save time. Cook a big pot of quinoa and add your favourite veggies and healthy fats like nuts and seeds and you’re set for the next several days.
Eat variety. It can be easy to eat and prepare the same foods everyday, but to get all the essential nutrients your body needs it is important to eat a variety of foods. The easiest and most economical way to do this is to eat seasonal and to shop at a local farmers market. Don’t be afraid to try new things and experiment with new flavours.
Make it convenient to eat right. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy foods to ensure they are the first things at hand when you get hungry. I always carry Lara Bars and apples or bananas with me in case I get hungry or am too busy too have a proper meal.
Drink enough water. Drink enough water to hydrate your brain and body. Drink at least 1 litre of pure water for every 40 pounds of body weight. Drinking enough water can help boost your concentration and keep you from overeating. The easiest way to make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day is to bring distilled or filtered water with you wherever you go.
Limit caffeinated beverages. Caffeine is the world’s most popular psychoactive drug. Avoid all caffeine sources within 10 hours of going to sleep, including coffee, tea, green tea, chocolate, and caffeinated soft drinks. Instead, drink decaf, herbal tea or water.
Limit alcohol consumption. College students are known for their partying, but there’s no easier way to pack on the “freshmen fifteen” and deplete your adrenals than by drinking empty calories on a regular basis. Plus, hangovers are not a good idea when you have papers to write and classes to attend. If you do choose to let loose once in a while, make sure to properly hydrate and supplement with B vitamins.
Supplement. Even if your diet was perfect, it can still be difficult to ensure you’re getting (and retaining) all the nutrients your body needs. Investing in a good quality multi-vitamin and probiotic is a good idea to cover your bases.
Stretch first. Help yourself avoid injuries by stretching each time you exercise. Simple stretches before and after you work out or engage in physical activity can help keep you active and pain-free.
Head to the gym. Most schools provide students and staff with gym facilities they can take advantage of for free. Head to the gym in between classes or first thing in the morning, whenever you can fit it in.
Ride your bike. Instead of taking the bus or driving to class, try biking instead for as long as the weather allows. This will give you some exercise and save you money on gas or transit.
Play a sport. One way to get yourself motivated to exercise is by joining an intramural team or playing recreational sports through your school. Get active and have fun at the same time.
Incorporate different kinds of exercise in your routine. If you only stick to one kind of workout it can be easy to get bored and lose interest. Incorporate strength training, cardio and yoga into your routine to make it well rounded and fun.
Bring a friend. With someone else relying on you to show up, you’ll be much more likely to make the effort to work out. Working out with a friend can be a good motivator and fun.
Get a full nights rest whenever you can. While the amount of sleep each person needs varies, most people need 7-9 hours to feel fully rested. While this may not be possible every night, try to sleep a full night whenever you get the chance.
Take naps. If you have the time during the day, a short nap can do wonders for your energy levels. Just make sure not to nap for too long or too close to bedtime.
Don’t work in bed. Working in bed can make getting to sleep harder. Keep your workspace separate from your sleep space.
Stick to a schedule. With different classes and work hours each day it can be hard to stick to a schedule, but keeping sleep times consistent from day to day can greatly improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
Understand that lack of sleep can have a big impact. Lack of sleep doesn’t just make you cranky, it can also reduce your ability to concentrate and to excel at class, or anything you do, so try to get as much sleep as you need.
Create a bedtime routine. If you have trouble falling asleep at night you can help yourself by creating a routine that will let your mind and body know that bedtime is approaching and that it should get into sleep mode. After a few weeks of practice, this should help you fall asleep when you need to.
Keep your room dark and quiet. Try to keep your room as dark, quiet and cool as possible. This will signal to your body that it’s time for bed and will help you get to and stay asleep.
Understand you can’t do everything. While you might want to go to class, work, play a sport, and participate in clubs and social activities, the reality is that sooner or later you’re going to get run down by trying to do too much. Focus on doing the things you truly need to or love and forget about the rest.
Give yourself a break. If you’ve been working steadily for hours, give your eyes and mind a chance for a rest by taking a break. Meditation is a great way to calm your body and mind. You will come back feeling more refreshed and ready to go.
Give yourself plenty of time. It’s easy to put off starting on a big project or studying for a test until the last minute. You’ll be much less stressed out, however, and will likely do better if you give yourself more time to work on it. Time management skills will make everything, from getting assignments done to managing work, a lot easier.
Spend time with friends. It is important to maintain strong relationships. There are few things that can cheer you up like being around the people you value the most. Even if you find yourself too busy to spend quality time with your friends, a simple text or phone call can make all the difference.
Regularly spend time in nature. Take walks in the woods and along natural bodies of water. Keep plants and fresh flowers in your home and office. Walk in the moonlight. Nature helps by bringing about calm energy.