As fall starts, the back to school grind hits hard and then winds to a close and we all start to settle into the routines of the coming months. It's time to talk about staying healthy while you’re a student.
There are the basics, like remembering to wash your hands regularly, now that you’re back in close quarters with a bunch of other humans, so you avoid sharing any germs with one another. Sleep hygiene also becomes important, as parents have to re-adjust their schedules to make sure kids get to school on time and adult students have to get used to the reality of 8am class times. Let's not forget the long term stuff as well, like muscle aches that happen when you are stuck in a classroom for hours on end with ergonomically questionable seating. Students also run into issues prioritizing self-care when balancing multiple deadlines and course work. Academic pressures can result in students experiencing higher levels of depression compared to the general population, and in some cases can go as far as burnout. Parents can struggle with the added stressors of daily after school programs and scheduling and the ever stressful forgetting cupcakes or signing the field trip notice.
Let’s start tackling the physical issues: The time demands of student life can make it difficult to maintain a consistent workout schedule, and some weeks eating a balanced diet goes out the window because you’re lucky if you can grab a slice of pizza before your next class. Add all that to increased time sitting in awkward positions in chairs and desks that often seem designed for 5 minutes of sitting only. All these are a recipe for sore muscles and unfamiliar aches and pains.
Here are a few basic tips that we have found can help (the Lab Health team is as close to experts on this a possible as we have a collective 3+ decades of post secondary experience to draw from)
Plan Ahead. Map out your semester so you know where the major deadlines are, when you are going to be in a time crunch.
Find meals that are quick, easy, and at least semi healthy
E.g. hardboiled eggs, frozen pre-cooked chicken with salad mix, etc. This website has provided some really tasty meals that are simple and budget conscious. Consider investing in a slow cooker (They are often found for ok prices at thrift stores) – they are both a time and a money saver when you’re stressed out.
If money is an issue (which student doesn’t have this issue?), consider checking out volunteer opportunities with student organizations who pick food for food banks and allow their volunteers to keep a portion in return (add to the resumé AND FREE food, too!). http://gleaning/Lifecyclesproject.ca/signup
If you have a sport/activity you are interested in or passionate about, consider joining a club or student organization. The social aspect can help keep you going.
Take a water bottle with you – dehydration just sucks.
Keep moving. If you are one of those people who is able to sit through a whole class without fidgeting, you are amazing. But you should still consider moving despite your superpower. Sitting still for long periods of time can result in sore muscles and can do long-term harm in terms of muscle imbalances and eventually osteoarthritis. Stretch breaks, shifting positions and begin active between classes and study sessions can all help.
One trick that is great is you can convert your notes to word documents and then have your phone or other smart device read them to you while you go for a walk or work out. It is call Kinaesthetic learning and the research says the information will last with you longer and you can study while being active!
Mental health. As for burnout and depression some of the tips above can be help. The key thing to remember is that academia/post secondary school is a snippet in time just like any other phase in your life, it too shall pass. Try your hardest, have fun and make sure to take some time to remember the reason you are there. Keep in mind that school exists to evaluate you and your understanding of a particular subject. It is important to maintain ties to aspects of your life where you feel accomplished or the constant grading of school can be wearing. It is also important to recognize that the feeling of being not enough or overwhelmed is very common, and that most academic institutions have counselling services available to their students at a reduced price or free.
Student life is hard, often overwhelming and expensive. It can also be rewarding, fun, and provide some of the best times or your life. It can help you to pursue career, life opportunities and relationships that you might not have otherwise experienced or developed. So remember, the crazy weeks will happen and the deadlines will pass and it will all be ok. Some weeks, no amount of planning or determination will stop you from feeling like the workload is getting the better of you. So order that pizza, study your face off and remember that tomorrow is another day.
University of Victoria Mental Health Support Resources: https://www.uvic.ca/mentalhealth/home/immediate/index.php
Camosun College Mental Health Support Links: http://camosun.ca/about/mental-health/students.html
Royal Roads University Food Bank and Mental Health Links: http://www.royalroads.ca/current-students/food-bank http://www.royalroads.ca/current-students/counselling-services