It is a stunning and unfortunate truth that college students today face a wide variety of physical and mental health challenges that are so severe that they are now considered to be a public health issue. These challenges impact physical, mental, and emotional health. College student health and stress concerns a range from food insecurity to sexual assault. These dangers are difficult for any student to face no matter what their situation is, however, students who work on top of going to school may be at greater risk.
Because they have more strenuous schedules and demands on their time, working students may find it difficult to stay on top of their physical and mental well-being or to successfully manage stress factors. The results of this can include such disturbing issues as increased drug and alcohol use, hospitalizations for mental health issues, increased risk for minor illnesses becoming true health crises, dropping out of school, weight gain, suicide attempts, and more.
If you are, or if you know a working student, take a moment to review the following tips. Following them, especially when life is most strenuous, is extremely important. Because we know that time, money, energy levels, and stress can make it impossible to be perfect, each point includes a bit of a shortcut advice for those who are unable to make big changes.
Remember That Food Is Fuel
Sadly, many students only become concerned with the food that they eat when it begins impacting their waistline. While this isn’t a bad thing, weight management is important after all, it does demonstrate how eating right is often neglected. This is too bad, because proper nutrition impacts physical health, academic performance, and there are important associations between food and comfort and overall well-being. Check out these tips for keeping a healthy diet.
- Raw fruits and vegetables can be cut up and kept in the fridge for snacking with hummus, salsa, or other healthy dips
- Salads can be purchased at local grocery stores and delis
- Yogurt, cheese sticks, and hard boiled eggs are convenient options for keeping full and meeting daily protein and dairy requirements
- Lentils, rice, oatmeal, beans and other similar items can be bought in bulk, are extraordinarily inexpensive, nutritious, and extremely versatile.
- One rotisserie chicken purchased at your grocery store can be used to add protein to salads, add meat and heft to casseroles, act as the protein element in several sandwiches, and the carcass can be used for soup.
Maybe your energy levels are too low, or your stress levels are too high for you to implement the suggestions above. Maybe you don’t have funds or access to make ideal food decisions. That’s okay! You still deserve to be as healthy as possible:
- Hunger is a scary thing, but there are people who want to help.
- Check local food banks.
- See if your school has a soup kitchen for students.
- Look for discount grocers in your area such as Aldi or Save-a-Lot.
- Consider applying for food stamps.
- If you are broke and too overwhelmed to cook, consider these convenience tips:
- While not ideal, there are frozen dinners that are organic, GMO-free and relatively healthy.
- A cheap meal, such as ramen, can be made more complete and healthy with the simple addition of a half a cup of frozen vegetables, boiled in the water with the noodles.
- The microwave can be used to steam frozen vegetables, bake sweet potatoes, or make healthy versions of whole wheat pizzas.
Recognize And Get Help For Any Mental Health Issues That You Face
Let’s get this out of the way right now. If you are feeling disconnected, anxious, scared, sad, paranoid, angry, or alone, please understand that you are not being dramatic. You are not seeking attention. You are not lacking in self-discipline.
Any resource about health tips for college students should include mental health resources. For a wide variety of reasons, the college years are high risk for students who might deal with mental health issues that are either situational or clinical. Managing stress at this point is particularly important because the combination of stress and mental illness, can quite frankly, be deadly.
If you have mental health concerns please consider:
- Setting an appointment with a mental health expert.
- Asking your parent to set you up with counseling via their company’s EAP program.
- Discussing your options with your primary care provider.
If you are really struggling, either with your disease, time or finances, here are some suggestions for you:
- Learn what you need to do when it comes to self-care.
- Let supportive friends and family know when you need help.
- Look into on-campus support groups.
- Consider going to a sliding scale clinic that deals with mental health issues.
Take It Easy And Know When You Are Overindulging When It Comes To Partying
There is nothing wrong with cutting loose, but overdoing it can be a sign that you have gone too far. If you are drinking or smoking, be honest with yourself. Are you having fun, or are you trying to cope? Are you putting yourself or others at risk? Now, let us be even more honest. Use of dangerous drugs such as opiates and amphetamines are at an all-time high on college campuses. If you need help, please avail yourself to the available campus treatment options.
On the other hand, students can truly suffer from mental illness, and be without support. If this is you, please contact a 12-step program. Those are always free, and can be truly educational and safe spaces for students dealing with addiction.
Even if you believe that you are on an emotional upswing, please take care of yourself on campus. Better yet, make taking care of others a true priority. Then, no matter what happens, remember that there is no shame in seeking help. Please use the above tips to help you if you are in a difficult situation, or if you need help navigating the stressors of college education
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