Being Healthy in College

To answer this question, first I’ll have to define what it means to live a ‘healthy lifestyle.’ Overall ‘health’ means having both physical and mental well-being, conditions which are often affected simultaneously. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle is a manner of living that allows a student to maintain a healthy Body and Mind.

Keeping this mental/physical balance involves keeping a proper sleep schedule, staying active, eating healthy, avoiding excessive alcohol, and saying, “No,” to drugs. It also involves having healthy relationships with family, friends, and the girl/boyfriend. With the exception of those who ‘beat the odds,’ it‘s plain to see how the behaviours of a healthy lifestyle can benefit a student.

The ‘all-nighter’ is understood to be a necessity of excellence when it comes to the academia. Students push through the fogs of fatigue and wear their textbooks thin as they cram information during the pre-finals crunch-time. As a result, according to the National Sleep Foundation, 63% of students aren‘t getting the necessary number of ‘Zs,’ but the exhausting effort might be counter-productive.

In their online text, “Sleep-Wake Cycle,” the National Sleep Foundation mentions one experiment in which people who were kept awake for 19 hours tested worse on cognitive and motor performance than other subjects who were legally drunk. Perhaps some of the subjects did poorly when kept awake and some excelled at holding their booze, but nonetheless, neither droopy-eyed candidate belongs in a classroom.

Two more standards for a healthy lifestyle that go hand in hand are a balanced diet and regular, appropriate physical activity. I say, ‘appropriate’ to stress that all students, young and old, will have their own level of physical ability. A student, while pushing for progress, should be aware of their abilities and cautious of their limits. By engaging in extra-curricular activities, a student can improve not only their physical health, but their overall mood, which can motivate and bolster productivity. A regular exercise routine will build confidence in one’s own abilities and develop discipline, which is especially important for meeting deadlines and achieving high grades.
   
Proper nutrition is also important for students, as skills essential to learning-such as reasoning, memory, and concentration-can be weakened if the brain is not given a sufficient supply of nutrients. Hunger and malnutrition can cause a range of issues from digestive problems to full-blown depression, and can even disrupt a student’s important sleep patterns. In fact, The World Health Organization calls malnutrition the biggest threat to health in today‘s world, so understanding your diet is key when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. The saying goes, “You are what you eat,” so if you’re a student, remember to eat smart.

A Body and Mind, regardless of other healthy habits, will not function at full capacity if they are affected by alcohol or drugs. The National Institute On Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports on their website that, “about 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.”

Even if the user is punctual and present, alcohol and drugs, like malnourishment and sleep deprivation, will impair a student’s abilities and negatively affect the learning process. Transition Year’s “Parent Guide,” citing a study done at Duke University, warns that GPA is more likely to decrease the more a student drinks. An inebriated mind in school is bound for failure-the stability of a sober mind is essential.

And it’s no mystery how cocaine and heroin can hinder the learning process, but even caffeine and nicotine (and the subsequent cravings) can mar concentration. The amount of caffeine in a single cup of coffee can vary greatly, but it usually falls between 100 and 200 milligrams. According to CoffeeFAQ.com, consumption of more than 250 milligrams can cause the symptoms prior to caffeine overdose: nervousness, sweating and flushing, rambling thoughts and speech, agitation of the mental processes.

Nicotine doesn’t help the body much either, especially when deprived of the usual dose; this I know from experience. I’ve smoked cigarettes-usually mentholated Newports and Marlboros-for six years, and I can assure you that, though cigarettes provide a slight euphoric rush, it is followed by the debilitating symptoms of addiction: anxiety and depression, headache and light-headedness, confusion and chest pain. Today will be my fifth day without a breath of tobacco-and the symptoms are real. Cigarettes may provide a pleasant, reflective pause, and coffee a substantial boost in energy and awareness, but neither are necessary or beneficial in the long run.

Our relationships also influence our mental well-being. Good relationships and a strong support system empower a student as s/he proceeds into and through the stresses of college. Transition Year’s “Parent Guide” states that one out of five students experience a mental health problem in college. Faced with so much uncertainty, a student should always have a comfortable and steady relationship with a close friend, parent, school counselor or other unbiased, sensible mentor.

But fights with friends, the dreaded ’break-up,’ or a death in the family can cause depression and a loss of motivation resulting in failure. So went the case of my good friend, the most well rounded guy I’ve ever met, who lost his brother to cancer-a judgment that is never right or fair. I knew what had happened when I didn’t see him in the halls that entire week. He was devastated; but the following week, through the support of his close-knit family and friends, he was back in school. It fills me with dismay to think of how he would have gotten along without their strength to lean on.

So, is it worth it to throw away that pack of Newports and buy a fruit smoothie instead of that twenty ounce coffee? Should you take a jog, talk with a close friend, and get some sleep instead of spending eight hours cramming for that Calculus test tomorrow? The criteria for overall health that embodies the healthy lifestyle range from a proper sleep schedule to abstaining from volatile substances-and based on these facets of overall health, it is imperative for a student to lead a healthy life if they wish to succeed in the academic world. A student who understands and strives to meet all of these circumstances will better their chances to excel in school, as well as live a happy and fulfilling life.