By: Emily Tolino ’16, University Health Center, Nutrition Peer Educator
The end of the fall semester can feel like a roller coaster ride. The ride to the top, full of final exams, group projects, and late nights at the library can be very stressful. During this time, most people are so busy taking care of all the responsibilities surrounding them that they often forget to take care of the most important thing: themselves! Once the semester finally ends, the ride back down the track feels exciting and full of potential.
Now that the spring semester is underway, old habits may be coming back to haunt you.
Challenge yourself to make this semester more relaxing and a little bit different.
10 ways to make the spring semester your healthiest (and happiest!) one yet:
- Make peace with food. Food is not the enemy. Food is the fuel needed to energize your body and mind. Take the time to enjoy your food. Eat slowly and mindfully to enjoy each and every bite. Give yourself permission to enjoy each meal and find peace and contentment in food.
- Find your de-stressor. As the semester progresses, students often become more and more stressed out. While some stress can be beneficial and motivating, chronic stress is often dangerous. Stress affects the body’s cardiovascular, muscular, and nervous systems, among others. Stress can also cause anxiety, social withdrawal, headaches, and insomnia. It is important for students to have de-stressors in their lives to help relieve some of the effects of stress. Find what works for you! When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, practice some deep breathing to decrease your heart rate and calm you down. Try a variety of activities to find the one that relaxes you: read a book, take a walk, listen to music or meditate.
- Try new things. This semester, challenge yourself to try new things. When out at a restaurant with your friends, order an appetizer that you normally wouldn’t. Attend a group fitness class you’ve never tried – perhaps yoga, pilates, or cycling. Learn a new skill such as cooking or take a class at the Art & Learning Center at the Stamp Getting out of your comfort zone will help make you more confident and well-rounded.
- Play outside! Take well-deserved study breaks and explore the outdoors! Stay active by joining an intramural sports team or grabbing some friends and a Frisbee and hitting the McKeldin Mall. Relax yourself by reading a book outside or taking a walk around campus. Don’t be afraid to diversify your surroundings.
- Learn more about your body. We are born with innate bodily food regulators. They are our hunger and full signals! As we get older, we often start to ignore our body’s signals due to social pressures and norms. However, resisting the urge to eat when hungry or overfilling the body can lead to damaging consequences. Listen to your body. Eat a wide variety of foods when hungry, such as whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy, to ensure your body and mind can function optimally. Remember to stop eating when you feel satisfied – this is your body’s way of telling you that it has had enough.
- Make a plan. As college students, our schedules can be so busy that eating can simply go forgotten! As a result, we are often so hungry by the end of the day that we eat everything in sight. Avoid this by making a food plan for your day. Before you go to sleep at night, think about what the next day looks like. Figuring out when and where you will eat ahead of time will keep your body satisfied throughout the day which will help you concentrate and be more productive. No time to eat? Pack some grab-and-go snacks (such as a granola bar or an apple) in your backpack.
- Sleep more. Students age 18-25 need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, it can be very hard for a busy college student to get this much sleep. Lack of sleep has been linked to a decrease in creativity, attentiveness, and happiness. Set aside a little of time each night to relax, wind down, and reflect on your day. Adding just another hour of sleep each night will make a world of difference!
- Read food labels. Next time you’re in the grocery store or convenience shop, take an extra minute to read the nutrition facts panel! A little education goes a long way to making small, healthy diet changes.
- Meet the experts. If you ever have a question about nutrition, stress management, sleep, or any other health and wellness topics, ask the experts on these topics! The University Health Center is staffed with knowledgeable, experienced people ready and willing to answer all of your questions!
- Sign up for diet analysis! For more information on any of the topics above visit Diet Analysis! Call 301-314-5664 or email nutrition.health.umd.edu for more details!