Fun fact: I’m dressed as a pirate whilst I write this. I kid you not. I have this thing where I like to wear costumes when I write my blog posts… JOKING, I’m off to my cousin’s third birthday party and as you have probably guessed, it’s a pirate theme. But I wanted to start this post before I left! Anywho, feel free to read this in a pirate voice if that makes you happy. No judgement here.
On to today’s post – how to stay healthy during university (but most of these apply for school too!). At this stage in your life you’re starting to gain more independence, a bigger workload and a pile of responsibilities. There’s a lot of adjusting. And one of the biggest adjustments is your eating and exercising habits. Often not for the better either – there’s less exercising, plenty of all-nighters and more alcohol, coffee and junk food. But the thing is, there’s two big reasons why we should be trying to build healthier habits during university. Firstly, it’s this time in our lives where forming healthy habits is vital because it can set us up for the rest of our adulthood. Secondly, a healthy lifestyle during university can mean better grades. Think about it, you won’t get sick as much, you’ll stress less, you’ll have more energy, you’ll concentrate better – all of which lead to good grades. And yeah, university may seem synonymous with unhealthy habits, but it’s not inevitable; there’s actually plenty of little things we can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle whilst at university.
1 // Exercise whilst you study
There are so many ways to get in your exercise whilst studying at the same time. If you have a friend in one of your classes why not meet up and discuss the class notes whilst you’re walking? There’s also a number of ways you can listen to class material whilst you exercise: download a lecture onto your phone and listen to it as you exercise; record yourself reading your notes and listen to it; or if you have a mac, copy and paste your material onto the ‘Notes’ app, highlight your material and ‘add to iTunes as a spoken track’. If you’re not in the mood to listen to anything, simply just go over the content in your head and pretend you’re teaching it to someone. Better yet, if you’re exercising with a loved one who won’t mind you rambling on about it, tell them! Who knows, you might be able to teach them something new!
2 // Use your study breaks wisely
To be able to keep your focus whilst you’re studying for long periods of time, taking breaks is essential. Instead of using those breaks to scroll through instagram, get your butt up out of that chair and get moving. Honestly, you’d be amazed by how much of a sweat you can work up in just 10 minutes. I love these two short workouts by the Tone It Up girls – 10 minute total body workout and the 7 minute summer toning routine. Oh and yeah, this obviously works better when you’re studying at home but if you want to get your squats on in the library then be my guest (just don’t blame me if you get a few strange looks ha!).
3 // Stock up on healthy food
You’ve been studying for hours, you’re hangry and mentally drained and when you get to the fridge the last thing on your mind is choosing something healthy. Buuuuut, if you only stock your fridge/pantry with healthy food, then you have one less choice to make. Simple!
And if you live on campus and only have a mini-fridge, try to stock up on foods with a longer shelf life like nuts, seeds, canned beans, multi-grain crackers, apples, citrus fruit and raw veggies.
4 // Choose the healthier options
Whether all your friends want to go out to dinner or order takeout or you have to eat at a college dining hall, there is nearly always healthier options available to you, so take advantage of them!
5 // Moderation, Variety & Balance
If you ever start to get overwhelmed with nutrition just remember: moderation, variety and balance.
Moderation: food shouldn’t come with negative emotions. Always remember that a healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body. So, don’t feel like you have to deprive yourself to be healthy, just eat everything in moderation.
Variety: shake up your diet, try not to always eat the same thing. Having a greater variety of food gives us a greater variety of macro and micronutrients.
Balance. try to have balance in all areas of your life, even when it comes to your plate (aim for a balance of complex grains, lean meat and healthy fats in most meals).
6 // Learn to cook
For a lot of us, university is where we really start to learn how to cook for ourselves. So if you don’t currently know how to cook, get someone to teach you! A friend or a family member? Even youtube would have plenty of tutorials and recipes! All you need to know is the basics and I promise you it’s not hard!
7 // Meal prep
Meal prepping can make eating healthy throughout the week so much easier. If you have a fridge full of food that is chopped, cooked and ready to go, you don’t have to put in as much thought or effort during the week. So, find a morning/afternoon that you can dedicate to do a little cooking. And again, this can also be incorporated into your studying – you can listen to your notes while you cook.
Also, if you don’t have a kitchen available to you, perhaps you can find a communal kitchen on campus? Or visit family and friends that would let you use theirs in return for food? You might also want to google college recipes!
8 // Stay hydrated
Whatever you do, don’t leave the house without a water bottle in your bag. Hydration helps to keep you alert and keeps away any headaches.
9 // If you have the chance to do a nutrition course, take it
If you’re uni offers a course/elective where you can learn about nutrition, why not sign up? Just beware, some nutrition courses are heavily based on biochemistry and can be really challenging! But chances are if it’s a first year course then it should be fairly safe.
10 // Healthy snacks
Always have healthy snack nearby or in your uni bag. Let’s be honest, if you’re hungry and don’t have anything healthy on hand, the temptation to grab something convenient and not-so-healthy will be oh so real. And if you’re someone that likes to munch while you study, keep some healthy snacks on your desk. Here’s some healthy snack ideas: nuts, healthy bars (beware of the sugar content though – some are better than others), fruit, chopped vegetables (celery and carrot for the win), yoghurt, energy balls or popcorn.
11 // Take advantage of the university gym, classes and sports teams
As a uni student you typically have a lot of physical activities at your disposal so check them out!
12 // Surround yourself in inspiration
One of the best ways to maintain motivation is to surround yourself in inspiration. This could look anything like following healthy foodie accounts on insta, finding healthy/positive friends, changing your phone screensaver to something inspiring or creating a moodboard.
13 // Eat mindfully and listen to your body
You can completely change your approach to eating by slowing down, being mindful of what you’re eating and listening to your body. First things first, pay attention to your hunger cues – are you actually hungry? Or is it an emotional response? If stress is the culprit, don’t worry because I’m covering that in the next tip. And then when you do start eating, get rid of distractions so you can actaully concentrate on eating and slow down to improve digestion (from chewing the food longer) and better recognise feelings of fullness. Secondly, listen to your body. How do the foods you’re eating make you feel? Over time you’ll see patterns and be able to identify those foods that give you lots of energy or those that leave you with mental fog (so not ideal when you’re trying to study).
14 // Manage Stress
A little bit of stress is perfectly fine, good even, but chronic stress can wreak havoc on our nervous system, digestive system, cardiovascular system and our hormones (just to name a few). If you find that you’re someone that tends to stress a lot, it’s important that you find ways to help manage it. First things first, organisation. I know it’s easier said than done, but try to stay on top of your studies guys! Secondly, incorporate little day-to-day things in your life that help calm you like meditation, yoga, journaling, reading, whatever! These sorts of things are also great to do when you find yourself mindlessly raiding the fridge in the middle of a stress meltdown. This is always a good sign that your mind and body need a moment to pause. So, instead or eating every sugary thing in sight, do something that calms you and resets your system. Besides, once you get back to study you’ll be calm, attentive and focused, as opposed to a frazzled, sugar-high mess.
15 // Establish a routine
Your life won’t change until you make a change (oh hey, thanks captain obvious), but seriously – how many times have we said we would do something and never actually did it?! If you really want to live a healthier lifestyle, then you have to actually incorporate these tips into your life. So have a look at your schedule and see where you can include them – this might also involve some re-prioritising and re-arranging! Some examples of this could be prepping your food the night before; making bulk meals on a Sunday so you have meals for the week; building a collection of easy yet healthy recipes; always making sure you have a water bottle and healthy snacks in your bag; setting aside 5 minutes every day to meditate; organising exercise/study sessions with your friend or even making sure you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Some of these things might require a bit of conscious effort at first, but the great thing about adding them into your day-to-day routine is that they will quickly become healthy habits.
16 // Have a consistent sleep schedule
Ok I know I pretty much just said this in the tip before, but it’s so important that it deserved it’s own heading. Sleep is vital to our health as well as our studies (hello more concentration and better memory), so we need to make this one of our top priorities. The best ways to ensure you get enough sleep is to keep on top of your studies to avoid all-nighters and to train your body to fall asleep and wake up at the same time everyday (the two times you pick should have 7-9 hours between them). Also – avoid caffeine at night!!
17 // Party smart
I’m definitely not going to say don’t party because where’s the fun in that? But there are a couple of things you can do to turn partying into one hell of a workout. 1) Space/limit your alcohol. 2) Drink water between every alcoholic drink – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. 3) Dance your booty off (heels + a night of dancing = awesome workout).
18 // Don’t be too hard on yourself
You’re not going to be healthy all the time and that’s perfectly ok. I know I’m certainly not!! Try to build healthier habits but don’t sweat a few indulgences here and there, just enjoy them! Life’s all about balance after all.
Anyways, good luck with your studies guys! I don’t know about you, but assessment is really starting to heat up on this end. I wrote up a schedule last week for what study I have to do on every day of this month right up until mid-june (neurotic or organised? I can’t decide) and I kind of want to cry every time I look at it ha. But we can do this!! xxx
P.S. Have any other tips to add?? Let me know in the comments below!