Leaving home for college is a big deal. While students are excited to embrace newfound freedom, it’s also a big transition. For the first time, no supervising adult keeps track of your daily routine. This means many young women realize they are almost solely in charge when it comes to staying healthy at college and making wise lifestyle choices.
6 Things Young Women Can Do to Prioritize Health at College
We see college students daily in our practice, so we know firsthand how important it is for young women to take charge of their health. Here are six things you can do to prioritize your health and well-being while you’re away at school.
1. Establish a primary care provider in your new area
If you have insurance, get a list of primary health care providers and begin scheduling first appointments. We know many students and their families use school breaks to schedule wellness visits, which is great. However, sometimes health issues arise outside of that convenient schedule.
Establishing a relationship with care providers (medical, OB/GYN, dentist, vision care, etc.) makes it easier to be seen if needed. Your primary providers at home can transfer your health records to your local area physicians to keep things up to date. Schedule an appointment at the college clinic or a free/low-cost community clinic if you don’t have insurance.
2. Switch your pharmacy to keep medication up to date
If you’re on prescription medications, including birth control, switch your pharmacy to one near your school. This ensures you have all of your medications on time and as needed – along with access to pharmacist counsel as needed.
NOTE: Always take medications as prescribed. Again, you don’t have a parent there to keep you on track the way you may have when living at home. Taking medicines as prescribed – no less and no more – is essential to your health. Even over-the-counter medications – like ibuprofen and acetaminophen – can be dangerous if you take too much. Ibuprofen is known for causing stomach issues, including ulcers, and acetaminophen is hard on the liver.
3. Get plenty of exercise & focus on healthy foods
A life of study and working your way through school often means a reduction in daily exercise. This is especially true for those who played sports through high school but opted out in college. Exercise is essential for:
- Overall health
- Healthy sleep habits
- Mood regulation
- Weight management
- Stress management
Most colleges and universities have high-quality gyms included in their tuition fees, as well as other opportunities to exercise via volleyball, tennis, or basketball courts, pools, or jogging trails. You can also build regular exercise into your everyday rhythm by walking a little faster, parking further away from your destination, or taking the stairs in place of an elevator.
While campus food courts do their best to provide healthy food choices, it’s up to you to control what you put in your body. Make it a point to include lots of lean proteins, fruits, veggies, and whole grains in your daily meal rotation. Also, minimize your intake of sodas, sugary beverages, and processed snacks. Remember the wise words, “everything in moderation.”
4. Make mental health a priority
Leaving home for college and starting a new life away from home is a huge transition. It’s not uncommon for college students to feel overwhelmed or to suffer unknowingly from anxiety or depression. These emotions can creep up on you and inhibit your life in ways that hide their severity.
Make mental health a priority. In addition to doing all you can to support mental well-being with diet, exercise, and healthy sleep habits, pay attention to red flags indicating its worth a check-in with the campus counseling center:
- Trouble sleeping
- Lack of appetite or overeating
- Socially isolating yourself
- Lack of interest in your favorite activities
- Continuous worrying or feelings of anxiety
It may seem like “everyone else” is keeping it together, but we assure you you’re not alone. Reach out to someone you trust, like a friend, your parents, a favorite professor or TA, your resident advisor, or a college counselor. Visit NAMI’s College Guide to learn more about getting the support you deserve.
5. Give yourself the gift of sleep
We can’t tell you how important sleep is to human health and well-being. Sleep is responsible for:
- Helping you retain new information (overnighters are overrated!)
- Regulating hormone balance
- Immune system boosting
- Supporting mental health and mood regulation
- Rejuvenating the body and mind
- Supporting focus and concentration
College isn’t known for its ability to support healthy sleep habits – especially if you live in well-lit and noisy dorms or apartments. Do what you can to get at least seven to nine hours every night – including investing in blackout curtains, a sleep mask, and earplugs if needed.
6. Take advantage of health apps
Your busy school, work, and social life probably get the best of your calendar from time to time. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of five of our favorite women’s health apps to help keep you on track when you need some healthy reminders or resources.
Looking For Healthcare Providers in KC?
Are you a college student looking for women’s healthcare providers in the KC area? Contact Women’s Health Associates to schedule your first appointment. As Kansas City and Overland Park’s leading all-female OB/GYN medical practice, we pride ourselves on providing the highest level of personal and professional care to our patients.