About 20 million students begin college each fall and for many of them, it’s the first time they’re on their own—taking sole responsibility for their academics, daily routine, and health. Preparing to take the reins of your own health care can be overwhelming, but a few simple preparations can help you make this important transition a smooth one. “When students step on campus, they really should find out where resources are that they might need—assistance with teaching and learning, the student health center, and mental wellness resources,” says Bernadette Melnyk, Chief Wellness Officer at The Ohio State University. She urges all new students to check off a few simple but crucial tasks before moving to school and to revisit them throughout the school year to keep students happier and healthier when moving out on their own for the first time. Check out this infographic to learn more!
Establish healthy habits
Just like you schedule your classes, schedule time for physical activity (at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week), healthy eating, stress relief, and at least seven hours of sleep every night. When you map out where your classes are on campus, also find your way to the places that will help you keep those healthy habits, like the gym, a dining facility with healthy options, and the student health center.
Find local health care
Get connected with a primary care nurse practitioner or physician and the nearest pharmacy. This is especially important for students who come to school with a chronic health condition, but every student could inevitably face a health challenge and should be prepared. Be sure to understand your insurance coverage before accessing care.
Make your mental health a priority
The pressures of school and new surroundings can be nerve-wracking for students. Stress, depression, and anxiety are growing mental health challenges among college students. Getting involved in campus organizations can help you start making friends right away and can go a long way toward reducing stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and it’s interfering with functioning, don’t wait to seek professional help.
Find a system that works for you
Whether it’s scheduling workouts and health care appointments in a planner or using apps on your phone to remind you to take medication, find a way to stay organized and proactive about your health and well-being. Experts say new students should also establish healthy sleep habits and keep all-nighters to a minimum.
“Knowing when to ask for help is critical, whether you’re having trouble with your classes or facing a physical or mental health issue,” says Melnyk. And there are plenty of resources available on your college campus to ensure you stay happy and healthy. Refer to this checklist often, take note of when you're struggling, and don't be afraid to seek help when you need it.