In a way, being on campus is like living in a Petri dish. During the day, you’re in constant contact with others, which means you’re exposed to their germs. Then you’re staying up late studying (or partying), so you’re not getting enough sleep, and that compromises your immune system. Maybe once in a while you slip on your best running shoes for men (See it on Amazon here) to get in a little exercise, but you’re admittedly not consistent with the effort.
Living this pattern day after day puts you in a predicament because you’re primed for catching with a nasty bug. There are, however, certain habits you can pick up to protect yourself while everyone around you is stuck sneezing, coughing and feverish. See how many of these behaviors you can practice on a regular basis to stay healthy.
1. Wash your hands…frequently!
Just automatically consider every surface to be contaminated with germs others have left behind, waiting for you to pick up. From there, all it takes to introduce those creatures to your system is an innocent touch of your eyes or mouth. Washing your hands with soap and water keeps the bacteria away. Lather up for at least 20 seconds, making sure to cover the backs of your hands, between fingers, and under jewelry.
2. Follow a schedule
Maintaining a fairly consistent waking/sleeping schedule will help keep your body on an even keel. If possible, arrange those times to allow for 8-10 hours on most nights—it’s nearly impossible to “catch up” on lost sleep. Also, it’s during the sleep cycle that your body repairs damage and your immune system battles invaders.
3. Get moving
Research suggests that regular exercise, even when you’re slightly under the weather, helps maintain a healthy white blood cell count, which is critical to defeating viruses. Also, activity triggers the brain to release feel-good endorphins, which automatically put you in a better frame of mind and leaves you feeling energized. Bonus: Maintaining a regular fitness routine contributes to better sleep quality.
4. Load up on fruits and vegetables
Of course, everyone knows you’re supposed to eat several servings of fruits and vegetables every day. But if you feel a cold coming on, it’s time to really up the amount you’re eating. Reach for produce known to be high in vitamin C, such as chilies, kale, broccoli, strawberries, and brussels sprouts. If you want extra insurance, you could take a vitamin C supplement, but studies have shown that natural sources are more readily absorbed, and therefore, more effective at fighting viruses.
5. Meditate to stay stress-free
When you’re stressed out because midterms are approaching or dorm mates keep you awake, you’re blocking your body’s ability to cope with illness. Then you become more stressed because you don’t feel well, and it becomes an ongoing negative cycle. If you take a few moments to focus on your breathing, your muscles naturally know it’s time to relax. Also, the brain slows the output of stress hormones and it gives your immune system a chance to reboot. What’s great about meditation is that all it requires is to sit back, close your eyes and channel all your energy and concentration into your breathing.
Staying healthy on campus doesn’t take a huge extra effort, however, the benefits are tremendous. When you’re alert and feeling well, you’re more likely to be pay attention during lectures and not miss out on important points or instructions. What’s more, you’ll have energy to study, will feel better about taking exams and will enjoy the campus experience much more because you’re not feeling sorry for yourself because you got sick.