I will be the first to admit it—my first couple of years of my undergrad, I was NOT healthy. I basically only ate plain pasta, didn’t exercise (besides walking up and down a big hill to the club), and drank loads. Shockingly, my mental and physical health massively suffered as a result. Now that I’m a PhD student, I’ve learned quite a few tips for how to stay healthy at uni.
This article is all about health and college students, including the 25 best ways to stay healthy at uni, both physically and mentally.
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So, without further ado, let’s get into my top tips for staying physically and mentally healthy at uni / in college.
How to stay mentally healthy at uni
Staying mentally healthy at uni can be a challenge, particularly while you’re getting adjusted, but I promise, it’s possible! Here are my top tips for looking after yourself mentally while at university.
1. Stay mentally healthy at uni by getting into a good routine.
Honestly, being in a good routine is my TOP tip for staying healthy at uni, both mentally and physically. I always feel better mentally when I get out of bed at a decent time in the morning and am productive. It may take a few weeks to get into a new routine, but it’s worth the initial effort, as it’ll make it easier to stay mentally healthy in the long-term.
2. Sleep is actually SO important to maintaining mental health. Also, don’t overdo it on the caffeine.
Sleeping enough is an easy (and free!) way to stay healthy at uni. Lots of uni students are chronically sleep deprived—don’t be one of them! Even during exam periods or times with tight deadlines, I firmly believe you’ll always be more productive and efficient if you get a good night’s sleep.
For more info on why sleep is so important, I’d highly recommend reading this book:
3. Try to develop a meditation habit.
Now, I’ve fallen out of this a bit recently, but meditation can really help you stay healthy in my opinion. I’ve always liked this meditation that I found years ago, but you could also use an app like Headspace. There are also lots of guided meditation podcasts out there, or you can just meditate on your own!
4. Make lists (if that’s your thing).
If you’ve read my blog before you know I LOVE planning and making lists and that it calms me down when I’m stressed. If that sounds like something that may work for you, check out my article on how I plan my weeks to maximise productivity and minimise stress.
5. Practice gratitude.
This is also something I really should do more of as I find it helps my mindset and mental health LOADS. Try to either start or finish (or both!) each day by thinking of at least three specific things you are grateful for.
6. Self-care, self-care, self-care.
Stay mentally healthy in uni by making time for self-care. Not sure where to start? Check out this article with my best self-care ideas and tips for incorporating more self-care into your life.
8. Try to avoid burnout, rather than simply treating it.
A LOT of people become burnt out at uni, which is, obviously not ideal for staying healthy physically or mentally! Focus on things you can do to avoid burnout. Need tips? Check out this article on how to avoid burnout (and how to fix it if it’s too late).
9. Don’t isolate yourself.
Particularly now that people are more used to working from home, it can be easy to never leave your room and completely isolate yourself, especially if you’re really busy. As someone with slight ~hermit~ tendencies, I can tell you, this is not the way to stay healthy at uni! At least go to the office or library to work a few times a week and study with friends.
10. Stay healthy at uni by not comparing yourself to others.
This is another one that is particularly important for helping me personally stay healthy at uni. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or experiencing imposter syndrome, chances are, you’re not the only one! It is so helpful to talk about your experiences (read: commiserate) with your peers.
11. Get hobbies (that don’t involve drinking).
Early on in uni, my primary hobby was going out to bars and clubs. While going out is fun (and by all means do it!), try to incorporate some non-drinking activities into your free time as well.
Looking for inspiration? Check out my article on how to learn new things.
12. Keeping your space clean can help you stay healthy at uni.
I know it can be hard when you’re busy or living with other people that aren’t the cleanest. However, having a clean space (at least your room or areas you can control, anyway!) can be super important to maintaining your mental health at uni.
13. Listen to inspirational podcasts.
14. Get help if you need it.
If your mental health is suffering at uni, take advantage of your university’s counselling and mental health services. If you’re in the UK, check out this page for resources from the NHS.
15. Have fun!
Most importantly, uni is meant to be fun! Obviously, it can be hard work, but take time to enjoy it as well!
How to stay physically healthy at uni
16. Get a big water bottle.
This is really a tip for everyone everywhere (including me!), but DRINKING WATER IS SO IMPORTANT TO STAYING HEALTHY AT UNI. I’d recommend getting a refillable water bottle you can take with you everywhere. I like the Sigg ones.
17. Plan your meals to help you stay healthy at uni.
Planning your meals for the week is a GREAT way to help you make healthy choices at uni. Even better, meal prep one of them on Sunday for lunches. Here are some of my go-to, weekly, plant-based meals. I’ll link the recipes where there is one!
- Lasagna with seitan ragu, tofu ‘ricotta’, roasted carrots and aubergine.
- Nando’s marinaded vegan chicken, lemon and herb quinoa, peas, carrots, and olives.
- Vegan cashew alfredo with peas, mushrooms, and lemon zest.
- Mexican-style quinoa with black beans, corn, tomatoes, padron peppers, onions, olives, and chipotle salsa.
- Buffalo vegan chicken wraps.
- Breakfast for dinner (fried potatoes, scrambled silken tofu, tempeh or carrot bacon, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, baked beans).
- Beyond burgers and jacket potatoes.
- Sweet potato stuffed with black beans and hummus.
- Tofu, vegetable, noodle stir fry.
- Homemade vegan pizzas or calzones.
- Roasted veg, vegan chicken, cous cous, and vegan pesto asuce.
- Vegan sausage casserole with squash, onions, white beans, and tomato sauce.
- Tofu, tenderstem broccoli, and rice.
- Pasta with tomato sauce, kidney beans, mushrooms, olives and peas.
- Chick pea flour scrambled ‘eggs’ on toast.
- Fajitas with walnut meat, beans, padron peppers, and onions.
- Bean chilli with quinoa.
If you’re living in a dorm or in halls, check out my microwave-friendly vegan meals.
18. Do one big shop rather than daily trips to the supermarket.
I do one big, weekly shop on Amazon Fresh. This helps save money and also ensures I don’t go to the supermarket hungry every day and make unhealthy choices.
19. Focus on upping your veggies, rather than cutting things out of your diet, to stay mentally and physically healthy at uni.
This is one of my favourite tips to keep myself eating healthy at uni. Rather than feeling like I’m depriving myself of foods, I eat what I want, but just focus on trying to up my intake of fruits and veggies.
20. Rest, relax, and recover.
Now, I know I’ve already talked about the importance of sleep. Sleep is super crucial, but so is generally taking time to rest, relax, and recover. In fact, this is one of the ‘four pillars’ of health as well according to Dr. Chatterjee.
21. Get into an exercise routine to help you stay healthy at uni.
Again, routines are really what make healthy habits stick. Getting into a routine with exercising will help make sure it happens even when you don’t feel like it. For more info, check out my article on motivation.
One great way to start an exercise routine is to go to classes at your local gym, or the free classes put on by your uni. You can also subscribe to an app like Shreddy for daily workouts.
22. Stretch your legs during study breaks.
We all know sitting too much is bad for us, so GET UP WHEN YOU TAKE A BREAK. Take a lap around the library or, even better, go outside and around the block.
23. Adding incidental movement and exercise to your days is super helpful to stay healthy at uni.
This is related to tip #22, but, particularly during busy times, adding incidental exercise to your day is super important to help you stay healthy at uni. Take a slightly longer route to the library. Go for a quick walk during lunch. Upping your light to moderate exercise throughout the day is very good for you and will help you stay physically healthy while at university.
24. Take a multivitamin.
Truth is, no matter how hard we try, we may not be getting in all of our micronutrients. Particularly if, like me, you live in the UK and are plant-based, supplementing things like B12 and vitamin D are important.
I take these vitamins (I know they’re for kids, but I figure I’m not too different in size to a 14-year-old boy).
25. Bonus: my top hangover tips.
I get it, hangovers happen! And, they suck. Here are my top tips for curing a hangover at uni to keep you feeling in tip-top shape physically:
- Stay hydrated while you’re drinking. Drink as much water as possible the night before.
- Drink Berocca or other liquid vitamins in the morning.
- Drunk some vitamin-y juice in the morning.
- Take a multivitamin.
- EAT. I like to order the Vegan Royale from Burger King when I’m hungover, personally.
- If all else fails, I find Pepto Bismol pretty quickly stops the worst of my hangover.
I hope this article helped give you some ideas for how to stay healthy at uni, both physically and mentally. What do you do to stay healthy at uni? Let me know in the comments below!