Staying Healthy in College (page 2)
Below are a few health issues you may face while at college and some action steps you can take to help protect yourself.
Eating Disorders and Diet Changes
Your eating habits may change once you’re in college, and you may gain or lose weight. College cafeterias, buffets, and easy access to food 24 hours a day make it tempting to overeat or not make the healthiest food choices. On the other hand, you may not eat enough because of stress, lack of money, or other reasons.
Eating disorders are serious medical problems. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are all types of eating disorders. Eating disorders frequently develop during adolescence or early adulthood, but can occur during childhood or later in adulthood. Females are more likely than males to develop an eating disorder. Eating disorders are more than just a problem with food.
- Determine if your eating habits could be improved. Visit a health clinic or talk to a nutritionist or dietitian about ways to improve your diet.
- If you or someone you know is showing signs of an eating disorder, get help. If you suspect a friend has an eating disorder, tell him or her about your concerns. Ask him or her to talk to a counselor or doctor who knows about eating issues, and offer to go along to the appointment. Let your friend know you are there for him or her.
- Talk to someone you can trust, such as a parent, doctor, counselor, religious leader, or teacher.
Fatigue and Sleep Deprivation
Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and depression. Students who are working or studying long hours often experience episodes of sleep deprivation. This can cause daytime sleepiness, sluggishness, and difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Teens and young adults who do not get enough sleep are at risk for problems, such as automobile crashes; poor grades and school performance; depressed moods; and problems with friends, fellow students, and adult relationships. Eating well, being physically active, and getting a good night’s sleep is vital to your well-being.
- Review your class, work, study, and play schedule. See what changes need to be made to ensure you get eight hours of sleep each night.
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine. The stimulating effects of caffeine in coffee, colas, teas, and chocolate can take as long as 8 hours to wear off fully.
- Have a good sleeping environment. Get rid of anything that might distract you from sleep, such as noises or bright lights.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day- even on the weekends.
- See your health provider if you continue to have trouble sleeping.
Mental Health: Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
Everybody has the blues, feels anxious, loses interest in enjoyable activities, or gets stressed sometimes, but when it continues for a long time or interferes with daily activities, it may be more serious.
Stress is the body's response to any demand or pressure. These demands are called stressors. When stressors in your life are constant, it can take a tool on your mental and physical health.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It helps you deal with a tense situation, study harder for an exam, or keep focused on an important speech. However, if you cannot shake unwarranted worries, or if the feelings are jarring to the point of avoiding everyday activities, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Depression is very different from the occasional blues. About 18.8 million Americans experience depressive disorders that affect how they sleep, eat, feel about themselves, and live their lives. Depression can run in families, and it usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30. Depression has physical and emotional symptoms and cannot be wished away; people with depression can't just "pull themselves together." There are different types of depressive disorders, each with its own symptoms and treatment options. The good news is that depression can be treated, and people can recover.
- Stay active. Regular physical activity improves one’s mood, helps relieve depression, and increases feelings of well-being. Try going for a walk, dancing, jogging, or riding a bike. Ask a friend to exercise with you if you need to be motivated.
- Develop a circle of friends for support.
- Identify what may be causing your stress. Determine what steps you can take to reduce stressors, such as changing schedules, using self-relaxation techniques, and setting realistic goals for yourself.
- Talk to someone you can trust, such as a parent, doctor, counselor, religious leader, resident assistant, or teacher. Some people find that sharing their feelings with someone they trust and who recognizes what they’re going through helps them feel better.
- Visit the health center, and discuss concerns with a health professional. If the health professional advises treatment, follow instructions. Watch out for side effects, and attend follow-up appointments to assess improvement. If you don't feel any better after 4-6 weeks, tell your health professional.
- If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention content is free and public domain.
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