The college guide to staying healthy during stressful (and fun) times
To the Freshman students, welcome, and to the returning students, welcome back to college life. Going through college you will have many stressful times, but just as many exciting times. When you are having both stressful and fun times, you will consider picking up some bad habits. In this article, I want to focus on three bad habits we are arguably most aware of as college students.
You may experience consecutive cramming sessions while preparing for finals, and late night breakfast at the café is not going to make those test scores any higher – it may help, but it won’t get the job done. Many college students turn to caffeine, specifically energy drinks and coffee, to help them stay up and study longer. Energy drinks can cause dangerous side effects if recklessly consumed. Coffee can also have some negative effects if excessively used. Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it raises levels of nervous activity within your body. Regular use of caffeine can cause some physical dependence, which means you may experience withdrawals if you attempt to breakup with that coffee cup, but coffee is not harmful to the body.
Using caffeine responsibly and knowing how it effects your body is the key to staying healthy during those cram sessions. Many people think drinking a cup of coffee will keep you up throughout the night, but that completely depends on your actions. After eight to 10 hours, 75% of coffee is out of your system and no longer influences your body. Drinking a cup of coffee right before bed may interrupt your sleep. Two important facts about coffee that the average college student should be aware of is (1) it does not cause dehydration, so all those student-athletes who love coffee, feel free to have that morning cup of Joe, and (2) caffeine does not help you “sober up,” so do not depend on coffee to get you ready for that big test after a night of partying. Coffee isn’t magic; it’s only caffeine.
The third bad habit that some college students may be tempted to pick up is anabolic steroids. As a student-athlete here at USF, you are warned about anabolic steroids before your season even starts. It may be tempting to use these substances to increase performance at a collegiate level sport or to achieve your body goals, but there are some things you should know first. According to Ali Mohamadi, M.D. medical officer in the Food and Drug Administration’s Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology products, anabolic steroids are drugs that mimic the actions of male sex hormone testosterone and promotes growth of cells, especially muscles. It is estimated that 375,000 male high school students and 175,000 female high school students have used anabolic steroids at least once. Some of the side effects include:
High Blood Pressure
Heart and Liver Abnormalities
Mood swings, Depression, Aggressive behavior
Boys can experience shrinkage of testes and the development of breast tissue. Girls can experience menstrual irregularities and develop facial and body hair. Anabolic steroids allow you to cut corners with consequences. Instead of taking the “easy way out,” try committing to a regimen of exercise and dieting. Working hard, eating right and taking care of your body makes the difference in reaching your goals and it makes the reward even sweeter.
Lastly, I want to talk about alcohol. Many college students feel like it is a rite of passage to go out and drink with your friends, but you should consider some things first. College students drink because their friends drink, to make socializing easier, and to feel a sense of freedom after turning the legal drinking age. Alcohol is a depressive, which means in high doses it acts as a depressant to the central nervous system, and in low doses acts as a stimulant so you may experience feelings of euphoria and talkativeness. Some of the negative effects of alcohol include:
Heightened emotional responses
Lack of coordination
Slurred speech/ dizziness
Nausea and Vomiting
Alcohol can lead to dependence and withdrawal. College students of the legal drinking age should be cautious when drinking alcohol because habits are formed during the college years. If you are of legal drinking age and you are going to drink, keep these things in mind:
Never drink and drive or get into a car with someone who has been drinking
Hydrate and never drink on an empty stomach
Know your limits, sip slowly
Always have a designated driver
Take care of your friends
Never combine alcohol and drugs; it could be a deadly combination
Leave when it is time to
Your time here at the University of St Francis will encompass a lot of hard work and a lot of fun times, but always remember to be responsible and knowledgeable about the substances you put into your body.
How do you stay healthy during the school year when you're stressed OR having fun? Let us know in the comments below!