This topic is so close to my heart – probably because like everyone I find it hard to balance being a student with my football passion. Which is how I have come up with these 11 Healthy Student Lifestyle Secrets. This is based on my own personal challenges and circumstances but is relevant to any student juggling study with life.
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Have a healthy attitude to socializing
I’m putting this first on the list because a recent event at our student residence has put this at the top of the agenda. If you know me well, you know that I don’t drink or do anything that would compromise my health. But this is also true for anything that would jeopardize my football career, placement at university or visa. The important things that keep me in the country.
It is hard to say no but I’ve had a lot of practice now at bringing a healthy attitude to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. And no, not everyone respects that choice. But frankly, that’s not my problem. Living a healthy lifestyle is important, and not just for the obvious health benefits. You don’t want to risk anything that you’ve worked hard for. And you don’t want to risk your future.
I mentioned the event at the residence. Of course, there are some shenanigans when you first move into university. But some people will take it too far. Don’t be that person. A few just have to learn the hard way that the police will get involved and the university will be notified.
Here’s my tip: find like-minded people to hang with. This is working for me and means I can still have friends and go out socially without compromising my healthy lifestyle choices. And hey, no judgement on the freshies at the Residence – they are fresh out of high school after all.
Create the ideal sleeping environment
Again, this ranks very high on my healthy lifestyle list. I cannot function as a student or a footballer without sleep. When I moved to the new residence, I was uncomfortably shocked to discover that in the middle of a scorching hot Madrid summer, there was no aircon! It took two sleepless nights before I bit the bullet and went out to buy a floor fan. My best purchase this year without any exaggeration.
Whatever it is in your dorm room or residence that is impacting the quality of your sleep: fix it now. I cannot stress this enough. Understandably, this is harder if you are sharing your room. Because I come and go at all hours, I’m fortunate enough to have a private room, but I’ve frequently had to share with up to five other students at different times in my life, so I know what that is like.
Go on a friend-finding mission
You can’t spend all your time in your room. If you are doing that it is a sign that you aren’t coping. Likewise, I can’t spend all my time hanging with the football team. My previous team had an average age of 28 (I was 18). Most were married with children and loads of football experience. With a new residence, there’s a whole batch of new people to get to know. So, despite an already pretty hectic social life, I will try to join in where I can. Even though I am challenged with being the only non-native Spanish speaker here, this is the best way for me to push outside the comfort zone (and improve my Spanish in the process). Find a group that will do the same for you.
Join things, sign up, be present
Despite it all, I’ve just volunteered to be the class representative (inspired by the awesome work of our class reps last year). In the past I’ve joined the IE Culinary Club, I’ve played in futsal competitions and so on.
I am a social person naturally, and a bit of an extravert, but I really encourage you to push yourself to make the most of your time at university and to discover who you are and what you like doing. You’ll meet others in the process too which is a bonus.
Get organized and measure your progress
You can tell I am so passionate about this topic. The juggle, meeting my goals, arriving on time. These are very important for me. If I miss my carpool at the station, I have no way of getting to training (last year they once fined me for the whole car being late. There were four people and I had to pay the fine for each one). And we know that you can’t miss class.
That’s why I have my own planning system and I recommend you try it if you are struggling with time management. You can download my whole system by subscribing. I’m releasing new worksheets weekly.
If you are anything like me, you need to be super organized to handle the daily juggle. If you need a journal, this one by Michael Hyatt is a good one.
The hardest one of all: healthy eating while living on campus
If you live in a residence, then you are at the mercy of the dining hall. I just try to steer myself toward the healthier choices that come with the menu, but TBH, it’s never that great. Worse, my training schedule is demanding, and I finish at 10:30 pm which means I never make it home for dinner and don’t end up eating until 11:00pm. Which for Spain is not that unusual. Thankfully, the dining staff will put my meals aside (it took some negotiation as this didn’t come with the standard package). They made me agree that if they put a meal aside, that I would eat it. Sometimes the club puts on a BBQ or orders burgers, or we go out after training, so those days are challenging in a different way!
Last year, I had to provide my own meals on the weekends and the residence provided a shared kitchen for the students. I became very good IMHO for making healthy meals on a budget which could last for the whole weekend. Finding recipes that I actually wanted to eat took some practice. Full disclosure: there were weekends where I just ate food that I’d saved and stored from the week.
Exercise – stretching and recovery – for the ultimate healthy student lifestyle
Because I am a footballer (soccer player), I don’t need to worry about getting enough exercise. Even on the holidays I trained with a professional football team in my home country (Australia). But doing the proper stretching and recovery is hard. I ALWAYS make sure I don’t go to bed until I’ve used the roller or done my stretching routine. Other recovery actions I do might be taking a cold/hot shower (alternating) or getting into the swimming pool. There is the ice bath which the club sometimes has available (I love it and highly recommend it to avoid injuries). My previous residence had a sauna, so I used that too. I recently started with Red Light Therapy.
There have been times (pre and post season) where I have needed to join a gym or sign on with a personal trainer. If all else fails, I will train by myself in my room. If you aren’t doing any exercise that might be the best place to start.
Skincare, the one habit I absolutely can’t skip
I struggle with acne breakouts, and I have been seeing a dermatologist. So, my skin care routine is essential to avoid a flare up. I need to ensure that I take other precautions as well, including using sunscreen, moisturizer and washing carefully.
As a footballer, my face is exposed all the time and I’m outdoors a lot. If I slide in living a healthy lifestyle and following a good routine, my face is an instant barometer of how things are going. None of my healthy habits work in isolation: sleep, exercise, hydration, nutrition. All contribute to my healthy skincare routine.
Be a healthy student by booking medical appointments every year
For preventative health, the good news is you only need to do this once a year. This is my routine every summer:
- Doctor: flu-shot
- Dermatologist: blood test and if needed, prescription medication
- Dentist: annual check-up (Argh, I may need braces)
- Optometrist: This summer I discovered I need glasses for classroom work. For football I have been prescribed contacts.
- Others as needed: physiotherapist, massage, facials. Some of these are provided by the club, others I use occasionally.
Connectedness with family is a healthy lifestyle need: reach out often
If you are living far from home as I am then you can’t just go and visit your parents or brother or dog whenever you want to. In fact, for 2.5 years, from the age of 16 years, I didn’t see my family because of
family COVID. One word: Messenger.
Call home when you can. Don’t underestimate the power of hearing a familiar voice to cure homesickness or provide some comfort. After all, these are the people who love you and are in your corner. This article is about building healthy lifestyle habits. Best not just to call when you need to ask for money.
Bring mindfulness and quiet time into your healthy student lifestyle
Basically, if things aren’t working out you may need extra help. The most important thing is not to try and deal with it on your own. I also find prayer works well and I try to keep a regular prayer habit. It’s great to know that not everything is in your control and to focus on the things that are.
Maybe you are happy with a Spotify playlist and a bit of quiet time. Others may need meditation apps or even therapy to assist when anxiety is rising. Once I had a very high temperature (it was during COVID, but it wasn’t COVID) and I tried the box breathing technique to help me get to sleep. I was so sick. It was very effective, and you can download that on an app.
A healthy student takes care of the basics
This is not an exhaustive list, but there is one other thing that I think is non-negotiable and that is to take care of the basics. For me, the basics that I never miss are showering, cleaning my teeth after meals and flossing at least once a day. And then there is hydration – I always have a bottle of water at my fingertips. Some days, that might be all you can manage!
So that’s my ‘starter’ healthy student lifestyle list
I’ve only really tackled the ‘tip of the iceberg’ – there is so much more! However, if you aren’t an athlete or involved in regular sport, I’m sure you can see the benefits of having a routine. Being intentional and deliberate about following a healthy lifestyle plan, even if you are a student, is a daily discipline.
This blog is all about building a healthy student lifestyle.