Health and wellness New Year’s resolutions are consistently the most popular among Americans: This year, 36 percent resolved to stay fit/healthy, while 32 percent resolved to lose weight.
It should come as no surprise we feel the need to do better in this area: We often neglect to take care of ourselves when life gets hectic with the demands of family, work and school. These stresses take their toll on our mental well-being first and then spread to damage our physical health.
Going to school is not easy. Studying for exams, participating in extracurriculars, working at your job, taking care of your family can all add to your stress. While some of these pressures cannot be avoided, they can be counteracted with these strategies:
1. Take breaks
You have a test on Tuesday, a paper due on Thursday and a presentation to give on Friday. You may feel like you need to devote every second of your week to your assignments. But a study from DeskTime, a productivity app that tracks employees’ computer use, found the highest-performing 10 percent tended to work for 52 consecutive minutes followed by a 17-minute break. Use yours to go for a walk, message a friend or watch videos of cats playing the keyboard.
2. Practice yoga and meditation
Studies have found yoga and meditation not only decrease stress levels and physiological arousal (e.g., reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure) but also help us regulate our pain responses, boost our mood and alleviate depression. You don’t even need to go to a gym or yoga studio to get the benefits: There are plenty of free or low-cost online resources to practice right in your dorm room.
3. Get more sleep
Sleep is vital to our well-being. You likely already know this if you’ve gone without adequate sleep, and then finally got a good night’s rest. The key to getting more sleep is to create a healthy habit. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (even on weekends); be smart about what you eat and drink, especially right before bed; and keep your room dark, cool and quiet.
4. Find an outlet
Without adding to your list of responsibilities, make time for your hobbies or interests (activities that don’t require deadlines or even outcomes). Try coloring, journaling or clog dancing — really, anything you enjoy doing. You deserve to have some fun, and your mind and body will thank you for it.