There are five essential and critical elements to a balanced healthy lifestyle.
- Eating well
- Physical activity
- Stress reduction
- Connection with others
We know from past health surveys on campus that the top three health issues that impact a student’s academic performance are increased stress, lack of sleep, colds and the flu. All of them do require some time on your part, but if you take a few minutes a day to incorporate at least two of these variables, you will be on the path to a healthier college career. Studies indicate that students who get eight hours of sleep on a regular basis, maintain their blood sugar by eating throughout the day, and engage in physical activity and relaxation techniques tend to do better academically.
The recommended amount of sleep is eight hours a night. Some students can function on six hours a night, others need as much as nine or 10 hours to feel rested.
- Try to go to bed around the same time every night and get up at the same time every day. A routine improves your sleep habits.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and smoking in the evening. Each substance can affect the ability to fall asleep or into the deep (slow wave) stage or the REM (rapid eye movement) stage.
- Put away the laptop at least 20 minutes before bedtime. Pleasure reading or listening to a relaxation tape offers an opportunity to allow your muscles and your mind to relax before sleep.
Need a Nap?
A 20-30 minute nap is the most restorative. If you sleep longer than 30 minutes you will be drowsy when you wake up. Sleep is the time that your brain needs to rejuvenate, heal, save and consolidate memory, and for immunologic repair. A 90-minute nap is also restorative as your body has time to complete a full sleep cycle. Waking up from a 50-60 minute nap will make you groggy as you will wake up during the slow wave, or deep sleep cycle. It is best to nap between 2:00 and 4:00 pm when your natural circadian rhythm dips.
For further information about sleep, visit the Health Service web site, and read “Health Tips for Wellesley Women.”
In September, you will be faced with many choices at mealtimes. There are a variety of foods and you will be selecting your own portion sizes as well as types of food. The best idea is to go to the dining hall with a game plan:
Fill your plate with a variety of colors (green, yellow, orange, red, white) so you know you are getting adequate nutrients. Balance your selection to include different kinds of foods.
- Drink plenty of water (8-10 glasses/day). Limit the caffeinated and sugary drinks and juices.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals to keep up your energy and avoid food cravings.
- Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Eat when you are hungry, eat slowly, and stop before you are full.
When you get to campus, you may make an appointment with our nutritionist, Carolyn Butterworth, at x2810. For dietary restrictions, contact AVI Food Service's Registered Dietician Amy Branham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information:
- Wellesley College Health Service Nutrition Site
- Dietary Guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services
- Go Ask Alice
Physical activity has positive effects on your mood and energy levels while promoting brain stimulation and plasticity.
Resistance training (e.g., using weights) increases your metabolism, prevents loss of body mass, and strengthens bone density
Many first-years find it difficult to maintain a regular exercise regime when they enter college. The pressures of academics and extracurricular activities sometimes leave little time for a formalized exercise program. The challenge is to think of ways to incorporate exercise into a daily routine. Students have found that taking the long route to class, climbing the stairs instead of using an elevator, walking with a friend to the center of Wellesley or around the Lake, dancing in their room, or participating in aerobics or crew and intramural sports have been helpful ways to exercise on a regular basis. Students who use wheelchairs or are physically challenged in some manner can learn modified activities.
It’s not unusual to feel some physical and mental stress during your college career. Our bodies are designed to feel stress and react to it. It’s a natural thing so it is unrealistic to think that it can always be prevented. The trick is noticing how stress manifests itself for you (e.g., neck and shoulder tension, shallow breathing, stomach churning, ruminating thoughts), and to decide how you want to deal with it. Here are some simple ways for relieving stress when you feel it in your body:
- Take a DEEP BREATH in slowly through your nose.
- Feel the breath moving down to the bottom of your breast bone.
- Purse your lips and breathe out, SLOWLY (count silently to your self 1, 2, 3, 4).
- After the fourth breath, pause silently for a moment
Do you notice any changes in your body?
Now, continue with six more deep breaths. You should feel very relaxed.
For more information:
American Institute of Stress
Connection to Others
During your first week at Wellesley, you will have the opportunity to meet with fellow first years in your first year mentor groups. You will also be meeting other students in your residence halls, and getting to know some of the faculty and staff members on campus. Research indicates that maintaining close connections and relationships with other people help to build resiliency and to decrease stress. Take advantage of the many opportunities for connection, such as student organizations that are offered to you here at Wellesley!