I know for me, in my first year away from home, managing my time and new-found freedom was a huge new challenge — no parents telling me what to do or when. This had it’s perks … and its downsides too. While it meant I could go out when I wanted, wherever I wanted, where I wanted and eat whatever I fancied, it also meant I was at times faced with cramming for huge exams mere days before because I hadn’t planned far enough in advance. Or getting sick and worn down on account of too much fun, and too little nutrition.
But what you sometimes don’t realize is that pulling all-nighters to study, juggling a job, socializing and a less-than-stellar diet can creep up and strain your health — both physical and mental — and drain your wallet.
Here are some thoughts to help you develop healthy mental, physical and financial habits to keep you at the top of your game.
Let’s be real: there are a lot of changes during this stage of your life.
You may be living away from home for the first time, far from your usual support network and creature comforts. You’re in a new environment with new friends and pressures, experiencing and learning new things, including what it means to make choices — and be responsible — for yourself. And whether working or playing hard, stress is still stress as far as your body is concerned. Not surprisingly, it can take a negative toll on many people. In fact, a fifth of Canadian post-secondary students are depressed, anxious, or battling other mental health issues, according to the National College Health Assessment, and stress plays a role in this.
Before starting school, find out what resources are available and have a plan in case you need it. If you do start feeling stressed, depressed or anxious, don't ignore those feelings.
Before starting school, find out what resources are available and have a plan in case you need it. If you do start feeling stressed, depressed or anxious, don’t ignore those feelings. Use the resources around you, reach out to a family member or good friend who can offer support, and take time to care for yourself. A few minutes each day to relax, meditate or do some yoga can help reduce stress and elevate your mood.
Between time spent in class, studying at the library or coffee shop and binge-watching Netflix, students can be pretty inactive. In fact, a recent study from the University of British Columbia revealed that post-secondary students’ exercise levels actually decline once they start school. Regular exercise not only helps you look and feel great, but it can also be important to your mental health and achieving better grades. While it may be hard to squeeze yoga or a workout into a hectic school schedule, it’s not impossible.
Make yourself a priority and create a routine that will help you stick to your exercise goals. For example, I established at least three set days of the week when I would work out — no matter what. It was literally a “date” with myself in my calendar. It doesn’t have to be the same time each day, although that helps — just make sure it’s realistic for you (for example, don’t schedule it at 6 a.m. if you’re not a morning person). If the gym is not your thing, try to incorporate exercise into an activity you’re already doing, such as walking or biking to class. Or join a running group or swim class — and having a buddy system can help keep motivation high.
Make yourself a priority and create a routine that will help you stick to your exercise goals.
Money stress can be a factor in student performance — not to mention being another rite of passage to adulthood. A recent poll showed that more than two-thirds of students are worried about having enough money for school. So now is the time to start establishing healthy financial habits that your future self will thank you for.
Have a candid conversation with your parents about your budget and any expectations you may both have as you go through school. Will your parents be providing any financial help? Will you have any school bursaries or grants? What scholarships can you apply for? Will you need a part-time job to earn extra income? Pay attention to your spending habits, create a budget and track where your money is going. If you’re working part-time, try to save a percentage of each paycheque (aim for at least 5-10%). Talk to your bank about financing your education, scholarships and an automatic savings plan to help you stay on track with your goals.
As I progressed through my years at university, I realized that being on top of everything, reducing stress, and trying to stay healthy wasn’t going to happen magically on its own. I took a proactive approach and developed healthier habits in part to create a plan I could follow, and setting some goals for myself that I could track towards which made me feel a personal sense of accomplishment. The experience formed habits I use to this day.
College or university years provide memories many people will always fondly remember for all the amazing social, academic and life experiences gained and lessons learned. Make the most of this time by starting healthy habits now that will also last a lifetime.
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.