Fall is one of my favorite times of year- it was always time to start something new, learn new stuff and of course, stay chipper with pumpkin spice lattes and bundled in my favorite scarves. Fall is always a sensory overload for me, in a good way- but as I recall, when I was a college student it was also really stressful.
Whether you’re a student yourself, or you’re caring for one- it means you’re running on all cylinders as you adjust to a new schedule and make adjustments to accommodate to a new workload.
During this time of year, two things are likely to happen- you either get stressed and get sick, or your busy schedules mean you fall off the healthy wagon, indulging in fast food and unhealthy vending machine snacks or you’re simply too busy to stay healthy. If you’ve been working on making this year a better year for your health, don’t give up now!
I always operated at my best when my calendar was both full and color coded. I find that I do better when I can see the month ahead and my meetings, classes, projects, due dates and extra curriculars are accounted for, and I can see them visually on my paper planner. I also coordinated my iPhone alerts to ensure the things I forget (meaning, exercise) don’t get glossed over in the thick of things.
As you go into a new season, don’t assume your summer fitness goals should be the same. You may need to make realistic accommodations for a new season and schedule- be realistic about your goals and aim for goals that make you feel great, not deflated. If you were able to run 5 days a week in summer, maybe adjust to 3 days, it’s okay to cut back but stay consistent.
It’s also key to set rewards up in advance. If you attend all of your Pilates classes for a month, what treat will you enjoy? Keep your eye on the prize, if you don’t- everything else gets in the way when you’re busy!
You’re busy, and when that happens, it’s easy for germs to creep in and get you sick. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as they say- so put together a super cute carepack and duplicate it for every space you spend time so you’re not without it if you switch bags or run low.
A good carepack should consist of a pain reliever, vitamin, hand sanitizer, allergy meds, tissues, cough drops, mints, a granola bar & bandaids- and best of all you should have one kit everywhere you need it, otherwise, it’s no good if you get a headache in the car and go without.
If you’re like me, and you’ve been caught once or twice in painful shoes that give you painful blisters- stock up on blister band-aids and friction block sticks. Yes, you need to prevent germs, but you also need to prevent hobbling to your car in this season’s latest fashions…you can either break in your fall boots, or they break you!
When you’re dehydrated, it’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger, leading you to snack on whatever is in the vending machine. Ensure you get your daily intake of water by mixing it up with infusions- throw some strawberry or lemon slices in your water bottle in the morning and it will give you some flavor without the sugar.
If you’re a student who is struggling to kick the soda habit- try carbonated waters which come plain (and you can a squirt of citrus) or a flavor that’s low in sugar or has no sugar. I love fizzy waters and you can grab them cheaper than soda- usually for $1 and you get a larger size that will last all day.
I usually buy these 10 at a time- it feels as refreshing as soda without the sugar. A typical Coke will have over 100% of your daily suggested intake of sugar… I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a good hot tea or coffee and save my sugar for dessert!
They say sitting is the new smoking, and honestly this really annoys me since sitting in class is.. sitting in class. We can’t avoid sitting, but we can avoid those tension headaches and sore shoulders that come from being hunched over at a computer working on a thesis paper for hours at a time.
A great hack to incorporate exercise into your daily routine is to simply take a 3 minute dance break when you can. If you know you’re going to be working on studies or paper writing for over 2 hours, set an alarm. When the alarm goes off, get on Spotify and blast your favorite song- stretch or dance for the entire song. Just jam out sister!
Look, if I were to suggest that your busy self could get up every morning at 5am on top of work and classes, plus everything else you have going on to go run or do yoga, I know I’d be a hypocrite. There are times we’re so busy we forget to brush our teeth, much less work out. Dance breaks are the things that kept my mood elevated and my migraine headaches (from eye strain and that bad laptop posture) at bay.
I can hear you now- “It’s not frugal!!!” You’re right, it’s not- well, for some. As a sufferer of the worst migraines when I was under deep stress, that lowered my immune system in a horrible cascade effect on my health- I would say the $80-100 a semester was worth it to me.
There are tangible benefits to massage- to help you stay healthy and decrease your headaches, cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body, and help you recover after exercise or combat the bad posture in desk chairs and computer sessions… but really, don’t you need to treat yourself?
Yes, I love a mani/pedi as much as the next girl, but honestly, a massage just has more health benefits packed into an hour long session to make it more of a value for your budget. Not to mention the fact that migraine medication used to cost me about $25-50 a semester and made me feel like a zombie, I’d say it helped me cut costs and increase productivity. I used to feel horrible spending the money, but when I went 6 months without a single migraine or tension headache, I was sold. Chances are, there is a way your health can benefit from massage- but it feels great in the meantime!
Stress, as we discussed, lowers your immunity- but it also can wreak havoc on your willpower to avoid sugary and fattening temptations that you’d otherwise have no problem avoiding. Additionally, if you’re stressed, take precautions to avoid getting sick- use hand sanitizer, stay hydrated, get some sleep and take vitamins. Of course, this isn’t always possible- but if you’re carepack is packed, you can at least avoid germs and stock up on vitamins when you’re busy and stayed up too late.
When possible, sleep. When possible, treat yourself to stress lowering activities like yoga, calling a good friend or spending time with a pet (that was my favorite thing- long dog walks with my rescue pug!)- anything that can get your stress levels in check. If folks around you are sick, be sure to stock up on sanitizer and stay home if you’re sick!
Going back to college or having kids in school can be stressful no matter who is doing the studying- so don’t fall off the bandwagon and undo any healthy habits from the summer! Prepping for busy schedules is the best way to get ahead of the stress and ensure you stay healthy…plus, it just makes life easier!
Happy studies and happy fall!