Posts filed under 'health'

Make Health a Routine

Most students don’t have a “Health Routine”–that round of preventative care you need to keep ahead of to make sure you stay healthy. (You know, those appointments your mom used to set up for you and force you to attend.)

And I know, I know: you don’t want to go to the doctor. I hear you. But as the daughter and sister-in-law to two former cancer patients I feel compelled to remind you–the more regularly you visit the doctor, the easier it is to catch small problems before they get too big! My dad’s doctor actually told him that if he had put off his check-up, they might not have been able to catch his cancer in time.

So get out there and get healthy! Here’s what you need to know. 🙂

Who to Visit

If you’re a relatively healthy person, there are only a few appointments you need to make each year:

  • Dental cleaning & check-up (these should be every 6 months!),
  • Regular physical with your general doctor,
  • Specialists who you routinely visit (optometrist, dermatologist, allergist, etc.),
  • And, for girls, a gyn check-up.

When to Visit

Most people skip going to the doctor simply because they forget to do it. In all the chaos of daily life, you probably won’t think twice about calling the doctor if you aren’t sick!

So my best suggestion for you is to make it routine. Choose a day, week, or month that you promise to head in for a check-up every year. I usually set them up in my birthday month, because I remind myself that I’m getting another year older, and staying healthy is sort of my gift to myself. (That, and making my sweetie take me to the movies.)

It doesn’t really matter which time of year you choose, but if you live away from home and want to keep your hometown docs, schedule your check-ups for one of your school breaks. And above all, add the appointments to your calendar!

Your Records

Even if mom made the appointment for you, you’re technically an adult now. That means that your parents can’t get access to your medical records, and its up to you to keep on top of things.

If you’re switching to a new doctor or dentist, you’ll need to call your previous doctor and ask to have your records sent over to the new one (for dentists make sure they send over your most recent x-rays, too!).

Even if you aren’t switching doctors, you should keep a medical history file that includes:

  • Blood type
  • Allergies (to food, medicine, etc.)
  • Vaccinations (and when they need to be renewed)
  • Hospitalizations
  • Chronic diseases or health problems
  • Medications (doses, how long you’ve taken them)
  • Date of last physical
  • Family history of health problems
  • Emergency contacts including
    • Parents/guardians
    • A nearby friend/relative
    • Local hospital
    • Doctors & dentist
    • School health center
  • Current health insurance info

It won’t take much time to put this info together, and you’ll be so happy you have it when you HAVE to go to the doctor!

photo by a_kartha

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1 comment April 2nd, 2009

Get Fit: Dorm Room Workouts

Hey, um, do you work out?

Maybe you did… Last week… Or last month… Or last year. Maybe you hate the gym because nobody there looks like they need to work out at all. Or maybe you just can’t find the time in your busy schedule. Or you’re too tired.

But did you know that working out can actually give you more energy? It releases endorphins (remember, we learned that from Elle Woods), and those increase energy and put you in a better mood–woo hoo! Plus it clearly helps your body get (and stay) stronger, and it’s a great way to release tension. Sweet.

Where to Start

There are a few cardinal rules of successful exercise routines, so here’s a super-quick refresher course:

  • Warm Up. Be sure to do a 10 minute or so warm-up before you exercise such as jogging, or a few low intensity minutes on the stationary bike, treadmill or elliptical machine.  It is surprisingly easy to injure yourself doing a workout if you don’t prepare your muscles first.
  • Cardio & Strength. Don’t focus on just one of these–doing both cardio workouts (where you really get moving!) and strength training (where you lift weight–be it an actual weight or just your own body) is crucial to build strength & endurance.
  • Choose Something You Enjoy. There are a lot of ways to work out–you don’t have to go to the gym and run on the treadmill. Try doing things you enjoy, like swimming, biking, or even throwing a frisbee around–you’ll be more likely to keep up with your exercise regiment if you enjoy it.
  • Make it Routine. To be successful, you need to make exercise a part of your schedule, so set apart some time in your calendar.
  • Be Careful. This is a no-brainer. If you’re trying something new, be sure you’re doing it correctly so you don’t get hurt. If you have any condition that could potentially make exercise difficult or dangerous, always talk to your doctor first.
  • Stretch. It is important to stretch out after your workout when your muscles are warmed up so you can minimize your soreness and not cramp up (plus it feels really good after a hard workout!)

Fitness from Your Dorm Room

If you want to work out without hitting the gym, here are a few (free!) resources you might want to check out:

photo: Exercise in the 1950’s by hortongrou

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5 comments February 24th, 2009

Stay Healthy This School Year (Really)

You’ve heard of the freshman fifteen-that pesky extra 15lbs that lots of students put on in the first year of college-but there are way more health issues than that for college students.  Here’s how to keep yourself fit, even with limited time, space, and funds.

The Freshman 15 is Not a Goal-or a Curse

Translation? You still have to eat right, even if Mom isn’t hovering over your dinner plate. As I’ve mentioned before, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every night isn’t the key to good health.

So what should you be eating?  The simple answer is to shoot for moderation in all things.  Try to eat the right amount of servings for each food group (remember the food pyramid from 5th grade?), but don’t go overboard with one (too much of a good thing-even too many veggies or too much meat can be too much for your body!)

Even if you do end up putting on (or dropping) a little weight accidentally, don’t feel like you’re doomed!  Switching to a healthier diet and adding some exercise can help you wear away those pounds.

For more info, check out these college eating resources:

Exercise (Even in a Small Space)

Most college campuses offer free use of their gym and sports facilities to students, so you should definitely take advantage of all the great stuff there.  But if you find yourself feeling to sluggish to go outdoors (or there’s just too much snow to bother jogging), here are a list of dorm room workouts you can do in that 8×8 floor space you call home:

Want to know the easiest way to get exercise without noticing?  Walk to class instead of taking a shuttle. It really makes a difference.

Prevent Brain Drain

The pressure and competition of college courses, coupled with homesickness and increased personal responsibilities can be hard on you-it wears you down, tires you out, and sometimes overwhelms you.  To help keep your mental and emotional health strong, I recommend that you:

  • Eat well & exercise (see above)
  • Get enough sleep
  • Learn how to relax & fall asleep when you’re stressed
  • Stay away from depressants like alcohol, especially if you’re already feeling down
  • Make use of free counseling services on campus (academic and psychological)
  • Attend support groups (many campuses have them for free!)
  • Strike a balance between work and play
  • Make at least a rough schedule and stick to it
  • Keep within your budget
  • Know when to quit

photo: Fruit Bowl by woodsy

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4 comments September 11th, 2008

Review: 101 Health and Wellness Tips for College Students

It’s hard to balance your health with a busy college lifestyle, but if you’ve ever tried to study for a midterm with a cold, you probably know that the value of your health increases as your life gets busier!

My few experiences with being very sick in college prompted posts about what to do if you get sick, as well as what to do if your roommate is sick. But what can you do to be healthier overall?

RNCentral just posted a great article that might help you out there. It’s called 101 Health and Wellness Tips for College Students, and has some really great ideas about how to make healthy eating and exercise part of your daily routine, as well as tips about illness, mental and sexual health, and even some suggestions about staying healthy while you study abroad.

Here are my favorite 5 of their 101 tips (with my annotations!):

1. Make it convenient to eat right. It’s hard to eat right when all you have stashed around for emergency hunger pangs are Doritos and chocolate. I noticed that bringing home extra fruit from the caf or even just buying healthier cereal to snack on made a big difference for me!

2. Walk to class. I personally think this is the easiest way to incorporate exercise into a busy lifestyle-in fact, I noticed that I gained a lot of weight when I started my desk job, and the only difference was that I wasn’t walking to class!

3. Understand that lack of sleep can have a big impact. It took me a while to figure this out, so learn it early! Lack of sleep not only means trouble paying attention in class or accidental naps during study time, it also really affects you emotionally . Lack of sleep can aggravate depression or homesickness, plus it tends to make you irritable–so get the sleep you need!

4. Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. RNCentral put this under the “sexual health” category, but really this advice applies to a lot of different college situations. If at any time you find yourself uncomfortable–with a topic being discussed in class, in a situation with a roomie/significant other/teacher/professor, or even just at a party–don’t allow other people’s opinions to pressure you. This is really hard, but also really important!!!

5. Put limits on work hours. Set a schedule for work–and really stick to it–but don’t forget to give your mind a break. I usually worked on homework/studying until 8pm (unless I had midterms and finals) and then finished up for the night. Figure out when your mind is most active, and set your work time within those hours. When you start to wear out, know when to take a break!

Check out RNCentral for the rest of the 101 tips.

photo: Blackberry strawberry cherry owen-wahl fruit by robert owen-wahl

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3 comments May 15th, 2008

My Roommate is Sick, Now What?

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Nothing puts a strain on your relationship with your roommate like a continuous hacking cough disrupting precious hours of sleep time. Here’s what you should do if your roommate gets sick.

What to Do for Your Roommate
Chances are your first response to a sick roommate is more focused on you than on him or her. Let’s face it—its human nature to want to make sure you don’t get sick. I’ll get to that in a minute. Now, if you want to keep having a good year with your roommate (and have an easier time when you get sick later on) try to show a little consideration:

  • Ask if You Can Help. You don’t have to do their laundry or anything, but it can really help if you offer to do something little like pick up some Tylenol, drop off a homework assignment, or snag an extra sandwich when you hit the dining hall. Remember, you get what you give.
  • Let Your Roomie Rest. Trust me on this—if your roommate doesn’t get all the rest he/she needs, that horrible nose-blowing at 3 a.m. is going to last a lot longer. If your sick roomie is trying to sleep, keep your headphones on, turn the TV off, and meet your friends somewhere else.

What to Do for You (or How to Keep the Sick Away)

  • Make Your Requests. Okay, so you’ve been the ideal roommate—bringing sandwiches, keeping the noise down, even buying some more tissues with your own money—now you get to ask your roommate for something in return. Whatever it is that’s driving you nuts—the cough, the lack of hand-over-mouth when sneezing—now you can ask your roommate (CASUALY and KINDLY) to do something about it. Cough drops can work wonders!
  • Keep an Eye on Your Hands. Your hands are probably one of the best places to pick up germs. Keep them away from your face—eyes, mouth, and nose especially—to lower your chance of letting those germs in. It’s also really important to wash your hands, with soap, often, and especially before you eat or after you touch anything you share (computer, TV remote, etc).
  • Strengthen Your Immune System. There are a lot of ways to keep your immune system strong, like getting lots of rest (no all-nighters right now!) and eating healthy foods (try to cut back on junk food). A lot of people also feel that vitamin C (found in citrus fruits like oranges, or in the vitamin section at the store) can make a big difference. Also, be sure you stay hydrated (and remember that alcohol dehydrates you).

Okay… good luck!

photo: hunter of dreams by filipes

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3 comments February 7th, 2008

How to Fall Asleep When You’re Stressed

Sleeping

School and work can put a tremendous amount of pressure on you, so it’s no wonder so many college students have a hard time falling asleep. I know that I have always had an especially hard time getting to sleep before a exam or when I have a new, difficult responsibility at work. Luckily, I have found tricks that help me relax enough to fall asleep (that don’t involve counting sheep!).

Get Ready to Relax. If you want to get a good night’s sleep, you have to prepare both your mind and your body. Put on something comfy—nothing too tight or otherwise uncomfortable—and turn your lighting lower. Fluorescent or other white colored lights will hurt your eyes and keep you too alert, so use a lamp that has a warmer colored light (it should be a glowing light, like from colored Christmas lights, not a glaring light). Also, turn off your computer screen and the TV. If you are sensitive to sounds, you might want to have some white noise—I usually turn a fan on before I sleep to help me tune out the sounds of the street outside. Then climb in bed and get comfortable—arrange your pillow, make sure your blanket is warm enough, etc.

All set? Okay, now try one (or all) of these relaxation exercises:

  1. Tense and Relax. This is a great thing to do if your body feels tense. Starting with your toes, slowly tense every muscle in your body one by one, and hold the tension. Tense your toes, feet, legs, and all the way up your body–every single muscle including all the ones in your face! When your body is completely tensed, start at your toes again and release the muscle tension in every muscle one by one, like a wave moving from your feet to the top of your head. As you relax, try to focus on each muscle, and let it fully sink down against your bed. Breathe deeply as you relax.
  2. Read a book. Pretty simple, right? Make sure you have low, glowing lighting, and choose a calming book—no thrillers! Focus in on what you’re reading (don’t allow your brain to wander off into worries about test scores and due dates) and when your eyelids start to feel heavy, turn out the lights and let yourself relax into sleep.
  3. Paint the Room Black. Not literally—this is a relaxation technique for when your mind feels very busy. First, close your eyes and imagine yourself in your bedroom. It should be a room you know very well so you might want to try your room at home if you’re not used to your dorm room. Now start to visualize making the room darker—in your mind, turn off the lights one by one, lower the shades or close the curtains. Your room should look dusky now. Now, imagine slowly painting the room a calming, safe-feeling black. Paint the walls, the floor, the furniture, clocks, photos—everything. Really focus your mind on this and don’t let it wander to anything else. When everything is painted your visualization of the room should just be a pitch black, and your mind should be blank.

If all else fails, I’ve also found that focusing your mind on deep breathing can help you release tension and sink into sleep. For more in depth information, you might want to check out this article on how to fall asleep from How Stuff Works, and Lifehack.org has a good one about power napping to catch up on the Zzzz’s you might miss tossing and turning.

Don’t miss my next post!

Good luck falling asleep, and don’t forget to share your own tips and tricks with other readers by leaving a comment or sending me an email!

Photo by Georgios Wollbrecht

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7 comments November 8th, 2007

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