by Dr. Shawn Ladda
The following is the opinion of a guest writer, and does not reflect the stance of The Quadrangle, its editorial board or Manhattan College.
I always think of my own college experience as a wonderful time of growth and excitement. It is a time that usually allows one to continue to impact all the dimensions of overall wellness including the physical, interpersonal/social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, intellectual, and occupational.
But some of these areas can be challenged with student’s adjustment to college, developing more independence from family, and trying to find a career path. And this can be overlaid with navigating the social scene, wanting to fit in, and dealing with peer pressure. The Centers for Disease Control identifies more specific challenges such as social and sexual pressures, temptation of readily available alcohol, drugs, and unhealthy food, challenge of getting enough sleep, and stress from trying to balance classes, friends, homework, jobs, athletics, and leadership positions (.https://www.cdc.gov/family/college/)
With all of these possible challenges, it is understandable the statistics according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org), NAMI reports that one in four students have a diagnosable illness, 40 percent do not seek help, 80 percent feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, and 50 percent have been so anxious they struggled in school.
In order to maximize the college experience, what can college students do to stay healthy so that this growth and excitement permeates the college years? Well, from the statistics about college student challenges and my own experience teaching at Manhattan College, I would offer the following suggestions:
Mental health. Managing stress and anxiety in healthy ways is so important. Most stressors are cognitive in nature or in other words the way we think about this stress can be problematic. Using cognitive techniques are useful and some examples include developing conflict resolution skills, disputing negative self-talk and assertiveness training, becoming more inner directed/less peer driven, and developing more confidence in self. Realize that we all have stress and anxiety and healthy levels for one isn’t all bad as it can motivate us into action. But if your levels are impacting your daily functioning, one should seek help. We have a great counseling center that offers many services so I would encourage students to use this resource.
Sleep. Are you getting eight hours of sleep? If not, this can have a real impact on many areas of your college experience.
Nutrition. How do you eat? Following the principles of variety, moderation, and balance with our food choices can help boost your immune system and help in reducing sickness and increase overall functioning.
Substance abuse/alcohol and other drugs. Binge drinking is a big problem on college campuses. It can impact students in many negative ways. Can you be in a social situation without getting drunk? If not, maybe one needs to self-reflect why and to seek support in changing this behavior.
Avoiding sickness/infectious diseases. Are you one who gets sick a lot? Proper nutrition, regular exercise, and adequate sleep can all contribute to prevention of sickness. Do you regularly wash your hands? Did you get a flu shot?
Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Exercise boost our immune system functioning, elevates mood state, and increases academic performance. Set a goal to get at least 10,000 steps a day. There are many opportunities on campus to be active whether it is in the fitness center or taking part in a group exercise class in Alumni Hall, or walking one of our natural stair masters on campus.
Lastly I would say, your college years go by quickly and you want to be able to avail yourself to all it can be. Being healthy will help you do just that. One can’t underestimate how surrounding yourself with positive and healthy people can be infectious. Get involved and volunteer for some community service, be a part of learning outside the classroom through student government, and/or study abroad. Get Health!!!