The best part of our impending finals week is knowing that summer break begins immediately afterward. If you are anything like me and have created your Summer 2016 Bucket List, your heart may already be at the beach or in the cabin in the woods (imagining the sunrise in my upcoming Smoky Mountains trip is much more fun than studying for my exams). Though I get the opportunity to travel to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this summer, I know money is tight in general for college students. Instead of making traveling your number one priority on your Summer 2016 Bucket List, make taking care of yourself your main goal.
So many of us neglect our own personal health during the semesters to keep up our GPAs and work two jobs and commute two and from campus. We even get sick from stress. Use the summer break as an opportunity to relax and to get to know yourself again because you deserve it.
These are some suggestions for improving your health this summer. Some are big, some are small, but all are easily attainable:
1. Enjoy your fruits and vegetables.
It will be a lot easier to do over the summer since there is now an abundance of fruits, especially berries, at your disposal. I practically ran to the supermarket to grab my first batch of strawberries this season! Enjoy them in smoothies or with breakfast. Spend time at your local farmer's market, choosing locally grown fruits and vegetables. Be colorful! Keep multicolored whole foods on your plate to stay healthy this summer. Regularly eating fruits and vegetables helps to keep you hydrated, to maintain a healthy weight, and to strengthen your immune system. Stress, especially from school, can make you prone to getting sick, so watch your food to stay on top of it.
2. Stay hydrated.
It will be hot - keep a bottle of water on you at all times. I just bought this super cute reusable glass bottle and love it. Aim to drink enough for your size - take your body weight and divide it by 2. That is approximately how many fluid ounces of water you should be consuming daily. Choose water as your beverage when you go out to eat - it's healthy and free! If you do not care for water, add lemon juice to it. Packaged water flavorings also work. So many of us become caffeine-dependent in college and neglect our basic water needs, so make staying hydrated a big goal for this summer.
3. Take advantage of your "down" time.
Many of us complain that we do not have enough time to do the things we want to do. While this may be true sometimes, usually we just do not choose to make the time we need. Make your summer goals your priority. Set a schedule around your work schedule if you have to. Have you been dying to read this one particular book by this one particular writer? Make time to read it. Are you craving some alone time? Then tell your friends you want a night in to relax - if they are a true friend, they will understand. Maybe you neglected going to the gym during the spring semester, so you want to regularly do that again. Whatever it is you want to do, use your "down" time wisely. Treat yourself.
4. Meditate - mental health is important.
Repeat this sentence with me: mental health is important. Arguably, it is almost more important than physical health since it can lead to physical health problems. Some of us either have or are prone to mental health disorders, and the stress that comes with a busy college semester can make symptoms worse. Use the summer as an opportunity to try to improve your mental health. Meditating is an easy way to promote relaxation and better sleep. Incorporating breathing exercises with the meditation is even better. Coupled with eating healthier foods, regularly meditating can also help to lower blood pressure. Best of all, meditation is free!
5. Force yourself to take breaks.
Those of us who are super busy over the school semesters try to squeeze everything possible into summer break. This means dashing from one family event to the next, going to meet so-and-so for breakfast and so-and-so for lunch and a date for dinner, volunteering on Saturdays while still working on weekdays, and trying to finish Fallout 4 in between. Summer can be pretty hectic, too. Some people (like me) thrive on busy schedules, but it is important to allow yourself to take needed breaks. I promise you, it is only beneficial to not have anything to do for a day.
6. Drink in moderation.
You heard me. I understand that summer is a time for having parties with friends and drinking beer on the beach. I get that because I also participate. Also, it is important that you know your own limits and set boundaries. It is fine to have a few beers with the guys at a get-together. However, it is not healthy to binge drink every time you go out (which is every other night). Alcohol is high in calories, and consuming it regularly adds a questionable amount to your daily intake. Even if you go to the gym on the daily, too much drinking will cancel out any progress you have been making. Enjoy yourself - in moderation.
7. Create a bedtime routine.
It is tempting to stay up all night during the summer break just because you can, but understand that lack of sleep, even in small doses, can be detrimental to your health. Make a plan to be in bed by a certain time each night. When you start going to bed by 10 PM often enough, your body will get used to it and begin to get sleepy by that time. If you decide to make any health-related goals for this summer, definitely decide to catch up on your sleep. I went to bed at 7:30 last night, and it was the best 12 hours of sleep ever.
Some of these may seem like small, insignificant changes. The truth is, the little things add up. Over time your health - physical, mental, and emotional - will improve. Use your summer break to take care of yourself. If you won't take care of you, who will?