Ask the Experts

Varsity Blues

I am happy to be in college, but felt better with my mother taking care of me. Really, why do I feel more run down at school?

Your question could be asked by anyone who is no longer living at home, whether you are 18 or 81. The phrases ‘mother’s home cooking’ and ‘there’s no place like home’ should make you realize your life has permanently changed. You now have more freedom, but, like all freshman, you abuse your body and mind. Here is a list of rookie mistakes when living at college. These should be distributed with your freshman class schedule.

The leading factor affecting your college well-being, both mental and physical, is stress. Be aware of your own stress levels and do not be afraid to reach out to a friend, teacher or even counselor if your workload becomes too much. A high number of freshmen feel overwhelmed with college life and long-term depression can lead to higher dropout rates. Sadly, the leading, specific cause of death in college is suicide, with 6 per 100,000 students annually.

Social anxiety is related to stress and can markedly increase it. You are surrounded by new people in an unfamiliar environment and unsure how to behave. Resist the temptation of partying and drinking every day, as your health will rapidly decline.

Lack of proper sleep is another problem of college life. An irregular schedule of classes, study time, part-time work, and socializing can interrupt your sleep patterns. According to studies, the average student misses out on 12-hours of sleep each week. Gradually, it will adversely affect your health and state-of-mind, with the loss of concentration bringing down your grades. Try to avoid caffeine or smartphone/tablet use before bed.

Exercise and sports were part of your daily life in high school. Now, less than 40% of 4-year colleges require physical education. Historically, it peaked at 97% in the 1920s and declined steadily each decade. Researchers in the field, like those at Our Life Covered, know that long-term fitness is a major contributor to life expectancy and should be part of college education.

Without it, you will gradually feel drained and lethargic, especially with a demanding class and study schedule. A simple daily routine of only a half-hour of exercise increases your overall fitness and your overhead mobility significantly, as the latter is important for students who sit in class or at a desk all day.

Even if you care for your health, close proximity to thousands of students increases your chances of catching something. While you probably cannot avoid flu or cold, you can take precautions against more serious diseases. Sexually transmitted diseases are rife on campus, with over 8-million new cases annually affecting those between 15 and 24.

Casual use of alcohol and drugs are a ritual of college life. However, binge drinking takes a hard toll on your internal organs. Alcohol poisoning is one of the leading reasons students visit student health on campus. Over 600,000 college students are injured every year as a result of alcohol or drugs. It is no surprise to find an increase in AA meetings now on campuses. They are finding a different problem than last generation, with dangerous binge drinking replacing long-term alcoholism.

Without a family meal schedule, students often go mad in the campus cafeteria. The quality of your diet quickly deteriorates at college and typically increases your waistline. Have you heard of the freshman 15? The average freshman may gain 15 pounds during the academic year.

College is fun as long as you don’t die, Tsugumi Ohba.

Martin J. Young is a former correspondent of Asia Times.