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CARE

Eight health hacks for college freshmen

Heading off to college is one of life's most significant transitions. Like many of life's biggest changes, it is stressful. Add communal living, new routines and a busy schedule, and it may not be long before your student starts feeling rundown or sick.  

Knowing how to stay healthy and learning to manage stress will make the college transition easier. Getting prompt care when it's needed and tracking important health information are also great skills to learn. Even if your student seems to dismiss your suggestions and reminders now, he or she may take your advice when away from home. Here are some tips to pass on before your child moves into the dorm.

  • Aim for balanced food choices by including protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates in most meals. Try to go easy on sweets, soda and refined carbohydrates. This will help keep blood sugar more even throughout the day, which is better for both concentration and mood.
  • Learn to meditate. A recent study at Penn State found that mindfulness training can help college freshmen increase life satisfaction while decreasing depression and anxiety. Some campuses may offer mindfulness training, and there are also online training options available.
  • Pay attention to personal hygiene because germs spread easily in dorms. Wash hands often, and don't share towels, brushes, utensils and other personal items. Also, make sure immunizations are up to date, and get the flu shot this fall.
  • When illness strikes, make use of convenient care. Say your daughter thinks she may have a bladder infection. Or maybe your son is worried he's coming down with the flu. Virtual care, like Allina Health Everyday Online, is a quick and low-priced way to be treated for common conditions. There's no appointment needed, no travelling to a clinic, and your student can get care 24/7.
  • Get some exercise. In addition to boosting overall fitness, exercise is great for coping with stress. Take advantage of the campus fitness center and recreational sports leagues. On days when there's no time for the gym, walk or bike between classes and opt for the stairs.
  • Learn to take charge of important health information. Getting online access to health records is the quick and smart place to start. With an Allina Health account, your student can reorder prescriptions and have them delivered by mail, schedule clinic appointments online and track immunizations and other health records required by many study abroad programs, volunteer and internship positions.
  • Make sleep a priority. Lack of sleep interferes with thinking and affects mood. Keep routine sleep times and limit caffeine. Dorm residents may want to try noise-canceling headphones or ear plugs. Avoid using electronic devices for the last hour before bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol. Not only is it illegal for most college freshman—it can interfere with sleep, cause weight gain and lead to other health problems and accidents. College freshmen are especially vulnerable to heavy drinking during the first six weeks on campus: look for campus resources that support the choice to not drink.

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