7 Wellness Tips for Online Students
Karen Goldschmidt, Ph.D., RN, Assistant Clinical Professor and Department Chair, RN-BSN Degree Completion Program
As we like to say at Drexel, “healthy students are successful students” – and that’s especially true for working adults, who are juggling the demands of online study with the responsibilities of career and family.
In fact, going back to school can take its toll on your physical, as well as your emotional health. So there’s no time like the present to focus on both, by following a few simple wellness tips guaranteed to keep you in the successful student “zone.”
Make sure to get enough sleep.
If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t get enough sleep, as it is – and studying well into the night doesn’t help. Sleep deprivation impairs critical thinking, mental clarity, and concentration, while leaving you at higher risk for stress and disease.
To keep your brain and your body charging on all cylinders, make it a point to get at least seven hours of quality sleep every night. You might also find that taking a short nap (no more than 30 minutes) at least an hour before hitting the books is a great way to regroup and recharge.
There’s nothing better than endorphin-producing exercise for enhancing brain function, relieving stress, improving your mood, and building your immunity. All it takes is 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic activity – like walking, pilates, or biking – to help you feel and study better. You will also sleep more soundly at the end of a long day.
Stand up and move around from time to time.
No doubt about it. “Sitting is the new smoking,” and learning online adds several hours of seat time to your day. That’s why it’s important to take regular study breaks that involve some sort of physical movement.
It could be as simple as doing a few yoga stretches or taking a short walk around the house to jump-start your circulation and get the oxygen flowing back into your brain.
Avoid junk food.
Although it’s tempting to consume junk food on the run, it’s a habit that will definitely compromise your health, by slowing your metabolism, sapping your energy, and weakening your immune system.
Processed food is also engineered to be addictive – which means the more you eat, the more you want.
Sure, it’s easy to tear into a bag of chips when you’re pressed for time. But it’s just as easy (and a lot healthier) to grab an apple or a handful of raw veggies to munch on while you study.
Substitute water for caffeine.
Choose water over caffeine drinks to sip on while you study. Although caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea do provide a quick burst of energy, they are also diuretics that cause the body to lose water.
Studies show that even mild dehydration can adversely affect mood, memory, and cognitive performance (not to mention the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems). On the other hand, water helps you remain refreshed, alert, and well-hydrated, while also fighting off eye fatigue.
Set aside time for something you love to do.
Pleasurable activity is like an elixir for the brain, in that it reduces stress, clears the mind, and boosts cognition. So be sure to build time into your weekly schedule to do something you love, whether it’s pursuing a hobby, taking in a movie, or curling up with a good book.
Stay connected to family and friends.
There will be times when you think that you’ll never make it over the finish line. That’s why it always helps to have an enthusiastic squad of family members and friends to lift your spirits and cheer you on when the going gets tough.
As social creatures, our mental and physical health is always better when we enjoy meaningful relationships at home, at work, and out in the community. It stands to reason then that successful students take every opportunity to reach out and engage with those closest to them.