New Students: Your Health

Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta.

Being a college student is both exciting and demanding. The academic workload, different living situations, and adjusting to the dining hall or cooking for yourself are some of the stresses students may encounter. We encourage you to take your health seriously, as becoming ill can affect your ability to attend classes, complete assignments and take full advantage of your time at UCSC.

Good health is more than just the physical aspect – it is a total state of well-being that includes your emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual needs as well. We at Student Health Services hope to be there for you, not just when you are ill, but as you work to achieve and maintain a healthy balance between the demands of work, school and play.

Sleep: For college students, one of the biggest challenges is getting adequate sleep. Most people do best with between 6-8 hours sleep a night. What is known about sleep physiology demonstrates that our circadian rhythm gives us the most restful sleep in the hours between midnight and 4 AM.  Having irregular sleep cycles and staying awake late at night may increase fatigue, stress and illness.

Diet: A well balanced diet may also be difficult for students who are always in a hurry or on a limited budget or have dietary restrictions.  For information on nutrition, students may make appointments to see our nutritionist at the Student Health Center. It is helpful if you keep a food diary for a week before coming in so the nutritionist can evaluate the nutrients in your diet. Students with a history of eating disorders or who develop problems with their ability to eat normally should seek care as soon as possible to get the help they may need.

Drugs and alcohol: The availability of drugs and alcohol in campus communities causes problems for many students. It may appear that everyone is drinking or taking drugs, but statistics show this is not the case. Although some students may be able to use these substances without it affecting their college performance, many people find that they fall behind in their class work, miss morning classes and have other unforeseen occurrences such as unwanted sexual relations without protection or may get in a car accident or a citation for driving under the influence.

Exercise: Getting some exercise regularly has been shown to improve depression and decrease stress.  It can also help one to sleep better as long as the exercise is not right before bedtime.  Exercise also helps your body deal with the effects of prolonged sitting and computer work. Exercise also raises your metabolic rate which many students desire if the sedentary lifestyle is causing them to gain weight.

Time and money management are areas in which many college students have little experience.  Planning out when you will be working and when you can play, how you will afford your books as well as food can help decrease stress and improve your health and performance at school. It is difficult to adjust to the pressure of the 10 week quarter, and planning and following the plan gives a greater sense of control.

Preventing cold and flu: Keeping well when people around you are coughing and sneezing can be difficult. We encourage frequent hand washing or the use of alcohol based hand cleaners especially before eating and after using the restroom.  Try to limit close contact when not necessary, such as sharing drinks and smokes, as well people are just as likely to pass on an illness as a sick person.  If you are sick, try to protect those around you by covering your mouth when you cough and restricting your contacts as much as possible.

Check with our Student Health Outreach and Promotion (SHOP) department for wellness and stress management activities as well as for help dealing with substance use and abuse issues.