Achieving your optimum health and wellness can have a positive impact on your academic success. Like we've said before, and like we'll continue to say, success is holistic. Your health and wellness contribute to and impact your academic success. By establishing healthy habits in nutrition, exercise, and other wellness areas, you can set yourself up to be more successful in your academics (Ruthig, Marrone, Hladkyj, & Robinson-Epp, 2011).
Many of the activities that keep you healthy can also improve your mental focus, decrease stress, and improve the quality of your study time. For instance, exercise “increases mental energy and improves mental performance” by pumping more oxygen to our brains through increased blood flow (Cuseo, Fecas, & Thompson, 2007). Because our brains burn energy at ten times the rate of other body tissues, and use 20% of the body’s fuel, it’s important to consume enough water and nutrients to optimize brain function (Smilkstein, 2011). This optimization of brain functions will make your time spent studying more focused and effective.
One important perspective to consider is the idea that wellness is a spectrum that ranges from experiencing sickness (poor health) to experiencing optimum wellness (good health). From this perspective, wellness is something we can (and should) always be working on. Often, though, we wait until we’re sick or injured to turn our attention to our habits of health and wellness. By developing a more proactive approach to staying healthy (through daily behaviors, habits, and rituals) we can be better equipped to maintain our health and wellness on a regular basis. This proactive approach to our health and wellness may also help us to minimize or prevent illness, which in turn can help keep us able to attend lectures and be present for class sessions and discussions.
While there are general guidelines and information about nutrition, exercise, movement, and ways to generate healthy habits, the exact behaviors that promote and support health and wellness will differ between individuals. Part of evaluating your own health is not only evaluating the nutritional value of the foods that you're eating, or the length of time that you're able to sleep at night, or how much movement you engage in throughout your day, but also monitoring how effectively you're able to concentrate, what your study time consists of (the ability to achieve sustained concentration versus often getting distracted), and your performance on exams and/or in class discussions/activities, etc. If there are areas you’d like to improve, you can seek out information and the resources available to assist you in forming habits that help you to care for your physical well-being and achieve academic success.
We want to equip you with some strategies that can help you be sure that you're taking care of yourself from the beginning of the term, throughout the term, and between terms. Take a moment to consider whether or not you're engaging in the following:
Achieving life balance is an ongoing process. Corey Keyes refers to optimal life balance as "flourishing" (Keyes, 2002). Flourishing is experienced when all areas of your life are working together in the best possible way. When you flourish, you feel happy and satisfied; have high levels of emotional well-being; feel that your life has purpose; accept all parts of yourself; are capable of growing, evolving, and changing; and have a strong sense of autonomy and internal locus of control (Keyes, 2002). Flourishing means that you’re being the best version of yourself.
Flourishing and achieving life balance while enrolled in college involves a number of things, such as establishing a support network, getting involved in activities outside of your coursework, establishing strategies to help manage and reduce stress, exploring your career options and future possibilities, and taking care of your health and wellness. Seeing this as a list can make it feel like a lot, but just remember that you're engaging in this work daily. If it helps, you might make some time for reflection. What strategies do you already use to help manage and reduce stress? How are they working? Where else besides your coursework are you getting involved on campus and/or in the community? What are you thinking about your career and what you're hoping to learn here at OSU that will contribute to that?
Make some time to take stock of what you're already doing and thinking about, and then see where you might be able to build in more intentional thinking/acting/planning/strategizing in these areas. Prioritize areas of your life you’d like to develop further, and then set some goals. Once you’ve set these goals, be sure to identify and access resources that can support you in your work. Reach out for help! There are so many people and places here at OSU who are committed to your success (and balance is integral to success), and to helping you to achieve your success.
If you want to talk about any of this, or if you have any questions about how to juggle all your commitments and interests and make a schedule that works for you (without sapping all your energy/causing you to compromise on things like sleep/nutrition/movement), please come and see us. This is what we talk about with students! We'd love to sit down with you to hear what you're trying and to offer some alternate ideas. You don't need an appointment, you can just drop in when it works in your schedule: Waldo Hall 125 | Monday through Friday | 9 AM to 5 PM. We're excited to meet you!