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Health A freshman’s guide to taking care of yourself

Feb. 20, 2019
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Illustrated by Hannah Kang

Since college started five months ago, I’ve been falling in and out of not love, but sickness. My room is fully stocked with Panadols, Tylenol, Strepsils, and Zicam. My water bottle is always filled to the brim, and I’ve spent weeks walking around with a nose like Rudolph—but instead of leading the sleigh, I’ve been curled up in bed, rewatching Breaking Bad and attempting to ignore my raging fever. 

Growing up in a warmer climate, I had never experienced a teeth-chattering winter before. I had virtually no tolerance for the cold, and my stubborn determination to wear my favorite summer outfits in chilly Amsterdam did not serve me well. (I realized this when I had to rock a 39℃ fever to my lecture with a mandatory-attendance requirement.) Pretty soon, I was the one coughing and sneezing between every sentence in class.

No one in college will be your mom, yelling at you until you put on a jacket before you leave. And even though it took a rough month of being sick for me to finally learn my lesson, college is still filled with germs—from people passing around water bottles, to continuous waves of coughing in class. When one person in your class gets sick, soon enough everyone is sick.

It took me a while to figure out how to keep myself healthy, and a lot of it came down to my dietary choices. It’s so easy to just pick and choose your favorite foods instead of maintaining a balanced diet. Admittedly, it’s hard to buy vegetables for one. With my irregular eating habits, I’d only make it halfway through my bag of broccoli when it would begin to go bad. But other vegetables like onions, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage can last weeks in storage. And you can always choose to meal plan, as meat and vegetables can last longer when cooked.

Not only is it important to keep yourself physically healthy, but it’s vital to keep your mental health afloat. While everyone was breaking up with their high-school sweethearts, I was breaking up with patterns I’d been enjoying for the past nineteen years. As much as I was glad to have a fresh start in a new city, it was hard to cope without my usual coping mechanisms. I was accustomed to sitting on my high school friends’ bedroom floors, eating mac and cheese while talking about our problems over the sound of Panic! at the Disco’s A Fever You Can't Sweat Out on repeat. When I got to college, I found it hard to replicate that same sense of emotional comfort.

One problem I immediately encountered was burnout. At the beginning of the year, I felt like I was going crazy by constantly studying without giving myself time to bounce back. There were times when I looked in the mirror and was unable to recognize the person in front of me because of how stressed I was.

School counselors and even student doctors are amazing resources. They can work with you and your professors, whether that means moving a deadline or making adjustments to your study schedule so you can handle what’s on your plate. 

When I arrived at college, suitcase in hand, taking care of my physical and mental state weren’t really at the top of my priority list. But in order to enjoy and immerse myself in the college experience, that’s exactly what I had to do.

Still a freshman,

Wen Hsiao