Stay on target: Healthy habits for grad students

Stay on target: Healthy habits for grad students

Stormtrooper workout
Even stormtroopers find time for exercise.

It’s easy, especially in times of stress, to slip into unhealthy habits – but a few steps down the dark path doesn’t mean it must forever dominate your destiny! With some planning and self-awareness, you can enhance your academic performance by maintaining your physical, social, and emotional well-being.

Never tell me the odds: Eating well

It’s a common myth that eating healthy is expensive, but this isn’t necessarily true.  Here are just a few ideas for saving money while properly fueling your body:

  • Plan ahead. Make a meal plan for the week and buy what you need – avoid grocery shopping when hungry.
  • Buy most of your groceries from the outer edge of the grocery store, where whole foods like fresh vegetables, nuts, and fruits are located.
  • Avoid the temptation to “stock up” on packaged, processed foods. In general, stay away from anything with more than five ingredients or ingredients you can’t pronounce!
  • Consider joining a community garden. Use the American Community Gardening Association’s website to find a garden near you. Alternatively, you can contact your County Extension Office to connect with community-supported agriculture resources.
  • Visit local farmer’s markets (often plentiful in university towns) for fresh, affordable produce that is grown locally. Local Harvest offers an online tool to find farmer’s markets near you.
  • Invest in a crock pot. Make a couple of meals at the beginning of the week, then refrigerate or freeze in jars until you need them.

Do, or do not. There is no try: Fitness

As a student, you’re lucky enough to have access to more fitness resources than the average person – so take advantage of them!

  • Some university fitness centers are free (others offer discounted memberships for students).
  • Many universities offer free or low-cost fitness classes through student wellness programs.
  • If you don’t enjoy working out in gyms, or your schedule doesn’t make it possible, borrow workout DVDs from the library, or find strength training and stretching videos on YouTube. These are great ways to fit a workout into the toughest schedule (even if it’s 2 a.m.)!
  • Find inexpensive exercise equipment at yard sales. Look for yard sales when summer starts, when many students are emptying apartments. Resistance bands and weights are inexpensive, apartment-friendly options. I once found a great, compact elliptical machine at a garage sale for $20!

Luminous beings are we – not this crude matter: Stress management

Graduate school can be a stressful time, but like any other stressor, it’s all in how you manage it.

  • Practicing meditation, yoga, and mindful breathing can ease common complaints like anxiety and insomnia. Visit Meditation for Beginners to get started.
  • Know yourself. If you have a history of unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse or disordered eating, be self-aware and monitor yourself. Consider making an appointment with university counseling services, and sign up for information about support groups or stress management workshops.
  • Don’t give up your hobbies. Whether you’re a musician, artist, athlete, or you brew your own beer at home – maintain those hobbies.  Stress doesn’t disappear after graduate school, so learning how to establish a work/life balance now will help you to develop as a well-rounded, healthy scholar.
  • Make time. Your social and emotional wellness shouldn’t always take a back seat to your academic responsibilities. Make time for your relationships, for laughter, and for fun!

In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck: Medical care

It’s easy to take our health for granted – but sick happens.  “I’m too busy” is never an acceptable excuse to avoid taking care of yourself!

  • Establish a relationship with a primary care physician or university health center as early as possible so you can feel comfortable calling for an appointment (and know where medical resources are located) if you get sick.
  • Don’t put off regular dental, vision, and health checkups. Likewise, don’t forget to schedule preventative health screenings.  Taking care of yourself is your responsibility, and being proactive can help prevent costly visits to urgent care centers and emergency rooms!
  • Keep important phone numbers handy. Store numbers for your physician(s), dentist, and other health services in your contact list, post them on your fridge, or keep them in your wallet.
  • Keep your health records on file. Monitor your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, allergies, medications, screening tests, surgeries, and chronic illnesses.  This will help you track progress toward health goals and allow you to recognize any changes you should discuss with your doctor.

Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be a luxury that you only squeeze in when you have time.  Build healthy habits into your lifestyle now – the future you will be grateful!

Here are some other resources to help you get started:


Lucas, G., Kurtz, G., Ford, H., Fisher, C., Hamill, M., Jones, J. E., Guinness, A. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc. (1977). Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope. Beverly Hills, CA: 20th Century Fox.

Kurtz, G., Brackett, L., Kasdan, L., Kershner, I., Lucas, G., Hamill, M., Ford, H. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc. (1980). Star Wars: Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back. Beverly Hills, CA: 20th Century Fox.

1 Comment

  • Ardin Armenio

    June 24, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    Also: try to avoid becoming a scruffy-looking nerf- herder.