Increasing expectations on students are destroying self-care habits


Being a college student means that you gotta struggle when it comes to eating healthy, being social and going to the gym. Photo credit: Melissa Joseph

With the weight of everything expected of a college student in 2019, it’s no wonder we’re losing basic self-care habits like eating proper food.

Tuition costs are higher than ever. The costs of PG&E, cell phone bills, car insurance and internet are still rising. Here in Chico, rent is skyrocketing and availability has plummeted, especially after the Camp Fire.

If you have to support yourself and also attend five or six classes, get some extracurriculars under your belt and have an occasional social life, then forget sleep, gym time or nutritious food. You have to fight to take care of yourself these days.

College asks you to give up so much for your mental health. Every class recommends that for each hour you are in class, you spend two hours outside of class studying or doing other work for it.

Nothing makes my blood pressure spike quite as sharply as sitting in one of six classes as the teacher reminds everyone that they should be giving their three hours of class time six additional outside hours. Especially when I’m already using valuable time that I could be working to support myself by being in this class. Add four or five other classes and calculate the total outside time needed to devote to each class, and you’ll start to understand why so many students’ mental health is in crisis.

The social dynamics combined with the unrelenting demands of college also make it difficult to make good choices on behalf of your body. When everyone wants to go out for burgers at 11 p.m., it’s tough to say no. When you have just 10 minutes between classes to eat and hot dogs are cheap on the sidewalk, chances are that’s what you’re going to eat. When you’ve been going for 14+ hours, you don’t feel like going grocery shopping and cooking dinner, let alone tomorrow’s lunch. It just isn’t happening.

The wellness fad is pressuring us all to meal prep, drink two gallons of water daily, have a great skincare routine, go to the gym at least three times a week, etc. Of course all of these things are great. If you can do all this, you are quite the successful adult. But if you aren’t, it’s not your fault. Let’s be real, the wellness fad is highly problematic and unrealistic.

In this economy, not everyone can afford the luxury of time. If to afford college, rent, cell phone bills, internet and food, you must work through college and around classes, just getting enough sleep and three meals a day will be your top priorities. Everything else starts to fall by the wayside, sadly, and it’s time that people start recognizing why students are struggling to stay healthy.

Is there a short-term solution? At this point in my college career, I like to think I’ve finally gotten a little better at taking care of myself, but that’s only because I’ve started to learn to need to say “no” more often.

Say “no” so that you can go home a little early. Go to bed a little earlier. Maybe run by the grocery store once a week even for 20 minutes. Wake up just a little earlier to make something on the stove for lunch. Your body will thank you, even if you can only afford to do one of these things.

However, if you’re going through the depths of the fall semester right now and can’t even afford another hour devoted to sleep, it’s okay. You are doing your best.

And to teachers, please understand that we’re doing our best to survive. We’re making a sacrifice to make it to every class as well as do homework, get to our jobs and pay bills on time. So if we seem a little quiet or sleepy in class, please know we feel bad but, frankly, we can’t help it. Just please stop calling us lazy millennials.

Natalie Hanson can be reached at [email protected] or @nhanson_reports on Twitter.