Wellness checklist gives new college students a healthy start

Freshman-wellness-checklist_largeIf you’re a new student starting college this fall, you’re probably pouring over list after list of all the stuff you need to do and bring. About 20 million of you will descend on college campuses this fall, and many of you will be managing your own health and well-being for the first time.

Learning how to independently monitor and prioritize your personal wellness needs can be tricky. Building a plan that’s achievable and practical before you come to campus can really help with the transition to this new stage in your life.

As chief wellness officer for The Ohio State University, I partnered with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to create a wellness checklist to help students develop a plan to maintain their well-being. The checklist covers exercise, healthy eating, stress management, organization, and mental and physical health. It includes resources students should seek out when they arrive on campus, such as fitness facilities, student health and mental wellness resources.

Here’s the checklist that you and your parents can review and revisit to support a healthy lifestyle at school:

  • Establish healthy habits – Just as you schedule your classes, schedule time for physical activity (at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week), healthy eating, stress relief and at least seven hours of sleep every night. When you map out where your classes are on campus, also find your way to the places that will help you keep those healthy habits, like the gym, a dining facility with healthy options and the student health center.
  • Find local health care – Get connected with a primary care nurse practitioner or physician and the nearest pharmacy. This is especially important if you’re coming to school with a chronic health condition, but every student could inevitably face a health challenge and should be prepared. Be sure to understand your insurance coverage before accessing care.
  • Make your mental health a priority – The pressures of school and new surroundings can be nerve-racking. Stress, depression and anxiety are on the rise among college students. Getting involved in campus organizations helps you to start making friends right away and can go a long way toward reducing stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and it’s interfering with your functioning, don’t wait to seek professional help.
  • Find a system that works for you – Whether it’s scheduling workouts and healthcare appointments alongside your classwork in a planner or using apps on your phone to remind you to take medication, find a way to stay organized and proactive about your health and well-being.

Taking these steps early will really place you in a positive position as you begin your college experience. These are transformative years in a person’s life, and this checklist will help support your growth and potential from day one.

You can download the checklist at https://go.osu.edu/wellnesschecklist.

Bernadette Melnyk is chief wellness officer, vice president for health promotion and dean of the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University.

Simple Checklist Helps Students Manage Their Health for the First Time