We’ve covered how teachers and school nurses can implement easy tricks to stay healthy and earn an A+ on their school’s health report card. Now, it’s time to focus on the very students we’re all looking out for - the students who say they are invincible to illness, can run a marathon off of 3 hours of sleep and a bag of potato chips, and won’t start an elaborate science fair project until the day before it’s due. I’ve been there, you’ve been there, and now it’s time for an intervention (without the reality tv show contract).
Whether you’re a parent of a teen, or a high school or college student, it’s time to bring up our health scores. Here’s how:
1. Resting Up
Keeping in the school theme, let’s take a quick quiz: Name the last time you woke up feeling 100% rested. Was it within the last week? What about the last month? Just a few years ago, only 31% of high schoolers were getting at least 8 hours of sleep during the school week, compared to the recommended 9-10 hours (CDC). Creating a regular bedtime and avoiding food and drink before bed are two of several ways to get more sleep, but the bottom line is sleep should be a priority.
2. Fueling Up
Every kid has heard it from every adult: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those adults weren’t lying. It’s true, breakfast is good for your body, and for your report card (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). If improving your performance in school is as easy as grabbing a banana, some trail mix, and a milk, what are you waiting for?
- Start small. If you don’t have an appetite for breakfast, start with a piece of fruit or whole wheat toast on your way out the door for the first week or two, then gradually add in other foods.
- Think long-term. Choose a variety of foods according to the MyPlate guidelines that will keep you full during class. KidsHealth.org has a useful guide that can help you make healthy breakfast choices.
- Plan ahead. Save 10 minutes the night before to gather ingredients for a fruit smoothie, or to put together overnight oats (my personal breakfast of choice).
3. Keeping Up
Procrastination is a dear friend of mine, so I know how hard it is to keep up with homework, projects, and life in general. Here’s the solution: Get a calendar, write a plan, and stick to it. You’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals when you write them down, and that can include your goal to finish a project on time (plus, being cranky from sleep deprivation isn’t fun for you, or your parents). Combine your mastery of time management with improved note taking and studying skills, and you’ll be unstoppable.
4. Revving Up
Exercise is a love/hate relationship for many people. It’s hard work, but it pays off with improved physical health and a priceless sense of self-worth. If you haven’t found a sport you’re passionate about yet, don’t worry. You can start with easy exercises to stay in shape, then try your hand at more adventurous activities. And who said exercise had to be boring? If you like nature, hiking is the perfect way to get out and work your legs. If you like music, try a new dance class. There are fitness groups everywhere nowadays (gyms, churches, school campuses, etc.) - all you have to do is ask!
5. Speaking Up
Being healthy also means knowing when something isn’t quite right. Anyone who has ever been a teenagager would agree the teen years are among the toughest. Pressure can come from several sources, and it can turn into manageable stress, or it can fuel a more serious mental health illness. There’s an entire list of ways to deal with anxiety, depression, family troubles, body image, bullying, and more, but the important thing is to seek help or advice from a trusted adult.
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