Physical wellness is just part of the wellness wheel, but a super important one! With spring around the corner, it is a great time to get outside to get some physical activity!
What is physical wellness and physical activity?
Physical wellness is about making positive choices to maintain a healthy body! Healthy looks different for everybody, but one way to make a positive choice for your body can be through physical activity! The WHO states that physical activity is any physical movement that engages your muscles while exerting more energy than you would while resting.
Why is physical activity important?
According to the WHO, Physical activity can help mitigate and manage different health risks. Some of these include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, numerous cancers, and hypertension. Physical activity can also be good for enhancing mental health, maintaining a healthy body weight, bettering balance and sleep, and improving overall well-being and quality of life.
What is the recommended amount of physical activity to get as an adult?
The WHO recommends that adults between the ages of 18-64 should get between 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or between 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity a week or some combination of the two. This rounds out to be about at least 20 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day or at least 10 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity a day each week. The WHO also suggests that this age group should do moderate-intensive muscle-strengthening activities of all major muscles at least 2 days a week and be conscious of how much time is spent being sedentary.
What are the different ways you can be physically active on campus and beyond?
Recreation and Wellness offers many opportunities for students to get physically active and involved, including the Climbing Center, UFit plan, Intramural Sports, Club Sports, Personal Training, Group Exercise classes, Swim Lessons, and more! Athletic and Recreation Facilities also offers Open Swim hours at the pool, Racquetball Courts by reservation, Open Recreation Center hours to get a workout in or play basketball on the basketball courts, Open Turf/Track hours at the Kelly Family Sports Center to throw around a frisbee, play spikeball, or run on the track! And most of these activities are free for students or are discounted!
Have you ever heard of Ottawa County’s Parks?! Grand Valley is surrounded by them! There is one within walking distance of Grand Valley! Take a friend, a dog, or yourself on a walk, run, or bike ride to get some physical activity at Grand Ravines North. Not too far from this entrance is Grand Raives South, which has a dog park and a suspension bridge! If you’re looking for other parks to get some physical activity, look no further than Grand River Park or the Grand River Open Space, which provides trails and serenity within a 10-minute drive from campus!
There are many ways of getting physical activity indoors on campus and in the great outdoors surrounding campus! Physical activity is a positive way of taking care of your physical wellness to maintain a healthy body! Remember to do what is healthy for you, as healthy looks different for everybody, and be safe while performing physical activity, too!
By: WIT Peer Educator, Ru
As students, we are expected to read and read often. Many of us are drowning in textbook chapters, novels, articles, and wordy Blackboard discussion posts. While this reading is of course crucial to our educational endeavor, it can lead to huge reading burnout. Over winter break, I picked up a young adult romance novel and realized just how much I missed reading for enjoyment. It got me thinking about how I’ve learned to approach reading as a college student– I don’t unless I have to and when I do, I am skimming– part because I don’t have time to read, but part because I’m uninterested. A lot of people who came to college as bookworms have lost that part of themselves underneath all of the content– but it’s so important to win that part back. Others, maybe were never into reading– that’s okay too. But there’s so much more to reading once you get beyond the annoyance. Reading is like sex– especially if you’re reading erotica– everyone has yucks and yums and all are valid. There is a lot of reading material out there for everyone’s interest in well-being. We’ll dive more into this later.
Reading for relationship-building
There are a lot of published studies that highlight the importance of reading for mental wellness and intellectual wellness. Many of us have heard of reading to reduce stress and anxiety in addition to improving cognitive outcomes (check out this article that explores some of this!) However, one perk of reading that does not get emphasized enough is the benefit of reading for our social life; cracking open a book can improve social wellness! Reading perspectives that are similar and dissimilar to ours helps us improve our ability to communicate with others as well as build a foundation for solid values and understanding one another. One study concluded that reading “includes learning more about yourself and others; learning how to understand, empathize, and interact with other people; gaining insight into your and others’ relationships; and generally helping with personal problems” (https://journals.ala.org/index.php/rusq/article/view/4099/4667).
An additional option for exploration is book clubs! One study found that “A sense of belonging was achieved between students with a variety of differences and
disagreements. The sense of belonging extended to multiple contexts, deepening understanding and accountability within the academic and social aspects of learning” (Petrich 11).
Book clubs serve as an opportunity for social interaction while also creating a shared interest for discussion to break the ice. If you’re interested in joining a book club, there is a student organization Book Club. Find out more information on laker link. A lot of bookstores and coffee shops also host book clubs- keep your eyes peeled for fliers when you’re there!
Let’s Talk About Sex (In Literature)
So, speaking of erotica, let’s talk about sex. We live in a culture, and a geographical space, where sex is taboo. As a peer sex educator, I feel perfectly comfortable talking about sex and sex education- but I also acknowledge that there is stigma. Not everyone is having sex and not everyone wants to and that is so valid! For those wanting to explore sex and sexuality while remaining abstinent, one of the best places to go is literature. Of course, there are educational texts out there that include diagrams of penises and vulvas which are great to learn about anatomy, but there is so much more available than what we might’ve been taught in sex ed. There’s a huge variety of content that covers sex and sexuality such as romance novels, erotica, online fanfiction*, books that explore the psychology of sex and relationships, books about sexuality, and the iconic category that is “ah! Horny Vampires!” (looking at you Twilight and Dracula). Reading about sex and sexuality as an alternative to engaging in sex is great for protecting against STIs and pregnancy. When combined with sex, reading material like erotica can spice things up.
Check out some benefits of reading erotica: https://hellogiggles.com/erotica-benefits/
Self-proclaimed sexologist Lucy Rowett shares some books that led her to become a sexologist: https://lucyrowett.com/top-10-books-influenced-me-sexologist-purity-culture/
*Please be advised that fanfiction is a very broad genre and may be confusing to navigate. Often, there are fanfiction websites with special search engines that allow you to explore what you’re looking for. Search safely (and clear your browser history).
Finance literature may be an intimidating genre for many college students. However, there is a lot of information out there that does apply! While we may not care to learn about 401ks and savings bonds, doing some research on budgeting, how to use a credit card, and navigating student loans may be beneficial. One great resource if you’re looking for a shorter read is the Federal Student Aid webpage. The Federal Student Aid webpage contains a lot of information specific to students and offers different resource links for further reading and research!
There’s a lot of stuff out there to read! Instead of scrolling through Tiktok, consider looking for some reading materials- whether it be a full-length novel, an article, or a blog post (such as the WIT blog series). Read on!
By: Rowan, WIT Peer Educator
Posted on Permanent link for Reading for Wellness on February 15, 2024.
In case you didn’t know (just like I didn’t), January is Self-Love Month! What could be a better way to start off the new semester than that, huh? But, just because January’s almost over, that doesn’t mean you should stop practicing self-love during the rest of the year! For some of you, you might have self-love locked down. For others, it might be a bit harder. Either way, we’ve got some helpful tips and activities that’ll help you nurture and flourish the love you have for yourself.
What is Self-Love & What Does it Look Like?
Although it might seem obvious, let’s define what self-love really means. Self-love means having an appreciation of your worth; and having concern for, and giving attention to, your own happiness and well-being. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, though. I know that I’m definitely guilty of putting the happiness of my friends and my partners before my own. It is a good thing to be selfless and put the needs of others first, but not when it’s at the expense of your own well-being. You deserve to be appreciated and happy. And no one else can truly appreciate you better than yourself.
So, we know what self-love is, but what does it look like? Well, self-love looks like taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially. Simply put, practicing self-care can develop the love you have for yourself. Self-care encompasses the actions and practices that you take to support your overall well-being.
How To Develop Self-Love Through Self-Care
The first step in practicing self-care is to know yourself and your body. Start by taking a moment to recognize how you feel after engaging in specific activities like sleep, exercise, spending time with friends, a favorite hobby, or a night out partying. Which activities seem to drain you? And which feel like they rejuvenate you? Do some of them give you energy only for a certain amount of time before becoming draining? Knowing what makes you feel good (and what doesn’t) is the first step in knowing what you need in order to care for yourself.
For example, if you know you feel better after physical activity (and let’s be honest, most of us do), self-care is making room in your schedule to exercise, even if it means giving up something else like watching your favorite TV show. Sometimes, self-care isn’t fun. It means following through with what you need even if you don’t want to. Sometimes, self-care can be hard, too, such as having to set boundaries with friends and with loved ones. This can look like saying “no” when something is asked of you even if that means disappointing someone else, or standing up for yourself when you’re being treated unfairly. It can also look like ending a toxic relationship because it might be hard to see it, but you know that you deserve better.
All of this isn’t to say that self-care can’t be enjoyable or fun because it absolutely can be! Self-care can also look like taking a day off because you’ve been working really hard lately (maybe a little too hard) or reading a good book or going to see a movie. It can look like treating yourself to a special food or taking a relaxing bath, getting your hair done, playing a video game, or spending time with friends.
Ultimately, self-care is listening to your body and your mind, and then giving yourself whatever it is you need in order to feel your best and become the best version of yourself that you can be.
Classic Self-Care Tips
Some specific ideas for practicing self-care while at college include:
- Setting a routine (and sticking to it). As mentioned earlier with the exercise example, you may not want to do it, but you will benefit from it. So decide to do it and follow through; it’ll help you feel more productive and focused in the long run.
- Prioritizing your sleep. As a college student, there’s always something to do (trust me, I know). But making sure you get enough sleep each night (at least seven hours), will give you more energy to do even more things. Read more about How to Unleash Your Inner Sleeping Beauty!
- Eating as many balanced meals as possible. Again, another task that can be difficult for college students, but not impossible. Giving your body the nutrients it deserves will make you feel better physically and mentally. Here are some recipes from one of our other blogs!
I hope these ideas help you practice self-care and I wish you a very happy year of self-love!
By: Sara, WIT Peer Educator
Do you ever get into a routine and then come to realize your week went by in a blink? Do you ever get the feeling that what you are learning is losing its charm? Are you wondering how you can be more present and have more fun? Well according to many studies, the answer could be curiosity:
- Beat the winter blues with curiosity. Studies have shown that when we discover or learn about something new our brains send us signals that make us feel good, boosting our mood.
- Build relationships. Research shows that genuine curiosity is one of the biggest factors that contributes to creating a closer connection when interacting with others.
- Score higher on assignments. Whether at school or any other occupation, having curiosity about the task at hand can improve the overall outcome of our efforts.
This winter, the WIT Peer Educators are excited to keep your adventuring and curiosity going with some new content each week! We are a group of fellow students with a passion for helping our peers stay informed and inspired about health and wellness topics.
We are back this winter with a series of content including some of our favorite topic areas of sexual health, nutrition, rest, the 8 dimensions of wellness, and much more! We have so many topic ideas we are excited to share with you this semester. Watch for a post every Thursday, either on Instagram, the RecWell blog, or both!
If you can’t wait until Thursday, check out our past blog posts on our website. Take a look at everything from “What is Sexuality?” to “Easy Winter Meals to Make in Your Dorm” to “How to Unleash Your Inner Sleeping Beauty". Got another idea you’d like to see? Head over to our Ask WIT question box and we’ll get one written just for you!
If blog posts or Instagram aren’t your thing, scroll through the student wellness website containing a plethora of information and resources, request a presentation on our website, catch us at the WIT cart (probably inside this semester) or attend some of our many events, including the continuation of the Eat Well series with Laker Food Co.
Whatever you might be up to this winter, we hope you can take some moments to pause and explore a range of wellness topics to boost your mood, foster growth in the 8 dimensions of wellness, put more joy into learning, and reap the benefits of curiosity!
By: Josie, WIT Peer Educator
During the holiday season everyone seems so busy! With parties, events, finals, shopping and all the exciting and joyful things you participate in at this time of year can become a time of stress and anxiety as well. I know for myself Christmas is my favorite time of year, however, as much joy that it does bring me I have to make sure that during this busy season I find time to take extra care of myself, and my mental health. Oftentimes the holidays, whichever you celebrate, can bring up a lot of different emotions. From excitement, joy, gratitude, and pleasure to overwhelm, sadness, and burnout, this time of year can bring up a lot. I want you to know that you are not alone and this is totally normal! I’ve created some tips that have helped me and others navigate this time of year so that we can still be able to enjoy the holidays as well as take care of ourselves.
It can be extremely helpful to write a list of all the things you need to accomplish. That may also involve prioritizing what should get done first and what can wait till a later date. This may come with having to say no to certain things/plans in order to take care of yourself and not get overwhelmed. This is something I know that I continue to have to work on as I am always wanting to be involved in everything, but I know that if I say yes all the time burnout occurs much quicker and I lose sight of what the holiday season really is supposed to be about.
2. Find pleasure and Joy and Rest
Yes the holidays are busy but it's important to find time to engage in the joyful, pleasurable, rejuvenating things that refresh you and give you energy to get through all the tasks at hand! This also includes taking time to rest. Things like making sure you get enough sleep, making sure you are eating healthy foods in nourishing amounts and finding time for your favorite self care activities is very important. This can all help to avoid getting overwhelmed by the stress of the busy season. Some of my favorite self care activities to do in the winter are taking warm baths, drinking some hot tea or coffee, journaling, watching Christmas/holiday movies, and Christmas coloring pages. I also love lighting holiday scented candles during this time of year!
3. Ask or Accept Help
Accepting and/or asking for help can be an extremely hard task for many. I know for me it is! However, we can not and certainly shouldn’t do everything ourselves. Asking for help is necessary in order to get everything done. It can be helpful to delegate tasks with others like splitting up the cooking or shopping duties. Also, if you find yourself needing extra help to get through finals don’t be afraid to join a study group, visit the tutoring center, or speak with the professor. Everyone needs help from time to time. Don’t feel bad asking for help. We as humans are not made to walk through life alone, and that doesn’t change during the holiday season as well!
4. Allow room for changes in routine
With the holiday season comes a lot of changes in routine and schedule. This can also bring about a lot of stress or anxiety. It can often leave you feeling unsettled and maybe not fully grounded. Change in general, no matter good or bad, can be very hard and even uncomfortable. For me change can sometimes even be scary. The one thing I have learned through going through change is that things will go smoother if you embrace and allow for the change to happen, instead of trying to avoid or resist it. This can be an extremely hard thing to do and I am still working on it myself! Give yourself some grace! It's okay to fall back into your old routine from time to time as well!
5. Find time to breathe…..and Laugh!!
It's important to remember to breathe during this time of year. We often hold so much stress and tension that we forget to do this simple thing. Breathing and taking a second to focus on your breath can bring comfort, strength, and focus to get you through the day/season. Not only is it important to breathe, it's also important to find time to laugh! The holidays shouldn’t be all stress and anxiety but it should be a time for celebration and excitement as well. Find time to laugh with friends and family, maybe reflecting back on memories or engaging in holiday activities. Laughter can lift our spirits up and release a lot of stress in our bodies.
Utilizing these 5 tips can help make the holiday season or any stressful time of year a much more enjoyable and healthy experience for you! Remember, at the end of the day the holidays aren’t meant to make us anxious, stressed or overwhelmed. However, they are meant to provide celebration, joy, love, and excitement into our everyday lives!
By: WIT Volunteer, Amber Gunneson
Permanent link for How to Unleash Your Inner Sleeping Beauty: The Ultimate Guide to Better Zzz's for GV Students on April 24, 2023
As a Wellness Information Team Peer Educator, one of the most common concerns we hear from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) students is trouble sleeping. Numerous students have trouble obtaining the sleep they need, whether it's due to trouble falling asleep, remaining asleep, or waking up feeling exhausted. In this blog, we will explore the psychological and emotional impact of sleep and provide practical tips to help students get a good night's rest. Let's dive in!
Think: "Unlocking Your Best Self: The Power of Good Sleep Habits"
When it comes to achieving your goals and feeling your best, quality sleep is a critical component. The way we think about sleep can have a big impact on our ability to prioritize it and establish healthy habits. By recognizing the power of good sleep habits and the benefits they can bring, we can shift our mindset towards prioritizing rest and reaping the rewards of a well-rested mind and body.
The term "thinking" in this sense refers to a variety of activities. You must consider your existing sleeping patterns and attitudes, including whether you value sleep and understand its significance. It also involves being aware of the advantages of getting enough sleep, including enhanced mental clarity, greater physical health, and increased productivity. Last but not least, it is being proactive about changing your sleeping patterns, for example, by putting the blog's advice into practice or looking for extra resources and support.
By "unlocking" the power of good sleep habits and recognizing their role in achieving our best selves, we can take a more intentional approach to sleep and prioritize it alongside other aspects of our well-being.
Feel: "Snooze to Success: Empowering Your Mind and Body with Quality Sleep"
The way we feel about sleep can have a big impact on our ability to prioritize it and establish healthy habits. When we recognize the benefits of quality sleep and the positive impact it can have on our mental and physical health, we're more likely to make it a priority in our daily lives.
The "feel" aspect of this title is all about recognizing the emotional benefits of quality sleep. Getting enough rest can help us feel more energized, focused, and productive during the day. It can also reduce stress and anxiety, improve our mood, and support our overall well-being. By prioritizing quality sleep, we can tap into these emotional benefits and empower ourselves to feel our best.
In this context, "feeling" is about recognizing the connection between our emotions and our sleep habits. It involves understanding the impact that sleep can have on our mood, stress levels, and overall well-being. It also means recognizing the emotional benefits of quality sleep and prioritizing it as a key aspect of self-care.
By "snoozing" to success and empowering our mind and body with quality sleep, we can tap into the emotional benefits of rest and support our overall well-being.
Do: "Take Charge of Your Zzz's: Practical Tips for a Restful Night's Sleep"
- Insomnia: difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Sleep apnea: a condition where breathing is interrupted during sleep, leading to snoring and daytime fatigue
- Restless leg syndrome: a condition where you feel an uncomfortable sensation in your legs that makes it difficult to sleep
- Circadian rhythm disorders: disruptions in your body's internal clock that can lead to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at the right times
If you're experiencing any of these sleep problems, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment.
There are several things you can do to improve your sleep quality. Here are some tips:
- Stick to a sleep schedule: Establishing a consistent sleep routine can help regulate ( your body's internal clock and improve sleep quality. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. If you have trouble falling asleep, avoid napping during the day, as this can disrupt your sleep schedule.
- Create a sleep-conducive environment: Your sleeping environment can have a big impact on sleep quality. Make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark. If you live in a noisy area or have roommates who stay up late, consider using earplugs or a white noise machine to block out distractions. Use blackout curtains or an eye mask if necessary to block out any light that might disturb your sleep.
- Limit screen time : Exposure to the blue light emitted by electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops can interfere with your body's natural sleep-wake cycle. Try to avoid using electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime. If you need to use your device, consider using a blue light filter or wearing blue light-blocking glasses to reduce the impact on your sleep.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol can disrupt sleep quality. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake, while alcohol can interfere with REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is important for memory consolidation and overall sleep quality. Try to avoid these substances in the hours leading up to bedtime.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Stress and anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help you relax and prepare for sleep. Consider incorporating these practices into your bedtime routine to help calm your mind and body before bed.
- Get regular exercise: Exercise can help improve sleep quality by reducing stress, promoting relaxation, and regulating your body's internal clock. However, try to avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as it can increase alertness and make it harder to fall asleep. Aim to exercise earlier in the day, at least a few hours before bedtime.
- Seek help if needed: If you're struggling with sleep despite trying these tips, consider talking to a healthcare provider or seeking help from a sleep specialist. There are many effective treatments for sleep disorders, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy for sleep apnea. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the best course of treatment for your specific needs.
In conclusion, getting enough sleep is critical for overall health and well-being. By prioritizing sleep and taking steps to improve sleep quality, you can feel more rested, alert, and focused throughout the day. Don't hesitate to seek help if you're struggling with sleep, as there are many effective treatments available. Good luck and Sweet dreams!
- Worley SL. The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep: The Detrimental Effects of Inadequate Sleep on Health and Public Safety Drive an Explosion of Sleep Research. P T. 2018 Dec;43(12):758-763. PMID: 30559589; PMCID: PMC6281147.,
- https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene ,
By: Aravind Gurusaran Korukonda, WIT Peer Educator
It is that time of the school year again for finals, but don’t let studying take up too much of your time! It is important to balance school and time for yourself. The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and the birds are calling your name! But don’t forget to wear sunscreen!
What the outdoors can do for you!
- Helps motivation and physical health
- Lowers stress and anxiety levels
- Improves sleep
- Stronger immunity
- Supports positive mental health
- Better breathing and sight
Tips for getting outside!
- Make plans with a friend
- Block an hour out of your schedule
- Set a time limit for studying
- Make a reminder
Things to do outdoors on campus!
- Hammock in the arboretum
- Go hiking on the trails behind campus or near Laker Village
- Set up a slackline with a friend
- Have a picnic
- Play sand volleyball
- Read a book or make friendship bracelets on a blanket
- Eat lunch with a friend on a bench
- Ride your bike
- Take a nap under a tree
- Go on a scavenger hunt
- Roller Skate or skateboard on the sidewalks
- Set up your yoga mat in the sun
The outdoors improves your overall health! There are many ways to get outdoors on campus. And remember to treat the outdoors with kindness. We want our favorite places to last a long time!
By: Ruhi Khanna, WIT Peer Educator and Climbing Center Staff
Meditation is a powerful tool that can help you achieve mental, emotional, and physical wellness. As a college student, you may face many challenges, such as stress, anxiety, and a lack of focus. Meditation can help you overcome these challenges and improve your overall well-being.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice that involves training your mind to focus on the present moment. It can involve different techniques, such as deep breathing, visualization, and mindfulness. The goal of meditation is to quiet the mind and achieve a sense of inner peace and calm.
How can meditation benefit college students?
- Reduces stress and anxiety: College life can be stressful, and it can lead to anxiety and other mental health issues. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, and improve overall mental health.
- Improves focus and concentration: Meditation can help you improve your focus and concentration, which can be beneficial for your academic performance. By training your mind to focus on one thing at a time, you can improve your productivity and efficiency.
- Enhances self-awareness: Meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions. By observing your thoughts without judgment, you can develop a better understanding of yourself and your feelings.
- Improves sleep quality: College students often struggle with sleep issues, such as insomnia or sleep deprivation. Meditation can help you relax and calm your mind, which can improve your sleep quality and quantity.
How to get started with meditation?
- Find a quiet and comfortable space where you won't be disturbed.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and your eyes closed.
- Take deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
- Focus your attention on your breath, and try to keep your mind from wandering.
- If your mind does wander, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
- Practice meditation for at least 5-10 minutes a day, and gradually increase the time as you become more comfortable with the practice.
In conclusion, meditation is a simple yet powerful practice that can help college students achieve mental, emotional, and physical wellness. By incorporating meditation into your daily routine, you can reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus and concentration, enhance self-awareness, and improve sleep quality. Give it a try and see how it can benefit you.
By: Abdul Ciise, WIT Peer Educator
March is here, and at GVSU, March is all about sleep! Winter semester is Recreation & Wellness’s Press Pause campaign, and in March we focus on good sleep health and getting adequate rest. I am going to talk all about the relationship between caffeine and sleep so you can start off your March getting the best sleep you can!
You may have read the title of this blog post and thought, “Well yeah, that is why I drink it.” Lots of Americans drink caffeine daily to help them feel alert and awake in the morning. The FDA states that around 80% of US adults drink caffeine daily. It is common to hear tired voices lament that they have not had their coffee yet, especially on a university campus. But drinking caffeine daily can actually be the reason you don't feel alert and rested without your coffee.
Let's start by explaining how caffeine works.
In the brain, you have a chemical called adenosine. This chemical builds up during the hours of the day you are awake and sends a signal that you are tired by binding to special adenosine receptors. So the longer you are awake, the more adenosine builds up and the more tired you feel. When you drink caffeine it makes its way through the bloodstream and into your brain. Caffeine will then bind to the adenosine receptors and block them. This means that although adenosine is still building up in the brain, your body doesn't know that it is tired yet. This is why you sometimes crash mid-day, the caffeine has left your system and isn't blocking those adenosine receptors anymore, leading to a sudden feeling of tiredness. This is also why drinking caffeine later in the day will keep you up, that caffeine is still blocking your adenosine from making you feel tired and getting the rest you need.
So now that you know how caffeine works to make you feel awake, let's talk about how caffeine use affects sleep quality.
Once your caffeine has worn off and you go to sleep, the effects of caffeine consumption still continue. Even if that cup of coffee was early in the day, drinking caffeine still affects your sleep. Caffeine can make it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep, and can overall reduce the quality of sleep you get. Especially if you drink caffeine regularly. Caffeine reduces short-wave sleep; This is the deep restful sleep that makes you feel recharged and alert the next morning.
So what happens for many of us is we don't get good quality sleep so we are tired in the morning and turn to coffee, soda, or other caffeinated drinks. Then that caffeine makes our sleep worse, so we are tired in the morning and drink more caffeine. This creates a vicious cycle of needing caffeine to feel awake because of getting poor sleep. Don't worry coffee lovers, I am not saying you need to give up your favorite part of your morning entirely, but cutting back can improve sleep and stop this cycle.
The safe amount of caffeine in a day is 400 milligrams, which is about 4 cups of coffee. You may not be drinking that much coffee but soda and energy drinks during the day can easily put you over that safe limit. This is also true if you take pre-workout and drink caffeine. Drinking too much caffeine can lead to symptoms I am sure most of us know well, like jitters, nausea, headaches, and a pounding heart rate. It also increases your blood pressure, makes you more dehydrated, and can even cause health issues like problems with digestion.
You can stop this cycle and feel awake without caffeine in lots of different ways. One big one is cutting back on caffeine. If you drink a lot of caffeine or drink caffeine daily this can be hard. One way to do it is to cut back slowly. So if you drink 2 cups of coffee in the morning and an energy drink at lunch, start by just cutting out one of those 3 drinks. Then cut one more, and maybe then you switch to a lower caffeine option like tea. This is going to look different for everyone. Some people may be able to stop drinking caffeine entirely, but for others, caffeine is part of some of their favorite drinks. Just know that cutting back on caffeine (even if you don’t cut it out entirely) will still have benefits.
So now you have cut back on caffeine, but you may still feel a bit tired in the morning. Are there other caffeine-free ways to feel awake?
You bet there are! There are actually a lot. Here is a list of proven ways to boost alertness without that cup of coffee:
- Hydrate throughout your day by drinking lots of water
- Eat some fresh fruit
- Eat a balanced diet
- Nap throughout the day (check out our nap map here!)
If you still can’t shake the sleep off and feel well-rested, there may be some underlying reason for being tired day in and day out. That is when you should talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Conditions like sleep apnea are fairly common, 1 in 15 people in the US has a type of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can reduce sleep quality and cause other serious health concerns.
Now that you know the ins-and-outs of caffeine and sleep, you are ready to go and tackle your fatigue and get lots of restful sleep. If you want to dig deeper into the topic of sleep, Check out Emilio’s blog post on how sleep impacts fitness, Annie’s blog post on the racial sleep gap, and Stella’s blog post on the importance of sleep.
By: Eva VanWyck, WIT Peer Educator
Posted on Permanent link for Caffeine is Keeping You Up on March 1, 2023.
As college students, many of us are short on time and long on the grind. We have papers piling up, clubs to attend, hours to clock, and so it can be difficult to find time to sit down and nurture our bodies with all of the nutrients that we need. Last year, I found it difficult to find the time to eat, especially being on a budget and being obsessed with eating the ‘right’ way. Sometimes we make a full meal with vegetables, sometimes we have a donut with our coffee. I’d like to discuss the obstacles that come with food when you’re busy and how to improve our relationship with it.
Eating On the Go
First up, addressing the big time constraint. If you’re like me, you’re taking classes full time, working part time, and pulling off multiple extracurriculars and side projects. When you’re busy and on the go, it’s hard to maintain an eating schedule, let alone finding time to eat. You’ve heard it from your friends, you’ve done it yourself; you’re running off a large cup of coffee and nothing else. We are human, we aren’t perfect. However, keeping our bodies nourished should be a top priority. Every meal may not be a five-course endeavor, but you can start by implementing snacks and simple meals. If this means taking a half hour to make some pasta and add some spinach to the sauce, go you! If this means driving to a drive thru before class instead of skipping a meal, still, go you! Making the time, and making the choice, to eat when and where you can will make a difference. You do not want your stomach rumbling in a silent lecture room.
I’d like to address and acknowledge the prevalence of food insecurity when it comes to trying to eat and maintain health. According to Basic Needs at GVSU, more than 1,000 students here at GVSU struggle with food insecurity. Food insecurity is the lack of access to nutritious food on a consistent basis. For college students, this might look like not having enough meals on our meal plans or living off of a few packs of ramen for a week. Food insecure college students don’t have enough food to properly sustain themselves through the week and their grades (and health) may suffer from this. While food insecurity is a broad issue, there are some resources out there and even some on our campus.
Replenish is a basic needs center on campus with three different locations. One location is on the lower level of Kirkhof center, in room 074. The other two locations are on the downtown campus located at the Steelcase library building A of the DeVos Center and room 347 of the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Science (CHS 347). Students are welcome to stop in during open hours, check in with staff, and get the food or basic need items they need.
SNAP benefits, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provides supplemental income via a Bridge card to lower-income individuals. While there are eligibility requirements, students can and should consider applying for SNAP. Students can apply for SNAP online and will later be contacted to complete a phone interview. There is no downside to applying for SNAP, the worst thing that can happen is you get denied and the best is that you are approved for benefits! If you need help applying, reach out to the CARE team by filling out a report for yourself.
There are many food pantries across the towns surrounding our campuses, including Love Inc., The Other Way Ministries, and more. Students can search for resources using the Feeding America resource map.
There is nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to experiencing food insecurity as a student. Many of us come from different backgrounds and experiences and it’s important to recognize them and help one another when we can. If someone you know is experiencing food insecurity, consider finding ways to help them like sharing the resources above. If you are experiencing food insecurity, ask for help and take advantage of the resources available to you. While folks who are experiencing food insecurity have a more difficult time with accessing nutrient-dense foods, it is so important to do your best to eat the food that is available.
When you don’t have the time or the resources to eat the “right” foods, you might fall ill to food guilt. Food guilt is when you obsess and feel ashamed over the food you eat or think about eating. Sometimes this may look like eating a bag of chips instead of a salad, but the reasons may vary: the chips might be cheaper, the chips might have a higher calorie count and might be more filling, or, simply, you might be craving some chips. All of these reasons are completely valid, and what’s important is that you are eating. The way that diet culture has infiltrated our minds (and bodies) has made us believe that skipping meals is healthier than eating “junk” when in reality, skipping meals has faster, more harmful consequences than eating something unhealthy. Just checkout this resource.
Tips and Tricks
- Eat the foods that make you feel good: try to balance foods for your soul and foods for your gut (instead of chips or salad, why not both, if you can). You do not need to give up any category of food- try to add vegetables and fruits when and where you can. It’s about adding nutrients, not taking them away.
- Have specific foods ready for on-the-go like protein bars, muffins, and yogurt. On busy mornings, afternoons, or evenings- it is helpful to have something ready to grab and take with you. To cut costs, some of these on-the-go items can be meal prepped and ready to have on hand.
- Let go of the stigma surrounding different foods. Every food has its place.
- Have ‘backup’ foods for low-energy days like instant noodles, freezer meals, or even a gift card for a restaurant. It’s better to eat “unhealthy” than nothing. Having easy foods available to you when you’re not feeling your best can help make sure you’re still nourishing your body.
- Experiment with recipes in your free time, and find out what foods you like. You can find recipes online, from family and friends, and even on the RecWell instagram. Budget Bytes is a great resource for cheap and yummy recipes.
- Try to attend a farmer’s market for fresh produce, such as the Fulton Street Farmers Market, a SNAP certified market!
- Try food-prepping meals or try to create a “grazing” plate in the fridge with things like cheese, veggies, crackers, and your favorite proteins (nuts, seeds, meats, meat alternatives, etc.).
What to Avoid Eating
- Foods you have a life-threatening allergy to
- Foods that you dislike
- Inedible objects
- Foods that go against your values (if you’re vegan, religious, or otherwise)
To wrap things up, take care of yourself. I know it can be hard to maintain balance, especially as a student- and even more so if you’re a student with additional barriers. But it’s so important to make sure you’re eating consistently, even if what you’re eating is not always the ‘healthiest’ option. Don’t listen to diet culture and remember to prioritize food.
Additional Links and Resources
By Rowan Armour, WIT Peer Educator
Posted on Permanent link for Eating as a College Student on February 3, 2023.