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The Worst Things We Did for Our Health in College

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While college can be an amazing time to start working out, embrace your sexuality, and generally take charge of your physical and mental health, it can also be…a shitshow (yes, that’s the technical term). While those of us working at SELF made a lot of good health decisions as students, we also did plenty of things that we very much regret. So as you begin a new school year, please, we’re begging you: Don’t make the same mistakes we did.

Drinking to the point of getting sick

“I went to a school where drinking was like a competitive sport, and I often drank to the point of getting sick. There was even a specific slang phrase used by students for vomiting and then getting back to the party. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how to be tuned into my body and be thoughtful about how much I’m drinking and how it makes me feel. Just because something is normalized in the culture around you doesn’t mean it’s healthy or that you have to participate.” —Sarah Yalowitz, director of programming and development

Just…so much drinking

“In college, I learned that it didn’t take much alcohol to get me blackout drunk, and in retrospect, that scares the shit out of me. Later in adulthood, I was diagnosed with epilepsy (which I’ve written about for SELF), and so I spend a lot of time thinking about my brain and what a mystery it is. My brain was still developing in college, and yet I’d drink until it blocked out memories, which is actually terrifying. I don’t know what happened in those patches of time—not what I did, or what others might have done to me. I also don’t understand the long-term impact of drinking alcohol on my brain. I wouldn’t entirely remove alcohol from my college journey were I to do it again, but if I do wish I hadn’t pushed myself to have the last drink, to take the last shot (or any shots).” —Malia Griggs, commerce editor

Skipping out on sleep for the silliest reasons

“I’m a very productive person who had severe FOMO back in college. I could bang out all of my assignments within a reasonable time, but my friends were your classic let’s-pull-an-all-nighter students. Because I was desperate to establish strong relationships—and didn’t want to miss out on any experiences together—I would stay up with them at the library with them double-checking my work or getting ahead when I really didn’t need to. I missed out on so much sleep, which obviously isn’t great when you have 8 a.m. classes.” —Kenny Thapoung, associate director of audience development

Burning the candle at both ends

“During college, I balanced a job, lots of extracurricular clubs, and a full academic schedule. I used to really burn the candle at both ends; I’d stay up late to finish work or attend events, then get up early for classes, five or six days per week. On Sundays, I’d ‘recover’ and sleep the day away. Now I understand that you can’t just ‘bank sleep’ once every seven days and expect to be rested.” —Amy Eisinger, digital director

“Besides drinking far too much to impress silly little fraternity boys, the unhealthiest thing I did for myself in college was ignore my body’s signals to rest. I was still managing orthorexia when I started school, so I thought that eating spinach salads (with no fat or protein sources, ugh) and going to the gym every day on top of a full course load and little sleep would make me fit and healthy. Actually, keeping up with that rigorous of a schedule made me literally ill. By junior year, I figured out my optimal routine (and learned how to take productive naps and deal with Friday night FOMO), but the first two years of my college career were not cute health-wise.” —Sarah Madaus, commerce writer

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Prioritizing romantic relationships at the expense of your health and happiness

“During my junior year of college, I got into my first serious relationship. My relationship was capital-T toxic, to say the least. It was long-distance, so we spent hours on Facetime each day, which I don’t recommend. The mental and emotional trauma I faced during that relationship led me to isolate myself from friends and withdraw from extracurriculars, even poetry, which is my love. If I could go back, I’d spend more time working on my relationship with myself, and my friends, than a partner. Not to say that all relationships are bad, because there are some amazing people out there, but make sure to invest in healthy relationships. —Manee Magee, editorial assistant

“The few things I would not recommend for the good of one’s mental and physical health: chasing after boys who were not interested in me; placing my self-worth on the amount of male attention I received (or lack thereof); and doing drugs I actually had extreme anxiety about doing. (If it makes you anxious, then just don’t do the drug.)” —Hannah Pasternak, associate director of special projects

Prioritizing dieting at the expense of your health and happiness

“The biggest way I ignored self-care during my college years was dieting. It didn’t start (or end) in college—food and body issues took up nearly all of my free brain space from my pre-teens through my twenties—but I wish I had known then what I know now: Trying to live up to diet culture’s ideals through food restriction did nothing but increase my obsession with food and weight, made me feel even worse about myself, and, most importantly, took up a ton of time and energy that could have been put toward more worthwhile pursuits, like exploring my creative interests or, I don’t know, skinny dipping in one of the rec center pools after hours. The latter is probably a dumb thing to do, sure, but it would have been way more fun and character-building than double-fisting frosting because I hadn’t had a carb in weeks.” —Cathryne Keller, associate wellness director

Taking an all-or-nothing approach to hydration

“I had what you might call a love-hate relationship with hydration during college. Some days, I was great about draining then refilling my water bottle, but on super-busy days, when I’d forget to stay hydrated, I would sometimes try to squeeze a day’s worth of H2O into the last couple hours of the evening—which, as you might have guessed, made me uncomfortable and kept me awake all night going to the bathroom. In case you’re tempted to make the same mistake I did: You’re supposed to drink your daily water intake over the course of the day, not all at once. There’s no sense in over-hydrating if you’ve gone all day without drinking up—your best bet is just to try again the next day.” —Maggie O’Neill, senior news editor

Ending up at the student health center for the silliest reason

“I gave myself second-degree burns by spilling a mugful of tea on my ankle—a mug of tea I’d been sipping from moments earlier. (I like my drinks very hot!) I ended up limping to my school’s health services office, calling a friend to drive me into town for my prescription antibiotic ointment, and setting up a weekly recurring appointment with a nurse practitioner to monitor my wound recovery. (I’ll happily show you photos if you ask!) Oh, and I didn’t tell my parents about any of this. I guess what I’m saying is, it isn’t a matter of whether you’ll make a dumb mistake but when, so be nice to your on-campus nurses and get a friend with a car.” —Sara Coughlin, senior commerce writer

And, again: So much drinking

“The only thing I’m going to say is if you see a Hawaiian Punch–like substance in a bathtub at a house party, and people are offering it to you in a cup…do not drink it.” —Allison Tsai, associate health director

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Source: Self

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