For most incoming freshman, the biggest health concern the looms overhead is gaining the freshman fifteen. It's a legitimate concern. Living in a new environment, being independent and away from home for the first time, and laying off sports and activities that kept high school busy are all contributing factors to a new students health. What most students don't consider is how these same transitions will affect their mental health. The two go hand in hand.
I should know. I have suffered with anxiety and depression issues all throughout high school and while I was a casual exerciser, I always spent more time in school reading than working out. So when the last semester of high school came around, I was one of the many who convinced myself that college would be the end to all those problems. I was a direct-admit to SPEA, a Cox Scholar, and I got into my choice learning community. I thought all my problems would go away the day I left home.
But of course, they didn't. I had always been an independent person so I was surprised how much I missed my family and friends when I left home even though I am only two hours away. Once welcome week is over, it can feel impossible to make new friends and the new pressures of handling my own schedule were stressful. I tried to stay on top of eating healthy by buying fruits and vegetables from the store and staying out of the dining halls as much as possible, but as the semester trudged on, convenience and laziness prevailed. My anxiety got worse, I started a new medication, and steeled myself for the possibility that maybe IU wasn't for me.
This isn't entirely a Greek tragedy, however. There are many resources on campus for keeping your body and your mind in the right place. Number one, the most important, the only thing I can swear to that is life-changing is the gym. Every student pays an program fee that covers admission to IU's two rec centers: the Wildemuth Intramural Center across from Woodburn hall, and the Student Recreational Sports Center on Law Lane. You pay for it, so why not use it? Play basketball, volleyball, wally-ball, tennis, run, lift weights, take free group classes in hip-hop cardio, trekking, and zumba. All for free. Nothing improves my mood like a gym session and it is a really great non-judgmental atmosphere. For those who want a more private atmosphere, the SRSC offers smaller cardio and weight rooms, and every type of student can be seen working out or trying a group exercise class. For open hours, group exercise schedules and events, visit the IU RecSports website.
While staying fit and eating right is important, it can also be stressful to keep up with daily workout and food choices. New students often find themselves stressed out by the rigor of classes, making new friends, and dorm life. Luckily, Bloomington is a big campus and there are plenty of ways to escape. Sometimes, the best thing to do is just switch up the routine. I studied at the library every day for the first month of school but after a while I became bored with the atmosphere and didn't want to study as much. I also live in the Northwest neighborhood, so I changed things around by walking over the opposite side of campus and hanging out at the Law School or on Kirkwood. Take some time every week or so to get off campus. After a while, it's easy to forget that people under 18 and over 25 exists. Hop on a bus and go to the College Mall or walk around downtown Bloomington. On a campus where it's nearly impossible to find a private spot, taking a solitary walk or reading a book can be extremely beneficial.
Most importantly though, have a support network. Many people think that college is the place to shake off high-school friendships and branch out. But I have found that my friends from high school were the most helpful during my transition because I already knew them and it took some of the pressure off. Set a lunch date with someone a few times a week, find a workout buddy, or study in a group. IU may be ultimately about your education, but you will get a lot more out of it if you keep yourself in the right state.
One of my favorite fall relaxing spots outside of Collins Residence Hall.