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Tips for a Healthy Start to the Academic Year

Any change in life can cause stress, even a positive change. Whether you’re coming to UVA for the first time or returning to Grounds for your second, third, or fourth year, change can be stressful. Relationships are new or different, and you may find yourself in the middle of unfamiliar experiences and living spaces, all of which contribute to the excitement and challenge of adjusting to a new year. But any change presents a good opportunity for growth. Amidst all the changes, taking the time to sit down with a friend or counselor can help you take full advantage of this opportunity to grow.

Ask yourself:

  1. Who am I without all the activities that I do? I’m more than a basketball player. I am more than a straight A student.
  2. How do I engage with acquaintances? How much do I share and how quickly do I share it?
  3. How do I know who to trust?
  4. How do I make good choices that honor my values? What is important to me?
  5. How do I keep myself safe while trying new and different experiences?
  6. Who are my supports?
  7. How do I help a friend who is having trouble? What do I do if I see an unhealthy relationship developing?

Our counselors offer the following tips for making a healthy start to your academic year, whatever changes you may be facing.

  • Fight the urge to sign up for everything you’re interested in doing. Instead, prioritize the activities or organizations you want to be involved with.
  • Set some goals for each semester and write them down where you can see them to help you stay on track.
  • Identify friends who support your goals and understand your priorities.
  • Remember to have fun. A fun social life can help manage stress, but it’s a myth that all college students drink excessively and that “everyone parties.” Too much partying is more likely to deter you from accomplishing your goals and increase your stress instead of helping you manage it.
  • Exercise can be a great and especially fun way to manage stress, but excessive exercise can lead to more problems. Consider varying your exercise routine.
  • Sleep is another good strategy for managing stress. Make sure your living space is one that allows for adequate quiet time for both sleep and study. If you have roommates, have a discussion about those living spaces at the beginning of the year so that you can establish norms, rather than waiting until a problem occurs.
  • Eating is another way we try to manage stress. Food keeps your body healthy, active, and ready to achieve those goals you set. Over-eating or under-eating will only add to your problems because your body won’t be getting the fuel it needs to stay active. It’s also not helpful to compare your body to someone else’s. Body size varies depending on many factors, so everyone’s bodies are unique and look different from one another.

One last tip: healthy relationships

  • Others around you are also experiencing changes and this can cause increased conflicts in relationships, which in some situations may lead to violence. Abuse or coercion should never occur in a healthy relationship. We also offer some tips here on how to identify developing problems in a relationship.

There are many resources at UVA to help with transitions and changes. Please use these and best wishes to everyone for a healthy and successful year! Go Hoos!



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