How to stay healthy at school

A guide for proper nutrition and programs to eliminate stress


Photos by Mohammed F. Emran

Ha’ani Sumerix, Contributing Writer

Approximately 85 percent of college students experience stress every day according to a research survey conducted in 2009 by the Associated Press and MTV. And scarfing down a whole box of mac and cheese to help cope with the stress can be hard on your health.

Stress can lead to weight gain. Florida Atlantic’s Associate Clinical Director for Counseling and Psychological Services Dr. Rene Monteagudo says that incoming freshmen struggle to find their independence and handle new responsibilities, while continuing college students worry about picking the right major and whether it will transfer into a job opportunity. However, eating a balanced diet can help diminish stress and anxiety. According to FAU’s registered dietitian Etty Baker, it is vital for a student to eat within an hour and a half of waking up in order to have enough energy to concentrate throughout the day and stay up during those long lectures. This results in better grades and overall better mental health.

Students should also have a protein, carbohydrate and a healthy fat in every meal to feel a sense of fullness, according to Baker. For lunch and dinner, a half plate of veggies, a quarter of protein and a quarter of starches is all one needs to obtain their proper nutrients without overeating.

“Every person is different,” says Baker. “You have to know your own personal rhythm to know if you need snacks throughout the day or you don’t.” Simple snacks can reduce hunger between meals and control your appetite.

They should include fruits or veggies and proteins. Healthy choices include celery sticks with peanut butter, or radishes with Greek yogurt and ranch dipping sauce if you want to be bold.

Junior exercise science major Savannah Stona likes to munch on “chop[ped] up turkey bacon, kale, avocado and eggs” for a balanced breakfast that gets her ready for the day.

Eating a balanced diet is not the only way to reduce stress – there are various holistic programs and events happening year-round at FAU.

Scientific studies prove that yoga reduces depression and can make people feel lighter, relieving mental pressure. Hatha yoga, offered at FAU, includes exercising every muscle, nerve and gland in the body by combining certain poses with controlled breathing.

The breathing techniques help improve mental clarity, while the poses combined with the breathing elicit the “relaxation response” or the releasing of stress, according to certified yoga instructor for FAU, Kristine Lee.

Stress management through a mindful meditation group, hosted by CAPS, runs for six weeks during the fall and spring semester. This meditation class teaches students how to be “more present and mindful of their current state” even with simple things, such as enjoying “what a nice day it is, opposite to the chaotic breezeway,” stated Monteagudo.

Relaxation drop-in programs are also offered, as well as a Zen garden located at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing for students to come and take a break during their studies and pretend – at least for few minutes – that they don’t have a paper due at 8 a.m.

CAPS even has an app for that – a muscle relaxation app that is available through their website, It walks students through a guided meditation to relax their different muscle groups.

Owls Care Health Promotion offers services, programs and events to promote health and help guide students. Biofeedback consultations teach students how to “control body functions, like heart rate and breathing to reduce stress,” says Assistant Director of Owls Care Dr. Courtney Weaver.

Owls Care also offers the Stress Oasis service. This service hands out bio dots, which mimic a mood ring.

They also give out stress balls and instructions for proper use to help with stress. Instead of squeezing the ball repeatedly like a five year old with a squishy toy, users are supposed to squeeze the ball for ten seconds and then slowly release to feel its effects.

They have also incorporated a “Stress Less Week” during finals that includes various types of stress relieving activities similar to the much favored “nap time” in grade school, including “relaxation breaks with yoga mats and soothing music,” according to Weaver.

This fall, Owls Care is to host “Let’s Owl be Well” – a holistic event to promote wellness and stress management. And next spring, CAPS is planning a series of lunches called “Balanced Lunches” in order to help students have healthy relationships, find themselves and improve their personal strengths.

Additional Information:

Hatha yoga class – Classes will start approximately on Aug. 18, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:10 p.m. to 1 p.m., and Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. It costs $40 for eight classes and $5 for one class. Contact Kristine Lee at 561-297-0159 or [email protected]

For more nutrition information or if you have any questions you can contact Etty Baker at [email protected] or visit her Nutrition Services website.

Relaxation Drop In program:

Thursday afternoons in Room 229 in the Counseling Center during the fall and spring semesters.