As students head off to college this week, I am reminded about a recent conversation I had with our School Physician, Dr. Alan Stern, M.D., a local pediatrician and Needham community member and parent who has attended to the needs of hundreds of the community’s children and young adults.
Dr. Stern explained to me that as college-bound students come in for their physicals before they head off to freshman year, he offers them some simple but important advice around sleep, diet, exercise, substance use, and relationships.
• Sleep Make sure you get plenty of rest and sleep if you want to be alert and awake for class and college success. “If you want to earn A’s,” Dr. Stern tells them, “You have to catch some Z’s!”
• Diet and Nutrition Eat regularly and enjoy healthy food. Fast food and late night snacks are no substitute for balanced and nutritious meals. Use your meal card to stay fit and healthy.
• Exercise Stay healthy and fit with a good diet and regular exercise. Get into the fitness room, jog in the neighborhood, and workout with friends to shake off the day and keep your body and mind strong.
• Alcohol and Drugs Alcohol and illegal substances are more easily and readily available and accessible in college. Most college students do not abuse alcohol or drugs, but binge drinking has become a serious health and safety problem. Think about when, where, and with whom you party and talk to your parents or older siblings about how best to handle certain situations involving drugs and alcohol.
• Relationships Intimate relationships can develop in college, and it’s important to be smart, safe, and prudent. This is especially true when it comes to relationships that develop as the result of alcohol and drugs. Always be aware of your surroundings and stay with friends when you venture out to parties or gatherings. If you are not comfortable with someone, there is probably a reason for you not to get involved!
Thanks, Dr. Stern, for the good advice. Undergraduates should also take advantage of on campus health and counseling services when questions or concerns arise. And to the College Class of 2019: Best wishes and stay healthy and safe!