Ask the counselor: “How do you find a romantic relationship?”

Reading Time: 2 minutes Finding a romantic relationship is no easy task—especially if you’re shy. Our counselor offers some tips on how to get out of your comfort zone in the dating world.

Ask the professor: “How do I go about getting a recommendation letter?”

Reading Time: 3 minutes A good recommendation letter can be huge for landing a job or internship. Make sure you’re getting the best recommendation using these tips from a college professor.

Ask the counselor: How do I know if my partner’s dependency is unhealthy?

Reading Time: 3 minutes In relationships, you give and you receive. But what happens when you start giving more than you are receiving? Learn how to spot the signs of an unhealthy dependency.

Ask the trainer: What are the best pre-workout snacks?

Reading Time: 2 minutes Fueling up before exercising is important for giving your body the energy it needs. So what’s the best pre-workout snack? Our trainer shares some ideas.

Ask the trainer: “What are some exercises I could do while studying or sitting in class?”

Reading Time: 2 minutes Avoid feeling stiff from sitting too long in class with these dynamic stretches.

Ask the nutritionist: “What’s the difference between good carbs and bad carbs?”

Reading Time: 2 minutes Sugars, complex, refined… Which carbs are “good” and which are “bad?” And, which foods and drinks contain them? Here’s how to become carb-savvy.

Ask the health educator: “How do I deal with the pressure to be sexually active?”

Reading Time: 2 minutes A health educator offers advice on what to do if you’re feeling pressure to be sexually active.

Ask the professor: “Any tips on managing anxiety when speaking in front of people?”

Reading Time: 2 minutes How can you transform from anxious orator to confident communicator? It takes some work, but here are a few tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking.

Ask the doc: What can students do to stay healthy while under stress?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

—Jamie K.*, Ashford University (online)

(*Name changed)

I spent a winter break working at Okemo Mountain as a lift operator. I was staying on a hill across the valley from the mountain and had a steep downhill drive to get to work. One morning after a fresh snowfall, I lost traction and slid into a ditch. After a kind man used his truck to pull my car back out to the road, I asked him: “What’s the best way to slow down my car in such a situation?” His answer? “Don’t drive so fast.” The moral of the story is that safe driving and good health are about preparation and prevention. Think about staying healthy during the semester and, chances are, you’ll succeed. Wait until it’s too late and…it will be too late.

No secrets here: Get enough sleep, be regularly physically active, eat well, wash your hands, limit your saliva sharing, get a flu shot, and avoid overindulging in intoxicants and smoke.

Sleep

There’s compelling evidence that people who don’t get enough sleep are about 30 percent more likely to catch a cold than those who do. Sleep eight-plus hours a night, ideally going to sleep and waking up at about the same time most nights. I’m a firm believer, and the evidence supports me, that it’s better to get a full night’s sleep even if you haven’t finished your work. Go to bed, get a good night’s sleep, and find time the next day to get caught up. Cut back on whatever you’re doing instead of studying, and get your work wrapped up by an hour or so before a reasonable bedtime. Sleep helps you concentrate better and learn more efficiently. More attention to sleep means less time needed to accomplish the same amount of studying, reading, writing, etc.

Physical activity

Like sleep, regular physical activity has a positive effect on your mood. It can serve as a mental break from other pursuits and lead to more efficient study time.

Maintain a healthy diet

Eat some fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have the facilities, why not prepare a nice meal for you and a friend?

Wash your hands

You’d be amazed at the benefits of adding a little soap and water to your hands before touching your nose or face and before eating. This can prevent many illnesses. Also remember to dry your hands thoroughly.

Limit saliva sharing

Most illnesses are spread from person to person, especially common ones like colds, flu, and mono. Sharing things like food and drinks is nice. Try to do it in a way that limits the number of people that have contact with your food before you eat it.

Get a flu shot

Nothing to explain. Get a flu shot. You heard it here first. Actually, you probably didn’t. I sure hope not, at least.

Avoid overindulgence

I’m not trying to take all the fun out of your life. I’m just saying that when you overindulge, your decision making will be negatively affected. Your devotion to care and caution may slip a bit—or a lot.

Bonus piece of unsolicited advice, yours absolutely free!

Allow me to introduce you to the idea of productive procrastination: If you’re not going to work, spend the time doing something positive, like cleaning up your living space, working out, preparing a good-quality meal, or knitting toques for seafarers. You’ll feel better about the time away from the books and your quality of life will be improved.

Sometimes your luck is bad. Despite all your efforts to prevent illness, you might still get sick when the demands on you are high. It’s not the end of the world. If the stress is academic, get in touch with your instructors and dean ASAP. It’s not the first time this has happened. You can work it out.

Ask the professor: How can I get myself to focus when studying?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

—Jordan V.*, University of North Dakota

(*Name changed)

As I write this response, I’m listening to a radio station, checking Facebook (for the news, really), and monitoring my email for…well, in case I can find something urgent that needs a response. (By the way, there were no urgent emails when I just checked. I guess I need to finish this response.)

This is all to tell you that I, probably like you, am a distracted person. It has gotten worse as I have found more entertaining things to do to keep my mind off my work. I mean, cute cat videos are fun, and they make me feel better when I’m procrastinating. However, we all have deadlines and work to do, which is why I have created a list of tips to help you stay focused.

1. Acknowledge you have a problem

This is the first step to making a change. If you know you get easily distracted, you will more likely change your behaviors. How do you know you have a problem? One sign: Completing tasks takes you much longer than you think it should. Another: You find yourself completing assignments with barely any time to spare (or late), when you’ve actually had plenty of notice.

2. Set a time and place for distractions

Yes, you need to treat distractions as you would your work, instead of letting them “show up” whenever they want. Just as you schedule time for studying or writing a paper, you should also schedule time for checking your Twitter feed or Snapchat. For example, set a timer for 45–50 minutes to work on a task or study for a test. Then take a timed break for 5–10 minutes.

3. Fake it till you make it

Sometimes distractions lure us away from our work because we aren’t that enthusiastic about what we must do. A 20-page paper on the economy of an ancient civilization? Hmm…that may not shout “exciting activity,” which is why, by contrast, our diversions are welcome. If you find yourself faced with a task that is important—such as studying for a final exam—tell yourself, whether you believe it or not, “This task will be interesting,” or “I can improve my skills by completing this assignment and that will help me in the future.” Repeating these claims can motivate you to keep going when you want to find something else to do.

Ask the doc: Can drinking alcohol impair my ability to learn?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

—Jayden*, Portland State University, Oregon

Yes, in ways both large and small. Are there students who drink from time to time and still manage to get good value out of their investment in higher education? Of course. In fact, most students would fit this description. But alcohol can still impair your learning experience. Here are several ways that this can happen:

Time lost to intoxication, hangovers, and/or injuries

If you’re drinking, you aren’t in a state to concentrate or remember, meaning you aren’t learning. For many college students, drinking is part of blowing off steam and relaxing after a hard few hours of academic work. In moderation, this may not present any problems. You just have to weigh the risks and be conscientious in your decision-making. It’s certainly the case that drinking to the point of being sick or having to go to the hospital, or getting in fights or injured, will likely soak up much more time than you’ve budgeted. If you have a big paper due Monday, perhaps it would make sense to take a weekend off from drinking so you have plenty of time to complete your work at a high-quality level. I often challenge students to take two to three weeks off from drinking just to prove to themselves that they can, and to see what it’s like.

Reduced sleep quality and impaired memory formation

Learning has several components. You have to be concentrating when exposed to ideas, in order to form short-term memories. While you sleep, those short-term memories are consolidated into long-term memories. Research has shown a linear relationship between hours of sleep and GPA—in other words, the more you sleep, the better you do academically.

Not sleeping enough, or getting poor-quality sleep, impedes long-term memory formation and thus the learning process. Drinking often affects decision-making, leading you to stay up later than you’d planned, and the sleep that you get when intoxicated is relatively poor quality (though it’s healthier than engaging in other activities while intoxicated; e.g., driving).

Reduced control of emotions (e.g., higher risk of depression)

There are many reasons not to drink on a particular night. Maybe you’re sick or taking medication. Maybe you have a big test the next day, or want to do well at tryout. Maybe you just don’t feel like it. At the top of the list is depression and anxiety. If you are unhappy, don’t drink. Very few things in this world are 100 percent true, but this is one of them: Drinking will worsen your experience of depression. There are much better medicines than alcohol. Ask for help at your student health center or counseling center.

Relationship complications causing upset and distraction from learning

Drinking amplifies most emotions. This can lead to euphoria, arousal, the belief that you’re an amazing dancer, and so on. Drinking can also lead to drama, and sometimes physical violence.  It’s your life, of course. Personally, I find my life complicated enough without alcohol ramping things up.

Getting in trouble

Getting in trouble for underage possession, intoxication, vandalism, or anything else does not provide any short-term benefit to your educational experience.

Addiction

For some students, the stakes are much higher than getting a B instead of the A- you were capable of. About 10–15 percent of people are at particularly high risk for addiction. Their brains are wired in such a way that they struggle to control their relationship with alcohol and/or other substances.  Unless they get help, and that help is effective, they are at high risk for suffering serious consequences, such as damaged relationships, financial difficulties, and the inability to complete their schooling on schedule. Sometimes it takes a serious consequence, like failing out of school, to help them come to terms with their condition. But ideally the problem would be identified and rectified before the consequences became profound.

(*Name changed)