Student Health shares advice for practicing healthy sleep, nutrition

Practicing mindfulness can improve physical and emotional health, Student Health said.

Student Health encouraged students to incorporate exercise into their daily habits by hiking or joining student organizations that organize trips, or by accessing Recreational Sports facilities, including campus gyms and USC Workout fitness classes. (Colin Huang / Daily Trojan)

Student Health resources can support students interested in learning, practicing and maintaining new health habits, Chief Campus Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman said in a briefing with the Daily Trojan on June 5.

Sleep is an important determinant of health, Van Orman said, and insufficient sleep is associated with an increased risk of chronic disease, heart attacks and mental health effects.

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Sleep allows the body to rest and recover, promoting tissue growth and repair needed for disease prevention. Health behaviors — such as sleep regularity, the consistency of sleep and wake patterns — can also affect sleep quality and health.

“Thinking about: ‘What’s a habit I can take into next year that will sustain me and maybe help me feel better, physically and emotionally?’” Van Orman said. “Essentially working on how do you retrain yourself, for better sleep … like adopting a meditation or relaxation practice before bed, thinking about how you remove devices from your bed space about an hour before you want to go to sleep [and] setting a regular sleep schedule.”

Mindfulness practices are associated with improved physical and emotional health, Van Orman said, recommending campus wellness resources.

Mindful USC offers guided meditation via the program’s app, practice groups and online classes — with previous course topics including anxiety management, mindfulness in professional work, self-compassion and mindful eating.

University resources provide nutrition education, including cooking seminars, consultations with campus dietitians and the USC Student Cookbook — which consists of clinical nutrition guides, meal prepping advice and nutrition assistance programs.

“The Student Health cookbook [includes] recipes from students [with] foods they like to cook that reflect who they are, their family of origin, their culture of origin,” Van Orman said. “Cooking together — and cooking for ourselves — really provides better nutrition, but it also connects us to people … [and the cookbook] really reflects the backgrounds of our students here at USC.”

Students may consider incorporating exercise into their daily habits, Van Orman said and recommended hiking or joining student organizations that organize trips. Continuing students not enrolled in summer classes can pay the student summer membership fee to access Recreational Sports facilities, including campus gyms and USC Workout fitness classes.

“Wherever you are, spending time outdoors — with or without physical activity — is good for us, emotionally and physically,” Van Orman said.

Students are encouraged to maintain regular preventive health care services, Van Orman said, including annual physicals, dental care, specialty services and support as needed. Counseling and Mental Health Services can help students navigate care and referrals to Student Health programs, including one-time counseling meetings, clinical services and support groups.

“[Let’s Talk sessions] are with a counselor. They’re not a therapy session, but you can just drop in and talk about something,” Van Orman said. “Sometimes that’s all the support someone needs — or sometimes it’s a great way to learn more about the services that are available.”

Sustainably building habits requires practice, Van Orman said, recommending students work on one health goal at a time. University resources can support students seeking medical care, health education or wellness resources.

 “The final area that [students] should focus on is really looking at how they [are] doing, emotionally and personally; how did the last year go?” Van Orman said. “Maybe they want to think about adopting meditation practice or … somebody [might have been] struggling — and maybe this is a chance to reach out.”

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