With all night study sessions, the stress of exams, (dreaded) group projects, and a changing schedule, college gives students a lot to juggle! Students who also experience chronic health issues, such as hypothyroidism, have even more on their plate.
Combine the pressures of college with the pressures of managing illness, and it’s easy to risk burnout. If your illness flares up, it will affect your ability to do well in school. If you begin doing worse in school, that could increase your stress and impact your health habits, causing your symptoms to become even more severe.
These tips help you avoid that negative cycle, so you can finish college without your hypothyroidism getting worse or impacting your grades.
Many students go to college away from home, or have different insurance while they’re in school. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you need a doctor to find one! Check out which doctors are available in your network and your area, and establish care with one that you trust, making sure they understand your medical history. That way, if your hypothyroidism symptoms change, you won’t have to travel back home or rush to get a last-minute appointment with someone you’ve never met.
Also, find a local pharmacy and have any prescriptions transferred there. You don’t want to find yourself scrambling for refills or having to go without medication for a period of time because you’re too busy or realize mid-semester you’re running out of meds. Skipping medication is a sure-fire way to throw your hypothyroidism out of whack.
Both weight gain and sluggishness are symptoms of hypothyroidism, which means maintaining a balanced diet is important. Eat frequently enough that you keep your energy up throughout the day so you are alert in class and can properly attend to your studies. If you are one of the 45% of college students who skip meals for financial reasons, seek out on-campus resources to see what free or lower cost meals are available. Many schools have resources not all students are aware of.
Eat healthful foods, such as veggies, whole grains, and protein-rich foods, so your body is being nourished. Avoid going over the recommended daily calories for your size so you aren’t as likely to gain weight. Avoid sugary foods, which can provide an energy boost initially, but then lead to a crash. The USDA Dietary Guidelines can help as you make meal choices.
Regular exercise, such as cardio and strength training, also helps you maintain a healthy weight and keep your energy up. Aim for 30+ minutes, at least three times a week. Thankfully, almost all colleges and universities have free fitness facilities available to students, so you can get your sweat on without breaking the bank. Try out different types of exercise and continue whatever you enjoy the most, whether that’s yoga, weights, swimming, hip-hop dance, or something else. The more you enjoy it, the more likely you’ll stick with it!
Tip: pencil exercise into your planner or schedule it in your digital calendar. Treat exercise like it’s as important as attending class and studying - because it is!
Stress increases illness symptoms and college students face increased stress, so you want to incorporate healthy relaxation into your daily and weekly routines all semester long. (And no, despite what your classmates might be doing to relax, looking at your phone or drinking alcohol don’t count as healthy relaxation.)
Healthy relaxation might include meditating, taking a walk through nature, painting watercolors, enjoying lunch with close friends, or scheduling a massage. Relaxing looks different for everyone. What you do to relax isn’t important so long as you genuinely feel relaxed, providing your body a much-needed break from the daily tension experienced by most students.
This one can be hard for college students. If your first class is at 8 AM on Mondays and Wednesdays, but not until 1 PM until Tuesdays and Thursdays, you might be tempted to wake up at different times on different days. Plus, who doesn’t like staying out late on the weekend!?
We get it, but for your health, try to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every night. Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep, and up to 70% of college students are sleep-deprived. Don’t be one of them!
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule will keep your stress levels down and your energy up. For college students, good time management skills are key to sleeping on a schedule. No more cramming or pulling all-nighters! (Students who study at the last minute don’t do as well as those who study in advance, anyway.)
All higher education institutions must legally comply with the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act. Even if you don’t view hypothyroidism as a disability, you are covered by the ADA if your illness affects your ability to attend class or complete work. Work with your school’s disability office if you need to negotiate for extended deadlines, or take a medical leave.
Most universities have a counseling center that provides one-on-one therapy to students in need. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of this resource if you need help with the stress of managing your illness, your studies, or both.
College can be a difficult time on its own, and it can be made even more difficult by hypothyroidism. With strong planning and time management, however, it’s possible to manage both without becoming overwhelmed or having your grades suffer. We firmly believe it’s possible for people with hypothyroidism to live full and fulfilled lives.
Find inspiration for a healthy way to support your thyroid