The beginning of a new school year has come upon us, and with it can come a lot of anxiety for many incoming freshmen and their parents. Thoughts of making friends, liking their classes, having enough time to get everything done, and so many more can overwhelm the mind. Anxiety about change and new things is very common but can be debilitating if not handled well.
As a follower of Jesus, I have found that in order to have a healthy life you must follow what Jesus laid out in Matthew 22:37-39, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” God has given us an ordered way for our living. When we follow it, we can more readily maintain physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health."God has given us an ordered way for our living. When we follow it, we can more readily maintain physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health." -Christina Boatright #collegiatedisciplemaker Seven Healthy Habits for a Healthy… Click To Tweet
This can be easier said than done, but I have learned seven habits that help you fulfill Jesus’s commands and will give you healthy balance in your life especially as an incoming college student. If you’re a college minister or parent, share these with your students.
Habit #1: Keep Jesus Central
Develop a schedule centered around prayer, studying God’s word, time with fellow believers, and sharing the gospel above work, homework, friends, dating, and even family. Jesus deserves better than being put on the back burner of your life. He is the glue that holds everything together. Time spent with Him is time surrendering your sin, your anxieties, your struggles, and allowing Him to fill you with hope, peace, joy, and love. You need this to live the rest of your life. Create a sustainable plan to read your Word and pray.
Habit #2: Take Charge of Your Time
Establish good time management skills. This means when you’re getting your class and work schedules, be mindful of your needs. Don’t be out here working yourself to literal death. Don’t be afraid to say no when you need to, either. People are often more understanding than you think, and if they aren’t, you don’t ultimately answer to them. If you need help financially or with homework, there are organizations on your campus and in your community that will help you. If you have no idea where to start with time management, ask an upperclassmen or your campus missionary or an older adult in your church.
Habit #3: Plug into Community
Find a local church and college ministry to be a part of. Community is vital to healthy living, and it will help you with both Habit #1 and Habit #2. We were not created to do life alone. Rooting yourself in the community of a church and college ministry gives you a place to fall when you’re struggling. It also gives you opportunities to share the gospel, dive deep into God’s Word, give and receive biblical advice, develop safe relationships where you can be vulnerable, and practice serving others in many different capacities.
Habit #4: Draw (and Keep) Healthy Boundaries
Relationships need healthy boundaries. Boundaries are saying to people how you expect them to treat you. Boundaries are important because they give us the ability for our yes to be yes and our no’s to be no. We humans are not very good at creating and maintaining boundaries, and we are even worse at respecting others’ boundaries well. Boundaries are rooted in God’s character—He has boundaries for how He expects to be treated (i.e., the Ten Commandments); so should we.
Does that mean you don’t show grace to others? No. Does that mean you’re entitled to be selfish? Also no. It does mean that you need to communicate with others your feelings toward their behavior and say no when you don’t feel comfortable with something. Give them grace to deal with that behavior and be wise about your future interactions with them.
Boundaries go both ways. Don’t just be a boundary maker; be a boundary respecter, too. When someone communicates to you their feelings about your behavior toward them, listen to them. Reflect on your behavior, see where you need to grow, seek forgiveness and reconciliation. People are allowed to say no to you, and you are allowed to say no to others. Respect that and move forward.
Habit #5: Ask for Help
Reach out when you need help. Whether it is financial issues, homework struggles, mental health problems, time management skills, sin struggles, heart-break etc. If you are drowning, ask for help, and if you see someone drowning, help the best you can. There are people and resources around you to help you in any of these situations—you just have to ask. Your campus missionary or pastor is a great place to start to point you in the right direction. If you are trying to help someone and the problem is larger than you can handle, then ask for help from those that can.
Silence can literally be deadly, so don’t stay silent when you or someone you know needs help. Jesus never leaves nor forsakes us in our troubles (see Matthew 28:20), and other people are often part of His provision for you in that time—He wants you to ask for help.
Habit #6: Prioritize Your Wellness
Make your physical and mental health a priority. Sleep when you need to sleep. Exercise regularly, don’t skip meals, eat your veggies, drink the water, take walks in the sunlight, practice mindfulness, see your doctor and therapist when you need to, and take medications as prescribed. If your body and mind are falling apart, so will everything else in your life.
Habit #7: Serve Others
Serve others through acts of charity. Whether that’s donating money, giving supplies to local charities, volunteering your time at your local college ministry leading a small group, helping to clean, or in your local church setting up chairs. Giving to others gives us purpose and peace in the chaos. Don’t believe the lie that you’ll have more time after college to serve others—you won’t. Build the habit of others-focus into your life now.
Healthy Habits, Healthy Life
These seven habits can help you establish a healthy college life with Jesus at the center. As you practice them, they will help create healthy patterns for the rest of your adult life as well.