Stay Healthy as an Online Student

How to Stay Healthy as an Online Student: 9 Tips for Success

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Last Updated on March 16, 2024 by Alexandra Markin

Welcome to the digital age of education where many students opt for a virtual classroom, blurring the boundaries between school and home. As an online student, the convenience of studying from the comfort of your own space comes with its own set of challenges, especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Although there are many advantages of online learning, the long hours in front of a screen, lack of social interaction, and constant temptation of easily accessible, not-so-healthy snacks can take a toll on our well-being.

Implementing these habits is what helped me maintain good health when I was getting my online diploma. It takes a bit of practice to build these into your routine, but in my experience they made a huge difference as an online student.

From cultivating a balanced routine to incorporating healthy habits into your daily studies, the tips in this blog post will help you thrive academically while maintaining your physical and mental well-being as an online student.

How to Stay Healthy as an Online College Student

Improving your health alongside your studies can feel like a big challenge when your time is already so limited.

If this list looks daunting and you realize you’re not doing any of these (like I was when I first started studying online), start working on just one at a time, and then add on others when you’ve mastered the first.

1. Create a Routine

Establishing a routine is the roadmap that will help guide you toward academic success and well-being.

A structured daily schedule not only ensures that critical study tasks are completed, but also provides a sense of stability and control for students who have asynchronous, self-paced learning courses.

By creating a well-rounded routine for yourself that includes regular study sessions, exercise, healthy eating and time for hobbies, you can strike a balance between academic demands and personal wellness.

This consistency helps build self-discipline, allowing us manage our time efficiently and avoid the pitfalls of procrastination – the online student’s nemesis!

I like to study at night after work, but there is no “best” time to study. It all depends on what works for you. That’s one of the perks of online learning – the luxury to design our own schedules.

Routines provide a sense of familiarity and comfort, therefore helping to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes naturally with being a student!

See also: The Best Morning Routine for Online College Students to set up your day for success

2. Have a Dedicated Study Space

Just as athletes have their dedicated training grounds, having a designated study area helps build the foundation for a healthy online student lifestyle.

By creating a designated spot for studying, you’re signalling to your brain that it’s time to shift into learning mode. This is huge in building discipline crucial for effective studying.

You don’t need anything elaborate; a small area in your bedroom will do. As you’ll discover, your study space will change with you as you progress through your studies, so embrace trying out new setups. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see my desk setup change often!

The 2nd Law of Behaviour Change in the book Atomic Habits is to make your habit attractive, so buy that desk size diffuser and some fun stationary you can enjoy every time you sit down to study. If you haven’t read Atomic Habits yet I highly recommend it. It helped me improve my study habits, and it’s a beneficial read for all students, online or not.

3. Ensure an Ergonomic Desk Setup

When I first started studying online, I was so excited to be able to study on the couch and in bed. While I still do that from time to time, I realized that not working at an ergonomic desk setup is really hard on both your back and your productivity!

A student's desk showing a laptop on a laptop stand
Using a laptop stand made a dramatic difference in reducing my neck strain.

Create an ergonomic desk set up for yourself by using some (or all) of the following:

An ergonomic study desk is important, so don’t make the same mistake I did and put it off until your body (and productivity) is hurting!

4. Minimize Eye Strain

There’s nothing worse than trying to study in a dark room. Not only does it make you sleepy, but it hurts your eyes as well.

Having proper task lighting is a must for all students. Eliminate squinting by a lamp that’s bright enough to light up your space no matter how late into the night you study.

Blue light blocking glasses are also helpful in preventing eye strain and headaches. Remember to look away from your screen every few minutes or so to give your eyes a break.

5. Connect With Other Online Students

When it’s always just you and your screen, online learning can feel isolating. It’s so important to connect with other online students not only to help combat loneliness but also to nurture our mental health.

Despite our physical distance, making connections with our online peers offers opportunities for sharing experiences, exchanging ideas, and seeking advice, which can help increase academic achievement and the of new, lifelong friendships.

Here are a few ways you can connect with other online students:

  • Follow study communities on Instagram.
  • Join student groups on Facebook. These are unofficial groups for your university run by students as a place to connect.
  • Join any Discord servers run by students of your university.
  • Participate in your course discussion board.
  • Reddit and Quora have many general students groups your can join.

Life tip: I’ve found most people aren’t the ones to reach out to strangers, so practice getting comfortable sending the first message and starting the conversation!

Sign up for my email list below to join our online student community. You don’t have to go through your study journey alone!

6. Schedule In-Person Social Time

Although online study communities are super supportive and motivational, scheduling in-person social time with family and friends is a must.

Research summarized by the National Institute on Aging links social isolation and loneliness with several physical and mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, obesity, high blood pressure and cognitive decline.

Even though this research is aimed at older adults I’ve definitely felt the anxiety, especially at the beginning of my online studies when I was still trying to learn how to balance school with my personal life.

Making social time with my friends and family definitely helped me get over feelings of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) during my studies. It’s all about finding the study-life balance that works for you.

7. Limit Screen Time Before Bedtime

These days, it’s second nature to be glued to our devices. From watching TikTok or YouTube for hours on end, scrolling social media or watching TV can feel like a “reward” at the end of a long study day.

However, various now research has now been done to highlight the negative effects of blue light.

A 2022 study shows that using your smartphone in bed has significant adverse effects on sleep latency (the time it takes you to fall asleep), awake time, average heart rate, and heart rate variability.

I used to scroll on my phone and watch TV in bed every night, keeping me up for hours. My brain wouldn’t shut off, and watching the wrong TikTok could start me worrying about things I had no business worrying about.

That all changed when I swapped screen time for book time. Reading before bed has made a huge difference in my sleep quality. I know a lot of students don’t think they have time to read for pleasure when they already have so much assigned reading in their classes, but it’s an easy way to sneak in study-life balance!

Photo of a book on bedside table
Reading every night before bed instead of watching TV really helped improve my sleep.

If you really want to watch a show or two at night after you study, it’s best to do it in the living room with a cup of tea, and then head to bed and read.

Follow me on Instagram to see what I’m reading!

8. Get Proper Sleep

In conjunction with the about point, everyone is a bit different when it comes to the amount of sleep we need each night.

Whatever your magic number is, sleep is not only crucial to stay healthy during your time as an online college student, but a lack of sleep can negatively impact how you’re able to study.

Studies show that sleep loss actually impairs your capacity to sustain attention over time. So if you find you’re having a hard time remembering all the material at exam time, your sleep may be to blame.

9. Eat Healthy Food

All students know it, yet it’s easier said than done: eat healthy food to obtain optimal health and academic performance.

The food choices we make directly impact our energy levels and the cognitive function we need for thinking, learning, memorizing and problem solving. Although it may give you an initial boost to habitually grab a sugary snack, it negatively impacts you in the long run.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t concentrate when I don’t eat properly. All I can think about is how awful I feel instead of using that focus to learn my course material.

My energy and fitness level vastly improved once I started making healthy meals and keeping track of what I ate. If I deviate from my well-crafted plan too often, I really notice my health taking a nose-dive.

Stay Healthy as an Online Student
Eat healthy foods to give yourself maximum brain power.

Here’s the recipe for my (often requested!) favourite breakfast of yogurt, berries and granola (pictured above):

  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup granola

Fuelling your body daily with wholesome foods enhances your mental clarity and productivity, helping you thrive both academically and physically in the digital learning environment.

See also: 16 Smart Ways to Save Money on Food as a Student – eating healthy doesn’t always have to break the bank

How to Stay Healthy as an Online Student – Next Steps

The conclusion here is obvious: prioritizing your health is not just a choice, but a necessity for achieving academic success and overall well-being.

By implementing these strategies and making a conscious effort to prioritize your health, you’ll be able to navigate the online learning environment with confidence.

Just a reminder: a healthy mind and a healthy body are the foundation upon which academic excellence is built.

How do you prioritize your health as an online student? Share below in the comments!

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