College years are some of the most strenuous years of a person's life, both mentally and physically. 

With the heavy workloads, extracurriculars, social life, and trying to establish a future career path, the road to higher education isn’t an easy one. Financial strain only adds another layer of complexity to the mix, making it even harder for young adults to maintain their health.

With all these layers of responsibility, it can be hard for college students to see the thread that connects these problems and understand the importance of holistic wellness.

The days when college was solely about academics are long gone. Higher education professionals must now consider their students' overall well-being in order to better assist them on their college journey.

What Is Holistic Wellness?

You may have seen this term online or tossed around in the health community, but what does it actually mean? 

Holistic wellness is about finding a balance between eight different kinds of health. These consist of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, environmental, financial, occupational, and social wellness. 

Keeping each aspect in check is vital for one’s successful well-being as they are all connected to each other and should be maintained properly. 

How Universities Can Help

From an outside perspective, it may be unclear how higher education professionals can help their students achieve holistic wellness – but they have an incredible capacity to assist. 

These professionals have access not only to a plethora of resources and connections that can be used to ensure student success but are around the student frequently. They can act as a first line of defense by providing insight and support on campus.

That's why higher education professionals have a crucial role in promoting healthy habits among their students – next to a student's friends, it's very likely that these professionals see the college student the most throughout the school day.

Though colleges may be limited in how they can help promote some aspects of holistic wellness (i.e., nutritional and spiritual), there are still plenty of ways they can support their students as they strive for a healthier life. 

Here are just a few ways higher education professionals can assist their students on this journey: 

1. Connect Students to Mental Health Professionals 

Because mental health is so closely tied to the other forms of wellness, it's critical that students first establish a strong base in their mental health before tackling the rest.

Prior to the pandemic, students were already struggling greatly with their mental health. From 2009 to 2015, campuses saw a 40% increase1 in students seeking help at campus counseling centers, according to Penn State, and that number only rose until the pandemic began.

School counselors, support staff, and even workplace therapists can help provide safe spaces for students to express their stressors and feelings without fear of judgment. Going a step further, these professionals should be familiar with external resources to connect students to additional help, such as free mental health hotlines or medical professionals.

2. Self-care Techniques

What comes to mind when we talk about self-care?2 A night in with a face mask, maybe some yoga, or perhaps treating yourself to a bowl of ice cream? 

While these are all absolutely valid self-care solutions, young adults will need to establish healthy coping mechanisms early on to ensure their health and well-being.

Higher education professionals can help college students recognize signs of stress that negatively affect their well-being, such as sleep issues, reduced concentration, and anxiety attacks, among other things.

They should encourage and guide students in developing healthy habits that manage stressors like exercise and diet, journaling thoughts and feelings, engaging in relaxation activities, dedicating time to hobbies or interests, and forming support networks to rely on when times are hard.

3. Promote Financial Literacy

Financial literacy can be tricky for younger people to grasp when they are first starting out on their own. Between student loan repayments, smart borrowing, credit card debt, and living expenses, there are several new financial responsibilities for college students to master.

Professional staff can help lower student loan delinquency rates by introducing financial courses on topics such as money management skills. Courses like these can also help students make responsible decisions regarding their personal well-being without getting into unnecessary debt. 

Providing college students with access to both classroom education and one-on-one counseling will allow them to receive individualized assistance when needed and make better budgeting decisions. 

More in-depth financial education would also help lower student loan default rates.

Note: iGrad Financial Wellness

If your university is looking to teach financial literacy to its student body, consider taking advantage of iGrad's Financial Wellness program. Through a cloud-hosted platform, students will learn more about financial literacy topics such as student loan management, credit cards, budgeting, and emergency savings – in or out of the classroom.

Additionally, the program can be utilized for one-on-one counseling, so students can receive personalized help specifically tailored to their individual concerns. With all these features, in addition to awesome rewards for completing lessons and quizzes, students are sure to enjoy this platform and stay engaged while they learn how to become financially savvy adults.

4. Offer Occupational Guidance

Navigating the job market can be daunting, especially if you're still pursuing higher education. With so many career paths to choose from, it's important for inquiries that students receive assistance with discernment and finding the correct job or path for them.

That is why one-on-one advice sessions tailored to each student’s individual needs can benefit their decision-making and show them a variety of options available in terms of occupations.

Higher education staff should also educate their student body on how to craft a strong resume, put together additional documents such as portfolios, work on elevator pitches for interviews, and more. 

In addition, introducing students to alumni in their respective fields and suggesting potential apprenticeships will not only help students choose a career but establish connections in their chosen fields, too.

Set a New Standard for the Next Generation

Attaining holistic wellness is essential for college students. In a culture that puts so much pressure on 18-to-29-year-olds to be successful and established, it’s no wonder that so many of them suffer from mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety – and that graduation rates suffer as a result.

That’s why higher education professionals must take it upon themselves to advocate for their students’ well-being so that young adults can find the peace of mind and security they deserve during their college years. 

Keep Reading: What Today’s College Students Need From Their Schools

Better yet, this assistance will serve as a stepping stone for students after graduating, allowing them to effectively manage their stressors more efficiently in order to lead a healthier lifestyle.

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