By Mariane Mandanas
Sumaiya Sarwar and Jessica Steele, two coordinators for Dr. Mehmet Oz's HealthCorps program, gave their best advice about school stress, study snacks, and the importance of sleep.
Click through the slideshow below for seven important back-to-school health how-to's!
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How to Beat Stress
Teen Vogue: Now that school has officially started, many teens already feel overworked and tense. What are some things they can do to battle fatigue and stress? Sumaiya Sarwar: Although it might sound counterproductive, the best way to battle fatigue and stress is to make sure you take time to do things you enjoy. If you're not taking the time to take care of yourself, you'll end up burning out. Set aside time every day, whether it's fifteen minutes or an hour, to do something that you enjoy and that helps you unwind. Jessica Steele: Homework and tests definitely add additional stress to the already crazy lives of high school students. The easiest ways to ease stress are to eat healthy; get enough sleep (at least 7-8 hours); exercise 30 minutes per day; take slow, deep breaths; and let your mind relax by doing yoga, listening to music, or talking to your friends.
How To Snack Right
Teen Vogue: Late-night study sessions can lead to bad habits, such as overeating and snacking on junk food. What are some healthy alternatives? Jessica Steele: Healthy snack options for late nights include frozen yogurt cubes, smoothies, popcorn (minus the butter), fresh fruit, pretzels, dark chocolate, Popchips, cheese and crackers, tortilla chips and salsa, and nuts. The best way to avoid overeating is to put the snack into a small bowl as opposed to eating directly from the bag.
How To Turbo-Charge Your Breakfast
Teen Vogue: What are the best breakfast foods and snacks for staying full and focused at school? Sumaiya Sarwar: The best thing to eat for breakfast is something that has protein and carbohydrates -- a combo that will keep your blood sugar steady, so you don't crash halfway through first period. Unfortunately, students usually stay in bed until the very last minute, rush to get ready, and then end up skipping breakfast. You can avoid this by preparing the night before. An easy breakfast meal is a parfait with fresh fruit and granola: Cut up the fruit and layer it with yogurt in a cup. In the morning, just pour some granola on top of it, and you have a nutritious on-the-go breakfast! Jessica Steele: You can also have toast with peanut butter, veggie omelets, and scrambled eggs with black beans and salsa. Good snacks to keep you going throughout the day include apples, oranges, bananas, granola bars (ones low in sugar, high in fiber and protein), yogurt, and nuts.
How To Curb The Caffeine
Teen Vogue: Many students use caffeinated and energy drinks to fuel their studying, but what effects do these types of beverages have on the body? Jessica Steele: Caffeine is potent and quick-acting, and it affects our bodies similar to how stress does. While a little caffeine is okay, increased levels can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, restlessness, dehydration, inability to focus, and irritability. Energy drinks often contain several chemicals in addition to caffeine that cause our bodies to react poorly, leading to mood swings and crashes in energy. Foods like oranges, bananas, peanut butter, and granola bars are much better ways to give yourself a boost of energy. Teen Vogue: What vitamins and minerals should teens add to their diets? Jessica Steele: Calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B12 are the most important vitamins and minerals for teens. While you can get these by taking supplements, our bodies perform best when we can get them directly from our foods. Eating a variety of whole, unprocessed foods is the best way to get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. In addition, dieting is the number one reason why teens miss out on their vitamins and minerals, so make sure you are eating at least three meals and two snacks throughout the day.
How To Avoid Getting Sick
Teen Vogue: Flu season is coming up! What are some precautionary measures teens can take at school to avoid getting sick? What are some home remedies for fighting colds? Sumaiya Sarwar: Wash your hands! Schools are full of germs; everyone's coughing, sneezing, and touching everything around them. Using hand sanitizer is not enough--wash your hands regularly! A lot of students also tend to get sick during more stressful times at school. Even when you feel like you're drowning in homework and extracurricular activities, make sure you're still taking the time to take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep enough, and if you're sick, stay at home and recover! The projects and soccer practice can wait a few days until you're feeling better. Jessica Steele: If the bug catches you, some remedies to help ease the symptoms include taking warm showers, drinking hot tea, increasing your fluids, and placing warm, moist towels on your head and behind your neck. Some natural medications that may help ease symptoms are echinacea, zinc, and vitamin C.
How To Get Enough Sleep
Teen Vogue: How important is sleep for a student? Doctors usually recommend eight hours of sleep every night, but the truth is, most of us aren't getting that much, especially around exam time. What's the best way to cope with not getting enough sleep? Sumaiya Sarwar: Sleep is one of the most important things on our schedule but the thing we most often replace with other activities. It's hard to keep a regular sleeping schedule, especially with all your obligations during the school year, but make sure you make time for it! Create a schedule so you're not missing too many hours of sleep during the week. If you have trouble falling asleep, try exercising a few hours before bed. Avoid taking long naps during the day; if you sleep all afternoon, it will be harder for you to sleep at night. If you need a boost of energy, try a 20-minute power nap. That will help you feel refreshed and more alert for the rest of the day. And although you may not feel like it when you're tired, exercising can also help energize you to get you through a long day. Teen Vogue: Besides getting a good night's sleep, what are some healthy steps teens can take when preparing for a big test the next day? Jessica Steele: In order to prepare for a big test, study a little bit each day so you do not need to cram the night before. Exercise and eating healthy foods help to stimulate our brain cells, keeping us alert and focused during exams. Take a practice test to familiarize yourself with the material, and limit your caffeine intake the day of the test. Also, plan a post-test celebratory activity that you can look forward to. Sumaiya Sarwar: Do whatever it takes to calm your nerves. Some meditation in the morning before the exam can help focus your mind.
How To Exercise Right
Teen Vogue: What role does regular exercise play in maintaining a healthy state of wellness and mental health for teens? Sumaiya Sarwar: Exercise helps in many ways. Not only does it keep you physically fit and help prevent a lot of health complications, exercise can also do wonders for your mental health. Studies have known that exercise can help alleviate your mood and help decrease anxiety. What a lot of us forget is that exercising doesn't have to be a daunting task. Make it fun! Play your favorite music and have a dance party in your room for 30 minutes, take a walk with your family, or join classes at a local gym. Jessica Steele: The great thing is that we only need 30 minutes of it per day. Exercise causes our bodies to produce endorphins, which are chemicals that provide us with a peaceful mind and happiness. It can also help prevent long-term diseases, like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure. Finally, exercise helps us stay focused and fights off free radicals that harm our bodies.