Taking care of your health can seem like low priority at university. Life is hectic and going to the gym or stocking up on vegetables is unlikely to be high on the ‘fun things to do’ list.
However, your ability to do anything – work or play-related – will be impaired if you don’t take some basic steps to safeguard your health. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Register with a doctor
Even if you arrive at university glowing with health, you will get ill at some point and it’s better to know what to do before you’re doubled over with a stomach bug and unable to pick up the phone and locate a doctor. Register with a local GP. You can find the nearest
GP to your new home- just put in your postcode.
2. Register with a dentist
Like the doctor, you need to register with a new, local dentist unless you plan on going back to your parents on a regular basis. It can be tricky to find an NHS dentist and some practices may have waiting lists, so expect to search around. You can find a dentist near your new postcode.
3. Locate university support services
Find out where to turn if you need support over money worries, academic pressure, a disability, social issues, eating disorders, depression, anxiety or anything else you’re struggling with. There will be a number of avenues to take, from your personal tutor to the support services hub, through which you will be directed to counsellors or other appropriate help.
4. Put together an emergency first aid kit
You’ll probably come to the rescue of fellow students if you turn out to be the only one in your house or halls with a first aid kit. Put together the basics, including things like plasters, antiseptic cream, painkillers, tweezers, a thermometer and oral rehydration sachets.
5. Think about what you’re going to eat
On limited income and with time being short and precious, it can be easy to slip into a routine of living on pizza and cereal. Don’t! If there’s one thing that’s going to lead to a decline in your overall health, it’s poor diet. Start your day with a proper breakfast (try porridge or eggs on toast), then make sure you’re including some protein (meat, fish, eggs, beans) and five portions of fruit and veg a day. Planning ahead is key. Do a big shop at the beginning of the week and stock up on essentials like rice, pasta and veg. You’ll save money and stay in control of your diet.
6. Get some exercise
As with your diet, a busy social life on top of a tough work schedule can leave you feeling disinclined to exercise. However getting your heart rate up on a regular basis is essential for both physical and mental health. Set yourself the challenge of taking up a new sport and join a club, sign up for a half marathon or simply set aside some time to jog or hit the gym. You’ll find yourself much better able to cope with life if you’re reasonably fit.
7. Schedule in sleep
You need to ensure you to get enough sleep. Sleeping is the time in which your body repairs itself and you won’t function well either physically or mentally if you’re sleep-deprived. Sleeping allows your immune system to produce vital hormones and bumps up white blood cells. Your metabolic rate will also be altered if you fail to get enough sleep and, crucially if you’re trying to study, during sleep your brain is thought to consolidate memories.
8. Manage your stress
University can be fraught so it’s a good idea to be pro-active when it comes to managing stress. Schedule in time to go for a walk or run, read a book, watch a movie or do something else non-work-related that you enjoy.
9. Manage your time
Key to staying healthy at uni is managing your time. We make space for whatever we prioritise. If your social life is amazing but you find yourself writing essays at the last minute and surviving on bars of chocolate with no time to exercise, then be honest with yourself: your priority is hanging out with your friends. If you want to stay on top of your health, the trick is to remind yourself why it’s important to you, then make a plan. Arrange gym classes, sports clubs or time for runs at the beginning of the week and put them in your diary as non-negotiable items. Likewise, make time for food shopping and cooking.
10. Get some fresh air and daylight
Daylight has a very direct effect on the body, boosting bone-strengthening vitamin D and lifting your mood. If you realise you’re only seeing the sky as you walk between lecture halls, readjust your schedule. A walk outdoors will get your circulation going, improve your concentration and clear your head.
11. Keep your brain boosted
If you’re eating well and getting enough sleep, chances are your brain has all it needs.
However there are some foods which have been shown to be particularly beneficial to the brain. Good fats are top of the list as fat provides energy for the brain. Make sure your diet includes omega-3 oils from fish, nuts, seeds and dark leafy greens and omega-6 from corn and safflower oils.
12. If you start getting run down
If you find yourself getting ill more regularly than usual or if your energy levels are low and you’re struggling to concentrate, have a look at your routine and make some changes.
However, if you’re looking after yourself and still feel run down go and see your GP.
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