Term has started for many new university students, as exciting as this new chapter can be it is important to remember to look after your health and wellbeing.
Eating healthy on a budget
As exciting as going off to university can be, the change from being at home can also come with a lot of stress; from things like food shopping and cooking. The Guardian reports that more than a quarter of students put on up to two stone in their first year of university and others lose weight. Tesco suggests asking your parents to teach you a few simple recipes and maybe treat them to a weekly meal cooked by you. This will prepare you and give you some tips and recipes to get you started.
NUS offers some tips for eating well on a budget: make a large meal and freeze portions or leftovers for the days when you don’t have time to cook from scratch, they advise that it’s cheaper to buy and cook in bulk, check sell-by dates and avoid buying more than you can use for foods with limited shelf life and plan and prepare as much as possible. The Guardian also advises freshers to buy meat from the butchers as they sometimes do cheap deals, shop in the evening for reduced prices, buy and freeze bread and fruit to eat later and buy frozen vegetables because they’re cheap and last longer. You can do all of these while keeping an eye on overspending.
Nutritionist Dr Adam Carey advises freshers to not skip meals, start the day with protein such as eggs or beans on toast, avoid eating heavy starch-based meals late at night, steer away from sugary drinks and fill up on protein and fibrous vegetables.
It’s well known that many students enjoy a drink or two regularly, the so-called ‘lad culture’ dominates university social life for some and encourages risky drinking behaviour. It is important to realise the dangers of binge drinking (drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk) before getting to university. The Independent has reported that young people are more vulnerable when drinking in excess as this can have long-term effects on the brain and on the educational achievement during the developmental years of a person. Many students engage in drinking games and pre-drinks that encourage binge drinking and students can sometimes find themselves having consumed 7-9 units before continuing their evening. The Office of National Statistics defines binge drinking as having over 8 units of alcohol in a single session for men and over 6 units for women.
Drink Aware advises to spread the drinks evenly throughout the week and limit the amount of alcohol consumed on any one occasion. Drinking slowly, alternating drinks with water, drinking with food and avoiding dangerous places and activities can all keep the risk from alcohol lower.
According to the Top Universities website, many students find themselves in new routines that don’t usually involve fitness and exercise, falling into a vicious cycle of unhealthy living. Whether you are into sports or not, there are plenty of ways you can keep fit at university. You can try something interesting and new such as kickboxing, yoga, squash or tennis by joining a student club. There is usually an established club for many sports at any university. Good Universities Guide suggests establishing a routine or getting your friends involved, joining the local or campus gym and planning activities over the weekend.
The Guardian reports that ‘all-nighters’ seem to be a big part of student culture especially for disorganised students. According to the NHS, regular poor sleep not only puts you are risk of fatigue, short temper and a lack of focus but it also puts you at risk of serious medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and it shortens your life expectancy. The NHS advice is to get about eight hours of good quality sleep per night.
As stated by the NHS, if you experience several sleepless nights, the mental effects begin to be more serious with your brain fogging, concentration difficulty and finding it hard to make decisions. Constant lack of sleep also increases your risk of injury from accidents. The NHS also state that getting a good night’s sleep can boost your immunity, help you lose weight, boost your mental wellbeing, prevent diabetes, increase sex drive, increase fertility and wards off heart disease.
The NHS offers some recommendations on getting a good night’s sleep: stick to a sleep schedule keeping regular sleeping hours, which programmes the brain and internal body clock to get used to having a set routine. Wind down and relax when preparing for bed - this can be done by having a warm bath, writing “to do” lists to organise your thoughts and clear your mind or relaxation exercises such as yoga stretches. Also, evaluate your room so you can establish the correct sleep-friendly conditions: your bedroom should be between 18-24 degrees, dark, quiet and tidy.
Cramming information the last minute is often a go-to study method for those with a busy schedule or who are prone to procrastination. Unfortunately, this method may not be giving your brain enough time to translate the information into your long-term memory. This method of learning allows you to recognise information, but not necessarily recall it.
Staying awake all night studying the last minute could put you at risk of having a poor academic performance. Sleep deprivation may prevent you from remembering the information you crammed in. Cramming can also increase your stress and anxiety levels before, during and after an exam. It can further cause your mind to go blank during the exam.
Spaced learning and making a study plan can be effective as it allows the mind to form connections between ideas and concepts, therefore we can recall them and apply them to future coursework or employment. It could also ease stress and anxiety.
University is an exciting new chapter: moving away from home, making new friends and finding independence. With everything that is going on, it is very important to prepare yourself and take care of your health and wellbeing.