Staying healthy at University is not as easy as it may seem! I’m sure by now you’ve all heard of the infamous ‘freshers fifteen’ and how it haunts first-year students for their initial months at university as they begin to settle into a routine. However, weight gain/emotional stress is not a forgone conclusion! There are many things you can do to battle this evil.
Whether you’re about to start at university and want to try and defend yourself from this tradition or you’ve already eaten takeaway Chinese for the past five days and want to change your current habits, these top tips will help you to stay physically and mentally healthy whilst at university! Keep reading for how to stay physically and mentally healthy at University!
Staying Physically Healthy at University
1. Prepare lunch in advance to avoid unnecessary, unhealthy binge-eating.
It’s incredibly convenient to simply pop by the local Costa Coffee or Café Nero to buy a ham and cheese toastie or some packaged lunch, but the safest way to ensure that your lunch is both healthy and filling is to prepare it the night before or in the morning. This way, you’re less likely to be swayed by that cheese danish in the window of Starbucks, as you know you already have something ready.
2. Have healthy snacks (either bought or prepared) on hand at all times.
You know, for the inevitable time when you need to munch on something during a tough assignment. Picture this: it’s 12 am, it’s the night before your essay is due and your stomach is rumbling. Sound familiar? Well, instead of grabbing the box of biscuits or the leftover pizza, consider some healthy snacks you made (or bought) earlier!
Whether it be a small cup of trailmix, dried fruits or a few squares of dark chocolate, these snacks will keep you energised for longer and save you from the feelings of regret that normally ensue shortly after binge-snacking.
3. Prepare smoothies in advance for a quick and nutritious breakfast option.
A great way to get in your five-a-day is to start with the first meal of the day already containing three. Smoothies are a fabulous substitute for a full on breakfast meal and prevent you from going straight to cooking up some bacon and eggs in your morning haze.
The greatest thing about smoothies is that they can be prepared in advance so that you can sneak in a few more minutes of sleep in the morning. The opportunities are endless: strawberry & banana, blueberry & raspberry, and of course, don’t forget that you can hide veggies in there too!
4. Walk whenever it is possible (and safe) for you to do so.
If you are at a campus university, then walking will be a regular part of your routine in order to get to and from class/clubs/activities. However, if you are studying at a city university, don’t rule the option of walking out. Walking to the shops or local cafes may be a way to rack up some great, regular exercise and if you have a step counter on your phone or watch, then you may start to see these small trips add up!
5. Join societies and clubs that encourage physical activity.
At every university there are plenty of societies that encourage physical activity. Whether it be simply trying out for the netball team or joining the yoga club, the regular nature of practice will encourage you to exercise frequently. And, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people!
6. Join (and use) the university gym!
If you’re not into the idea of getting sweaty with a group of other people, then you can opt to workout on your own in the university gym. If you’re particularly daring and sporty, then feel free to join a gym and a sporty society.
7. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep!
This is as important as eating healthy or exercising. Lack of sleep has led to more than just weight gain. Yes, sometimes in university it is necessary to pull all-nighters, but if you find yourself doing this more than once a week, it is time to change something in your schedule. Let your batteries re-charge!
Staying Mentally Healthy at University
Many people solely focus on their physical health and forget that mental and emotional health is important to thriving, too. The two are closely intertwined and therefore, it is important that you address both.
1. Download a sleep app to monitor how many hours of sleep you get a night and track the habits that are causing you to get less sleep.
I will be the first to admit that my sleeping habits are completely out of whack, so as a result, I downloaded a sleep app wherein I could record when I go to sleep and wake up. It then graphs my sleeping habits for me and I can spot what days of the week I am getting the least amount of sleep and how to fix this. It also adds up the hours of sleep debt you have accumulated over the previous two weeks, which is particularly helpful if I want to make up for lost sleep!
2. Learn how to healthily take breaks from stress in order to stay healthy at university.
These breaks could mean anything from going for a walk, talking to some friends, doing some baking, or even meditating. No matter where you go to university, there will always be areas for you to just simply walk around and a enjoy the fresh air.
I always find that fresh air calms my nerves and can clear my writer’s block. Whatever it is you do to calm yourself down and reduce the stress, never be afraid to just take a few minutes out of your day to do so. It’ll help you be more productive and will put everything into perspective.
3. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone if everything is getting a bit overwhelming!
One of the most important ways to stay healthy at University. Most universities will have a support team for you if you are ever in need to vent and release all of the bottled-up feelings. Alternatively, talking to or hanging out with a close friend can also help to release any stress you may be having. University is a big step on the road to independence and it’s perfectly normal to feel submerged at times with it all!
4. Balance your timetable and don’t go and sign up for every single activity.
This is an important one. Many people worry that when they go to university they will miss out on something exciting and end up signing up for everything they possibly can. This will burn you out within the first few weeks and will mean that you can’t dedicate the appropriate amount of time to each activity. It’s far more useful to spend plenty of time on a few activities than spreading yourself too thinly over too many.
5. Always remember, you earned your place to be at university and you deserve to be there.
Don’t beat yourself up for the little things and don’t compare yourself to everyone else there. Things will inevitably go wrong: you’ll miss your alarm, you’ll say something that you wish you hadn’t, or you’ll try to write an entire essay in one night.
However, the most important thing is to learn from these experiences and not to dwell on them. University is supposed to be a taste of responsibility and it prepares you for living on your own, so it’s completely normal to make mistakes – don’t forget that!
6. Find a balance between staying in contact with friends and family from back home and making new friends at uni!
It can be hard to let go of your group of friends from secondary school and by all means, keep in contact and meet up when you can, but branch out and try to meet some new people at university. Everyone is in the same boat as yourself and more people than you would care to believe are just as nervous as you may be. You’ll never regret saying hello to someone new if it could blossom into a lifelong friendship.