Healthy Habits for University Life
Recent pandemic aside, universities have always been host to coughs and colds, as well as the dreaded ‘fresher’s flu’. Apart from washing your hands and staying away from crowds, your immune system will have to do the rest of the work. However, staying healthy is more than avoiding getting ill, it also revolves around your mental well-being. In this blog, I’ll be discussing some tips to stay healthy and happy at university, and where to find help if things don’t go to plan.
1. Get into a routine
I talk about this all the time, but having a routine with a regular wake-up and sleep time has enabled me to reach maximum productivity throughout my time at university. Yes there have been days where I’ve been too hungover to move, but on the whole, I managed to balance fun and practicality.
If you’re not an early bird, waking up at a regular time each morning may sound daunting, but your body will get used to it, if you’re persistent. Begin curating a morning routine with your own rituals, whether that be reading a book, listening to music while you shower, or having three cups of coffee. Even if you decide you’re not going onto campus that day, waking up at a decent time will allow you to take your rubbish out or do your laundry.
When deadlines are closing in, the last thing you want to be doing is rushing around with no organisation. Use a planner and block out sections of time that you will dedicate to your coursework, and make sure you have some relaxation time planned too. It may be difficult to occasionally say no to outings or invitations, but university is ultimately there for you to get a degree, so don’t ignore that important factor.
Juggling everything is a learning process, but I held down several jobs and had an active social life, so you won’t get a whole lot of sympathy from me. It is possible! Even if you oversleep, get up straight away and start getting ready, instead of feeling the whole day has been wasted.
2. Sleep is key
Sleeping off a hangover? Been there, done that (just a few weeks ago, actually) and it’s not fun, but let’s focus on the times that you need to go to lectures. Sleep helps us feel rested for the next day, helps with eye strain and can help us heal from coughs and colds. Getting eight hours of sleep a night is a must for me, and I’m only willing to compromise on that for one night a week. If you fancy yourself as a night owl, don’t kid yourself, as I’ve honestly only met a few that actually functioned well at night.
It may sound boring having a semi-regular bedtime, but you’ll soon start to feel to effects of sleep deprivation, and you’ll be more susceptible to catching illnesses. Do yourself a favour and act like an adult, and then you’ll begin to function like one. If you’re used to staying up late, wind back your bedtime by half an hour over the course of a week.
3. Don’t live in a hovel
Take your rubbish out, do your laundry and wash up your dishes. Seems simple, but the majority of students seem to be allergic to these activities! I’m no clean freak, but I make an effort to clear rubbish from my room regularly, keep my kitchen items clean and stored away, and wash my clothes when I have a full load. As well as being a nice flat mate, keeping your room clean and organised will make it feel more like home. I’ve written a whole blog about this, so feel free to go and check it out after this one, it’ll be linked at the bottom of the page.
4. Go to the Doctor
If you’re ill or need a refill of your prescription, get yourself down to your local GP or walk-in centre. I got tonsillitis in my MA year, and it sucked! I had to drag myself down to the walk-in centre and sit and wait to be seen, but I got the antibiotics I needed so I was able to recover quickly. No matter how careful we are, sometimes it’ll just be our time to catch something, so make sure you take the steps you need to heal yourself.
Make sure that you have some paracetamol, tissues and some hand sanitizer in your room already, and keep yourself stocked up with food in case you don’t feel like going out. Let lecturers know if you’re going to be missing sessions, or set your Word to dictate from Teams online sessions so you can review it when you feel better.
Pharmacists are a great alternative if you can’t get a doctor’s appointment and are often happy to recommend something that will help.
5. Take mental rest days
Depending on your degree, you may work random hours or have a more structured day. Regardless, there are always going to be periods of the year which are more stressful than others. Burnout is something that is common amongst students, especially those who are sleep deprived, over-stimulated and overworked. If you’re feeling exhausted at the prospect of your work, don’t be afraid to take a day to regroup your thoughts and take some time away.
Applying for an extension isn’t something that I’d recommend unless you desperately need it. Abuse of the system can lead to people not being able to get the extensions they need, and the knock-on effect on other work you may need to submit could mean you cause more damage. Following healthy habits will work wonders in protecting you from burnout, but remember that everyone can have an “off-day” once in a while. Take some time to sleep, eat nourishing food and share your worries with a friend or parent.
6. Find a hobby
Having things to do in your downtime is important, and there are lots of cheap and simple hobbies out there to keep you entertained. I personally enjoy reading (rubbish) historical fiction, playing PS4 games and going out to eat with friends. Getting away from the university “bubble” will be good for your brain, so even going out for a short walk will help you to reset. I also started doing my own gel nails in my first year of undergrad, and it’s a relatively cheap hobby that requires a bit of concentration.
Joining a society is also a great way to add some structure to your week, learn new skills and meet people that aren’t on your course, so push yourself to join something if you’re struggling to find a hobby.
Overall, being a functioning, productive adult is a skill that we are all constantly learning, so don’t think that everyone has it together all the time. Finding a balance between work, assignments and your social life will mean that you will get the most out of your university experience.