The amount of students seeking help, counselling or advice from their unis for mental health problems is rising rapidly. So here are our top tips for good physical and mental health - from using your student counselling service to eating food that makes you happy!
1. Remember that there’s no shame in experiencing mental health problems.
Society is coming on in leaps and bounds when it comes to the acceptance and normalisation of mental health problems, but sometimes discussing your own experiences publically can be daunting, even though 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. This includes depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-harm - all of which are surprisingly common amongst students. So next time you’re sitting in a seminar wondering if you’re the only one that feels this way, just remember that you’re not alone.
2. Listen to your body and make the most of your university’s student counselling service.
You’ll often find yourself working late nights and sleeping in until midday - but feeling utterly exhausted all the time isn’t normal. Likewise, if you find you’re feeling so stressed that you can’t sleep at night, then struggle to stay awake in lectures the next day, it’s a sign that something’s not quite right. See your GP (and if you haven’t registered with one locally, do so right now) or pop into your university’s advice and counselling centre. There’s lots of support out there, such as counselling or CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), and uni is the best place to access it whilst you’re studying. If your problems are more practical, such as issues with budgeting or rent, then ask your uni where they provide advice for students.
3. Give your body a break and ease off on the drinking and smoking
We’re not saying that you have to become completely teetotal - but when we’re stressed, depressed or anxious there’s often a temptation to drink to excess or dash out for another cigarette in the break between lectures. Alcohol is a depressant, and repeatedly binge drinking can have long-term negative effects on your brain’s chemistry. Still enjoy those nights out, but try and have a few days off drinking every week (maybe start a tea collection - chai is very underrated)!
4. Get a sexual health MOT
We know there’s nothing sexy about this, but looking after your sexual health whilst at university is super important. Young people at uni have sex, and not always responsibly - so get yourself down to your local sexual health clinic, or see if your university provides services on campus. They’ll check you for almost every STI under the sun, and treat you then and there if you test positive for something. There’s a chance you’ll come out with armfuls of free condoms too, which is always a bonus!
5. Try out some self-care and take five minutes for yourself.
There are so many reasons why young people can find university overwhelming - from relationship break ups to feeling homesick. Professional help should always be the first port of call, but don’t forget about the little things that help. Take a stroll somewhere beautiful, read a book that has nothing to do with your course, learn how to cook your favourite meal or save up for a fancy bath bomb. It’s important to set aside time just for yourself out of your busy schedule.
6. Eat just a little bit more healthily
Fried chicken wings, pizzas and those suspicious burgers from the corner shop are all very well and good but they’ll make you feel rubbish if that’s all you eat. Find a delicious recipe that is also a little bit healthy - try roasted vegetables like squash or sweet potato with salty cheese crumbled over the top or learn how to whip up a smoothie. Healthy eating for students can seem like a chore - but remember that you don’t have to do it all the time. Even switching a couple of meals a week for something more nutritious will make a difference - you’ll be fitter and healthier.
7. Get moving
Speaking of keeping fit, get moving! Most unis have a student gym on campus, and they are honestly some the cheapest gym fees you’ll ever pay. Take up some classes, or lift some weights. If the gym isn’t for you, take up jogging or walking - anything that raises your heart rate a little. Don’t exercise just to look good - the endorphins that a good workout releases will help you to feel happier and have more energy, and will contribute to an overall sense of wellness.
So, it’s 2017 and we can finally put 2016 behind us. This year, follow our top tips and make your new year’s resolution one that puts your physical and mental health first, whilst still making sure that you enjoy all the fun and freedom that being a student has to offer!
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