My son and his friends are heading back to university. It’s fair to say some of them have not quite got on top of establishing a routine during their first term. There’s been a lot of socialising, making new friends, trying new activities and coping with the inevitable Freshers’ flu. After a long relaxing summer and the much freer approach to attendance at lectures, seminars and tutorials, it’s hard. Even the fairly strict training schedule of a competitive cyclist can go awry if illness and socialising are to the fore in the early weeks at university.
It started me thinking about how to maintain wellbeing and feel productive when money is tight. It’s relatively easy if you have the money to indulge in some retail therapy, plan a weekend away, have a spa day, buy some paint and redecorate a room in your flat or house, go to the cinema or splash out on some special food. When you have to count every penny you need to be a bit more creative.
Here are my top tips for keeping healthy in the full sense of the word when you have no spare cash.
The comments in bold are for my son.
1. Sleep well
Pulling the odd all-nighter and having a late night out with your friends every now and then is a given fir students, but not getting enough sleep affects chemicals in the brain which can make us feel low and anxious. So, make sure you get as many good nights’ sleep as possible to feel refreshed and recharged – you’ll wake up with a more positive attitude ready to take on the day ahead.
Note to son – getting up early is also a good idea.
2. Stay active
Regular activity and exercise is not only good for your waistline and physical health, but also for your mental health and wellbeing. When you exercise you’ll see an immediate boost in your overall mood because your body releases chemicals (endorphins) and these endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body. And you don’t need to run marathons to be active, even a brisk walk around the local park will help!
10/10 for this if you are a member of the Swansea University Road Cycling Team
3. Help others
Whether it’s volunteering in the community, raising money for a good cause or a simple random act of kindness, helping others can make us feel good and improve our self-esteem, whilst reducing stress and negative feelings.
You know it makes sense and you’re a charming and responsible member of society.
4. Socialise with others
Long periods of being alone and isolated aren’t healthy, so interact with people regularly and grow your friendship network. Chat with others on your course, introduce yourself to fellow residents at your accommodation, join clubs and societies, get involved with any events at your university/college, accommodation or student’s union, volunteer in the community and embrace any work opportunities.
This needs no further work. You’re doing just fine!
5. Enjoy yourself
University isn’t just about studying and deadlines. It’s important to have fun, laugh as much as possible and enjoy yourself. Whether it’s playing a team sport, watching the latest movie at the cinema, catching up with friends over dinner or getting lost in a novel, be sure to make time for doing the things that make you happy.
Another one you’ve cracked already.
6. Maintain a balanced diet
Reaching for the convenience foods and sugary snacks might be an easy option as a student but they’re not the healthiest. These sugary foods are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream which may cause an initial ‘high’ or surge of energy, but it will soon wear off as the body increases its insulin production, leaving you feeling tired and low. However, a balanced mood and feelings of wellbeing can be protected by eating a well-balanced diet containing adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and water.
I know it’s a hassle and you’ve made a start by bulk cooking healthy stuff at home and taking it back for the freezer in your student digs but there’s work to be done here.
7. Stay hydrated
Similar to your diet, you should maintain a health intake of fluids. Avoid drinks high in caffeine, or at least drink them in moderation, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, particularly if you are drinking alcohol. If you don’t drink enough water, you’ll become dehydrated which can cause headaches and make you feel tired and dizzy.
Drinking loads of water is second nature to you. Top of the class.
8. Establish a routine
Remember when you had a timetable of lessons, regular training sessions, regular mealtimes and got up at pretty much the same time every day? You got loads done and still had time to socialise, hold down a part-time job and binge watch episodes of Sherlock or Game of Thrones, didn’t you? Now you get to establish your own weekly timetable.
Just do it.
9. Grow some herbs
Nurturing a windowsill full of green stuff you can use to spice up your cooking is beneficial on all levels – improving your environment, looking after something living, improving your cooking…..even if that’s buying a few potted herbs from the supermarket.
Trust me on this one – I know what I’m talking about.
Following these simple tips will help to improve your health and well-being whilst at university. However, if you do experience any problems throughout your studies, no matter how big or small they may be, you should always speak to someone and seek advice.