The Iglu Guide | Blog

Staying healthy and happy in your first year at uni

Heading off to university for the first time is the start of one of the most exciting times of your life. But as a new student with much to take on board, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be a tall order. As well as managing a study schedule, meeting new friends and exploring a new city, there are numerous temptations along the way ready to take their toll on your everyday health. Here’s what you need to know to stay on track.

Know what you’re eating – and when to eat it

When you first arrive at uni literally everything is new and exciting. You’re finally in charge of your own agenda for starters, so there is a huge temptation to reach for all those naughty treats. But relaxing your habits can be a slippery slope. Before you know it your main meal of the day seems to be at midnight and you’re always feeling sluggish and low energy. Late night eating habits can also lead to weight gain – mainly because you tend to consume more calories the later into the day you eat. Stay on top of your nutritional needs by keeping a balanced diet – this should include a mix of vegetables, fruit, protein and carbohydrates. If you struggle to eat enough fruit and veg, try to think of it as adding colour to the plate and make sure this is included with every main meal. Drink lots of water to flush out your system and keep well hydrated.

Keep moving

There’s a lot of sitting around at university. Whether you’re attending lectures, using the library, on the train or completing home study – all of these are sedentary activities. To keep yourself fit and healthy you will need to offset that time with physical activity – this could be a trip to the gym, a game of soccer, swimming laps or simply a walk with friends. Think of it as ‘movement’ rather than exercising, and a way to get those friendly endorphins rushing around your body. It can be as simple as switching out the lift for the stairs or getting off the bus a stop earlier for a longer walk. Any sort of regular activity is great for your health and will help improve your concentration and memory.

Quality sleep

Getting enough sleep benefits both your mental and physical health. It reduces stress, lowers your blood pressure and improves your mood. If you are consistently not getting enough hours in bed, you will find it difficult to absorb new information, your immune system will suffer, and you risk high levels of anxiety. Additionally, you will be more prone to making poor choices. If you find it difficult to unwind after a busy day, here’s some tips that might help:

  • Lighting – make sure there are no bright lights directed into your room and invest in a sleep mask to help you switch off
  • Have some ear plugs on standby so you don’t get disturbed
  • Stick to the same bedtime routine every night
  • Incorporate some daily exercise to help you nod off
  • Avoid screens at bedtime – the blue light is a stimulant and will keep you awake for longer

Manage the stress levels

First year studying can be a stressful experience with many changes to accommodate, new ways of working and the pressure to achieve academically. Structure yourself a personalised study schedule that takes into account exam or assessment periods – and be sure to factor in break periods that take you away from the books. Balance out your university and social commitments by making sure you have enough time to allocate against each one, particularly if you are also managing a job. If you find that stress is starting to affect your lifestyle choices, find out what support services are available to you either at university or within your accommodation.

Have fun – stay safe

The social freedoms at uni are one of the greatest benefits of tertiary education – and interacting with your peers is a great way to alleviate stress as well as helping you settle into your new environment. There are plenty of opportunities at university to interact and meet new people – and it’s important for your social and mental health to get involved. Don’t be afraid to throw yourself into the fun and always stick to your own values and beliefs. When you’re out and about it’s a good idea to consume food alongside any alcoholic drinks, and if you are travelling alone be sure to share your travel plans with a friend. Circle of 6 is a popular app that allows you to nominate six contacts that you can alert simply with the tap of a phone.

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