At university, you will learn how to combine your studies with the student lifestyle to maximise your student experience. However, in order to stay happy and healthy you need to remember to take care of your body as well as your mind.
If you have any concerns about your wellbeing, you can drop in to meet with one of our Triage Assistants at any time for advice and support but here are some important things to consider to maintain your physical wellbeing at university.
Physical activity helps to improve both the body and mind, so you should look for simple ways to be physically active each day.
- Choose something you enjoy. If you do not like an activity, it will be hard to stick to, so find the right option for you.
UUSU sport has many options for sports teams and societies that you could get involved with here at Ulster University.
- Get into a routine. Making time for exercise is important, so try reserving a slot in your timetable to ensure it does not get pushed aside by other priorities.
- Exercise with others. Working out with someone else can be more fun than doing it alone and you can motivate each other to keep going.
- Make your travel time count. If you have a busy schedule, make the most of getting to your lectures by walking or cycling where you can.
- Explore your surroundings. Try to fit a different route into your daily routine, or check out local areas for parks, walks or trails to explore.
Coming to university is the ideal time to learn to cook, so that wherever you live you will be able to create nutritious meals that fit in with your schedule. It does not have to be complicated or expensiv e but it is important to try to eat well. A good diet can improve your overall health and mood and is just as important fo r your mental health as it is for maintaining good physical health.
- Check your BMI (Body Mass Index) which is a measure of your healthy weight for your height. If you are worried about being very under or overweight, you should consult your GP.
- Look at the Eat Well Guide to understand the types of food and proportion of food groups that we need to eat in order to have a well-balanced and healthy diet.
- You should eat or drink five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, as they are a good source of vitamins and fibre, which can help to reduce health risks. This does not have to be expensive fresh fruit, as budget-friendly staples such as baked beans, tinned fruit and frozen vegetables can also contribute to your five a day.
- Learn to cook. It is a great way to control what ingredients go into your meals and it is often cheaper and more sociable than getting a takeaway or ready meal.
- Have a look at our resources page for links to more information on healthy eating.
Are you getting enough sleep?
Sleeping is not something that you always associate with coming to university with the demands of a hectic social and study life, but regular and restful sleep is essential for good physical and mental health.
While you are asleep, your body works to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health, so sleep deprivation can affect important aspects of your mind and body such as your mood and your energy levels. Every day student activities such as going to class, working out, or working on a computer can strain your mind and body but a good sleep helps to alleviate some of that stress.
Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity, as you will have less energy and are less likely to make good food choices and more likely to reach for a quick, less healthy alternative. Here are some tips to help you sleep better.
- Prepare your sleep environment. Use thick curtains, blinds or an eye mask to block out light and try using earplugs to block out noisy neighbours. Try not to watch TV or use mobile devices in the bedroom.
- Plan the dates of your coursework and exams to give yourself enough time to study. Do not be tempted to pull an all-nighter as a tired brain will be less effective and you may begin to struggle to focus during lectures or while completing important coursework.
- Alcohol is known to disturb sleep, so plan some alcohol-free evenings to maximise your sleep benefits during the week.
- Get into a routine. Try to stick to regular times to go to bed and get up and avoid caffeine and heavy meals late at night.
- If you are worried about your sleep, there is a link to an NHS Sleep self-assessment in our resources. If your sleep problems are affecting your everyday life, you should speak to your GP.
Manage your alcohol intake
When you come to university you are normally over 18 and therefore above the UK legal age to purchase and consume alcohol. However, being a university student does not mean that you should go out and drink alcohol excessively. It is important that you learn moderation and balance to maintain your physical and mental wellbeing. Here are some key facts to think about before drinking alcohol.
- The recommended maximum limit for alcohol consumption for men and women is 14 units per week. That is no more than seven pints of beer or 14 single measures of spirits.
- Never drink and drive. Penalties for drink driving include imprisonment, a large fine and a driving ban.
- Plan ahead. If you are going out for a drink, make sure you arrange safe transport to get home. Do not get in a car driven by someone else who has been drinking.
- Consider the morning after. You may still be over the legal limit the next day and neither sleep, breakfast, coffee nor a cold shower will affect the speed that your body processes alcohol.
- Our E-PUB alcohol barometer will provide you with personalised information on how much your alcohol intake affects your body and your finances as well as advice on how to change your habits.
Things to avoid
While smoking is not illegal, there is an overwhelming consensus among medical professionals that it is very bad for you. Smoking is often a direct cause of many life-threatening conditions including mouth, throat and lung cancers, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and heart disease. Even ‘casual’ or ‘social' smokers are not immune to the effects of smoking in the long term. Here are some important facts to consider before you think about smoking.
- Cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is a very strong poison that can kill a human in less than an hour if even a small amount is injected into the blood-stream.
- Smoking kills. More than 120,000 people in the UK die each year from diseases caused by smoking.
- Smoking is expensive and a waste of your student loan. If you smoke 10 cigarettes per day, it will cost you over £1,600 per year and almost £5,000 during a 3-year course of study.
- Smoking affects your looks. It causes early wrinkles, premature loss/greying of hair and yellowed teeth. It can also delay the speed in which your body heals itself.
- Smoking is antisocial. Why ruin a night out by having to leave your friends every 20 minutes to have a cigarette? Public places are now smoke-free to encourage everyone to socialise together in a healthy way.
If you do smoke and you are thinking of quitting, you can contact your GP or one of the many smoking cessation groups available for support. Find useful linking in our resources
Drugs are illegal and taking drugs at university is not only a risk to your health but also your education and future career prospects. Drug misuse is the term given to the use of an illegal substance or the recurrent abuse of prescribed medication. When it comes to drugs, it is important to be aware of the facts so that you can recognise the risks.
New psychoactive substances (formerly known as legal highs)
- Are unpredictable and there is no way to tell what is in them and how they will affect you.
- Will reduce your inhibitions so you may do potentially dangerous things that you would not normally do and they also cause paranoia, seizures, coma and sometimes death.
- Can make to feel lethargic, paranoid and even psychotic.
- It affects how your brain works and frequent use will make concentration and learning very difficult.
- Can overstimulate the heart and nervous system, especially if mixed with alcohol.
- Can lead to risk-taking behaviours and damage the cartilage of your nose over time.
- Can cause anxiety, confusion, paranoia and psychosis and long-term use is linked to memory problems and depression.
- It affects the body’s temperature control leading to dangerous levels of overheating and dehydration.
If you are worried about drug misuse or feel under pressure to take drugs, you can come and speak to our Health & Wellbeing team in Student Support or talk to Frank. There is also information and support available online which you can find in our resources.