Two of our students have teamed up to share advice for freshers and current students on leading a healthy life whilst making the most of your time here at Cardiff University!
Well done! You’ve made it to university and you’re probably enthusiastic to explore and try new things, whilst also a bit anxious about how you will find it. Uni is a big step in everyone’s life and it can take some time to adjust to a new lifestyle and routine. Before you immerse yourself in the adventures of trying (and often failing) to find your way around university halls and lecture theatres, you need to consider your wellbeing and self-care. Although you may feel you are in control of things, taking the time to reflect on how you treat your mind and body during a transition to university can be extremely beneficial.
With your newfound independence and desire to make the most of things and meet new people, it can be difficult to settle into a healthy routine – something which is crucial to your wellbeing and productivity. So what can you do to find a healthy balance whilst also making the most of the university?
It is incredible how often we overlook the most basic self-care aspects that inevitably influence how we feel during the day. We are aware of health guidelines and still, we excuse ourselves for not following them in various ways. So, let’s get you started with how you can find a healthy routine whilst also seizing new opportunities. Our advice would be – university life is all about balance!
This is probably the most neglected part of the healthy student routine due to nights out with lectures the morning after and all-nighters before a deadline. You need your sleep and the less you compromise on your sleeping hours, the better. It is normal to have a night when you go out or stay late chatting with your housemates, so don’t freak out if you don’t manage to get your 8 hours recommended sleep every night. The point is, your body feels so much better if you manage to balance these things so that they don’t affect your health to a great extent. If you notice how much your focus, productivity and mood are improved after a good night sleep, you will realise why sleep is one of the essentials of wellbeing.
I know, you couldn’t wait to finally be able to eat whatever junk food, desserts and sweets you like, without anyone passing judgement. Even if that’s not the case for you, many students struggle to maintain a healthy diet because of their busy lifestyles and difficulties cooking for themselves. However, learning to organise regular nutritious meals for yourself will (hopefully) mean that you don’t find yourself craving sweet treats all the time. Always wake up well in advance before an early lecture or a seminar so you can have breakfast – this is the most important meal of the day and it should be full of good calories! Use meal boxes so that you can have your lunch even if you are out and about. Avoid eating too late at night, especially sugary foods – fruits and vegetables are always a better option if you are really hungry late at night. For some top tips, check out our blog on 6 ways to save money on food, or our 3 top tips for eating healthy on a budget blog.
This can actually be the most enjoyable part of your healthy routine once you get used to doing it – and it’s key for your wellbeing! The good thing is, it’s also the part where you have the most freedom of what you decide to do. It can be going to the gym, having regular walks (there are plenty of beautiful places in Cardiff you could explore!), going for dance classes, doing some exercises at home or anything else that gets you moving.
Exercising is the best way to ease up an overloaded mind and improve your physical health. There are university gyms which offer student-friendly prices the Students’ Union also have over 60 sports teams that offer a range of different sports from football to water polo. It’s a really sociable way of staying fit and making new friends with similar interests. Head over to the sports freshers fair in September and have a walk round and meet the teams. Also check out the website to see the wide variety of sports available to you.
You could also have a look at the Students’ Union Society list or maybe take part in some Give it a Go sessions to get an idea of all of the activities you can do at Cardiff University. Societies are a great way of maintaining a regular exercise routine and meeting people.
This may seem obvious for many of you, but once University work and household tasks start piling up, we can easily forget to include mental health self-care in our schedule. Taking some time off on a daily basis can be extremely soothing and rewarding for your emotional wellbeing and it is essential to get some relaxation time every day. It could be anything that you find joy in – having a quick nap or a long bath, drawing, enjoying a cup of tea or a scented candle, doing some breathing exercises or just stretching before bed. Winding down can be just for a few moments per day and it is not hard to incorporate, as long as you are mindful of it. On that note, a great easy relaxation technique is actually called ‘mindfulness’ and is based on the concept of being accepting and appreciative of the present. You can find out more about mindfulness from our Mindfulness blog and Mindful recommended apps. We also offer Mindfulness courses and sessions so keep an eye on our intranet pages for updates! There you can find some information on workshops that focus on Mood boost, Relaxation and Desk Yoga as well. Watch some of our videos below which demonstrate relaxation techniques!
Watch our Wellbeing Playlist for relaxation, mindfulness and more
Just a final tip that can come in handy when you’re having a bad day (or maybe when you’ve had too many bad days in a row): remember to always look on the bright side! If you seem to be unable to find even a tiny thing that can help you smile, look closer, convince yourself there is one. Sometimes it can be really helpful to just say to yourself ‘Everything is going to be alright’ and try to focus on that idea just for few minutes. Staying open-minded can help spotting reasons to be happy about, which can change entirely the way you experience your life in university. A positive mind-set can help your academic performance, social life and mental wellbeing to a significant extent, so don’t underestimate the power of your own mind!
Living the uni life you want
As a third year Psychology student, I want to really stress how important it is to always do what you like, no matter the expectations, assumptions or commonalities! By following your own judgement you can be sure that your confidence, sense of worth and hence your wellbeing, will flourish. You may have heard that university life is all about meeting loads of people, enjoying the night life while you can and just being reckless because you are in charge when away from your family. But how can anybody tell you what you should do to be happy? You know best what YOU want to take out of university and trust me, there are people who don’t go clubbing and are having as much fun as everybody else! University is about finding what works best for you: be it occupation, people around you, hobbies or lifestyle. Make the right choices always based on what you think is right and don’t let your family (although they can usually give a pretty good advice!) or peers dictate how you should spend your time here. You are the one who has all the answers.
Learn, explore, discover and thrive – your mental and physical health go hand in hand so please look after yourself!
Watch our video, ‘Freshers’ Support’
Counselling, Health and Wellbeing is one of the Student Support Services. They offer support for students experiencing distress, but also provide workshops and self-help books for students who just want to improve their wellbeing. Find out more about their workshops and other resources here.
Contact the Counselling Health & Wellbeing Service
If you are experiencing any kind of emotional distress, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service who can offer support to anybody experiencing any sort of difficulty, however big or small.
The Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service offer booked appointments via an online referral questionnaire, in which friendly, approachable staff can offer you non-judgmental support in a safe and confidential space. They also offer a daily Wellbeing Walk-In Service (3pm-3.45pm: Monday–Friday and Wednesday mornings: 9.30am-10.15am at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place)
If you are worried that you are experiencing physical symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have a GP, please contact NHS Wales on 0845 46 47 or check out their website.
Your feedback and help please
Have you found this blog post useful? Please help us by commenting in the comments bar below, and if there is anything further you’d like to know ask your questions there too.
We’d also be grateful if you can share this information by re-tweeting or sharing with your fellow students who may find this useful – you can do this by using the share buttons or via twitter and facebook.
Tsvetina, Student Wellbeing Champion and Kate, Student Intern.
Your Student Life, Supported.
The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including: Advice and Money, Careers and Employability, Counselling, Health and Wellbeing, Disability and Dyslexia and International Student Support. The Student Support Centres are located at 50 Park Place, Cathays Campus and Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus.
For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.