University is renowned for being the best, but also potentially the unhealthiest, time of your life. Late nights studying, even later nights partying, and a whole lot of opportunity to become that stereotypical character living on ready meals with an incessant hangover. Being a student is an incredibly exciting period and one that should be lived as the youthful and carefree adventure it is. But when freshers’ flu hits and the dreaded ‘fifteen’ starts to creep on, it can leave you feeling less than fighting fit and suddenly things aren’t quite the rave you anticipated. Don’t fret though. Recent graduate, blogger and Hip and Healthy writer, Maxine Ali, shares her top tips on how to stay healthy at university which will help you live your student experience to the full without compromising on your wellbeing.
Start your Day Right
The easiest way to keep your health on track is to make sure you get off to a good start each day. Whether that’s with a big ol’ glass of water, a morning run, repeating a few positive affirmations or eating a gorgeously nutritious breakfast, do it with the intention of setting yourself up to feel your best and brightest. That way, no matter what surprises or spontaneous events come up later in the day, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve already taken steps to benefit your health and you’ll feel all the better for it.
Eat Yourself Smart
The food we eat has a huge influence on the way we feel and perform and this can be particularly important for a student who must constantly be engaged in the lectures they attend, the books they read and the work they produce. It’s not uncommon to look around a lecture theatre to see a few zombie-eyed faces slumped over their extra-large Americanos and you can bet your Professor is taking note of who is actually awake for their class, so don’t be that person and earn yourself a reputation as a slacker. Instead, ensure that you are eating for energy and clarity. Fuel up with plenty of complex carbohydrates such as oats, brown rice and sweet potatoes, and nourish yourself with healthy fats from avocados, nuts and oily fish in order to stay focused and aware throughout the day.
Keep it Simple
Whilst we all love seeing beautifully intricate meals on Instagram with twenty different ingredients and steps to create something spectacularly innovative, it can be pretty pricy, time consuming and inaccessible if you’re working from a small and ill equipped shared student kitchen. There’s a reason microwave ready meals become a student staple but nourishing food need not be complex either and, in actuality, it can be fairly easy to eat a healthy diet if you just keep your meals simple. Focus on plant-heavy meals made with seasonal produce and stock up your shelves with cupboard basics such as tinned beans, wholegrains and dried herbs and spices. Stir-fry’s, porridge, pasta or roasted vegetables make great options that are as easy as can be. They require very little prep time, cost next to nothing and, most importantly, they’re utterly delicious!
Choose your Drinks Wisely
We all know that alcohol isn’t the best for your health but it is a part of student culture and has a large involvement in most social activities at university. Whilst you shouldn’t feel pressured to participate in the student drinking culture if you don’t want to, if you do fancy a tipple or two, don’t feel like you shouldn’t in the name of health. If possible, try to choose your drinks wisely by minimising your sugar intake from cocktails and mixers and go for pure spirits such as vodka and gin. It goes without saying… drink responsibly!
With deadlines looming and reading lists longer than both arms put together, it’s pretty easy for students to spend their days hunched at a desk with their only workout being the trudge from books to snacks and snacks to books. Sitting stationary whilst studying for hours on end can impact your physique by promoting poor posture and weakening certain muscles groups through inactivity. Take regular breaks from the books in order to stretch your legs and relieve any tension in your body and incorporate some form of exercise into each day in order to strengthen those muscles and boost your mood. It’s amazing what an empowering sweaty session at the gym can do for your overall productivity!
Don’t Neglect Rest
At the same time, don’t forget the importance of allowing your mind and body to rest often. It’s very easy to become overwhelmed by huge workloads and a desire to perform well in every endeavour. Whilst a little pressure is great for overcoming the almighty procrastination bug, in excess, stress often takes its toll on both our physical and mental health by heightening our cortisol levels (the primary stress hormone). This places a huge strain on our body’s immune system, making us more susceptible to illness and inflammation, and is linked to weight gain, depression and fatigue. Whilst working to the point of exhaustion may feel you’re being a dedicated student, in reality, it’s detrimental for both your work and your health. Make time to relax and recharge each day and ensure that you are getting at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night in order to keep your mind and body happy. You’ll find the quality and efficiency of your work will improve dramatically.
Remember, You Can Always Hit ReFresh
If at any point things don’t go to plan, you have a few too many shots or ‘accidentally’ help yourself to your flatmate’s forbidden chocolate stash, don’t panic! It’s totally normal, natural and all part of the fun! Just start afresh the following day with nutritious food, a good workout and a bit of TLC. With a healthy lifestyle, there’s never a point of failure or an event of ‘screwing up.’ There will always be more opportunities to make healthier choices, so don’t sweat the little things and just focus on maintaining an overall lifestyle of health with a hearty dose of balance.
Words by Maxine Ali