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Look after your wellbeing

Food

Through good nutrition and eating well you can help to boost your academic performance. These tips and recipes will help you to plan your meals and enjoy healthy eating.

Your shopping list for the weekly food shop

  • Fresh: Milk, eggs, fruit for packed lunches and snacks, vegetables (greens, potatoes, carrots, stir-fry, onions, garlic), cheese, yoghurt, butter, sausages, meat (see also frozen).
  • Dry: Bread, cereals/oats, noodles/pasta, rice, nuts, stock cubes.
  • Jars/cans/bottles: Baked beans, tinned tomatoes, tuna, sweetcorn, sugar, olive oil.
  • Frozen: Meat (chicken, mince, beef, lamb), tofu.

Essential student staples

Cupboard must-haves:

  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Noodles
  • Stock cubes
  • Cereal
  • Baked beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Soy sauce
  • Olive oil
  • Seasonings - salt pepper, chilli flakes, mixed herbs etc
  • Pesto
  • Teas
  • Sugar
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes

Fridge must-haves:

  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Mayonnaise
  • Vegetables
  • Salad
  • Ketchup

Freezer must-haves:

  • Extra bread
  • Puff pastry for quick pizzas
  • Milk in plastic bottles
  • Meat
  • Frozen vegetables

Sample recipes

Banana, oat and honey smoothie
Mini movie pizzas
Puff Pastry Pizza - video


Exercise

Most universities have a gym on campus that you can visit, and membership fees will be pretty low.

If you’re going to start an exercise routine, speak to the staff at the gym or your GP and see if they have any advice for you to help things run smoothly. Your GP can give you a full check-up, which may include finding out your BMI (Body Mass Index).

Using a chart you can find out whether your BMI is too high or too low for your height and weight, and if necessary do something about it. Exercise and a good diet go hand in hand and they work best if they’re balanced.

But you don’t have to go to the gym to exercise and staying fit doesn’t have to be boring. Dancing for a few hours in a club burns a lot of calories. Do a dance workout with your friends or get everyone over to use an exercise program on a games console. It’s fun and you work out at the same time.


Soul

Your personal well-being is very important and how you feel within yourself can get unsettled at university. It’s a new place away from all you know for the next three years. University will change your outlook on life and possibly shape your future into something you never thought it could be.

Here are ten keys to keeping in touch with yourself while at university:

  • Write down a plan of what you want to be and where you want to be ultimately – no matter how wishful or extravagant. When you feel out of sorts, take the plan out and have a look to remind yourself of where you’re heading.
  • Keep photos of your friends, family and special people around your room to remind you that they are on your journey along with you.
  • If you have a faith, try not to lose it at university. If you visit a place of worship regularly at home, try to carry on in your new town or city. There may even be a club, union or society you can join so you can grow and add to your faith.
  • Take care of yourself – stick your headphones in and go for a run, start cycling on sunny days.
  • Take time out. If you need to spend time with your family over the summer rather than going on holiday with your friends, do it. Do what’s best for you.
  • Be authentic – sooner or later people will know if you are faking it.
  • Self-esteem and self-belief come from you, not other people.
  • The past is the past, so leave it there and don’t let it control your future.
  • If you’re feeling down, put on a comedy DVD (The Office always brings me out of my woes) and laugh out loud.
  • Volunteering is a good way to learn new things, meet new people and generally help others. I volunteered for Oxfam for two years and as well as finding lots of vintage goodies, I knew I was helping people who had a more difficult life than me. It helped me keep things in perspective.

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Sleep

It’s commonly said that the average human needs eight hours of sleep a night. As a student it can be difficult to get a full eight hours! Whether it is a fire alarm, party or cramming, there may often be something to keep you awake..

Here are some top tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Invest in a pair of earplugs or headphones.
  • Drink some herbal tea, such as camomile or blackcurrant.
  • Turn off all your electronic gadgets, like your laptop and so on.
  • Set the alarm on your clock or phone so that you don’t have to worry about oversleeping.
  • Try and get your outfit for the next day ready the night before – I know how difficult this can be, but trying is good.
  • Try not to eat too late – remember that your body has to work to digest that late-night pizza, not leaving it much time to rest and repair.
  • Don’t worry – I remember someone saying that ‘worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere.’

Dealing with stress

It’s easy to get stressed, especially around exam times or when your assignments are due. Stress can actually help you to become more organised, because you want to avoid the pressure!

Here are some suggestions for stress busters:

  • Get laughing – put on a DVD of your favourite comedian or series and enjoy yourself.
  • Refresh yourself with water and a walk. This clears your head and hydrates your brain.
  • Talk with a friend about how their day was instead of thinking about the situation that’s stressing you out.
  • Make use of all the bath stuff you got last Christmas – run a bath, grab your iPod and make a ‘do not disturb’ sign. Enjoy your ‘me’ time.
  • Get yourself looking your best and get some friends round or go out with them.
  • Put some tunes on and sing along while you tidy your room – clearer room, clearer mind.
  • Write in your journal or watch a video of your role model or the person you aspire to be like.

Mental health

The stress and tension of university life can get to you and leave you feeling a little disorientated. University gives you time to really think about your purpose in life and what you are going to do with your future. The stress of relationships, work and deadlines while all this is going on can be overwhelming.

If you are feeling continually worried or depressed, speak to a counsellor at your university or visit www.mind.org.uk. Mind is an organisation that ‘helps people take control of their mental health’. Its website is really informative and there is an email address – info@mind.org.uk – and an information line that you can call on 0300 123 3393.

Seeking help doesn’t mean that you’re weak or weird, it means that you are taking control and are pursuing a healthy mindset – and there’s nothing wrong with that!

This content has been written by Lauren Lucien, author of Student Brain Food: Eat Well, Study Better and University Life: Making it Work For You.

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