Adopting good habits during our time at university can be challenging. For many, university is our first experience of independence, and a lot of students also manage a part time job. Life as a student can be stressful, but life as a student in 2020 is made even more difficult with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 lockdown and the introduction of the Tier system continues to keep many of us at home, which means it can be easy to fall into unhealthy habits; the damaging mental and physical effects of lockdown and this prolonged isolation have been felt by many of us. During this difficult period, it can be hard to know how to develop healthy habits so that we can make the most of this academic year. This article offers some ideas on some simple lifestyle choices we can make as students to stay healthy, happy and productive.
Prioritising Mental Health and Getting Help
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to leave students worried about the effect it will have on their life. The pandemic has inhibited contact with friends and family, leaving many feeling anxious and stressed. Whilst we are isolated however, we do not have to suffer alone. Queen Mary offers counselling for any student who wants it, providing ‘confidential, professional support and advice for emotional, psychological, financial and student welfare issues.’
But if you feel uncomfortable talking face-to-face – well, as “face-to-face” as Covid-19 allows – or find difficulties in expressing yourself verbally, there are many online resources available, including TogetherAll. TogetherAll offers unlimited, 24/7 accessible online support; the platform allows you to connect with peers, chat online to clinicians, use self-help resources, join groups or take self-assessments. The website is also confidential.
Exercising and looking at our Physical Wellbeing
Exercise is something we all know is good for us, and is promoted on every social media platform; in just short period of time on Instagram you’d be likely to come across an influencer endorsing the latest workout routine or showing off their “effortlessly” perfect bodies. But we also know that this is not achievable for everybody, and we should prioritise our mental health over the expectations of being active on social media.
However, if it is possible, keeping active regularly can have major benefits for our emotional states and overall mental health. Various studies indicate that there is a strong relationship between happiness and physical activity. Regular exercise for as little as 10-minutes a day can be beneficial for our mental wellbeing and has been proven to boost serotonin levels.
As a student, staying physically healthy can be financially draining and could seem like an unnecessary expense given the current economic climate. But there are many free alternatives to paid gym memberships and classes. For those living here, East London showcases various parks and open spaces available for exercise, including Mile End Park, Victoria Park and Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. If you’re hoping for something a little bit more intense, lots of people are turning to YouTube for workout routines, such as Chloe Ting, who has blown up on TikTok, and offers free 4-week workout plans. Also available to us is the ‘Couch to 5k’ app set up by the NHS, where in as little as 9 weeks you can go from running a minute at a time to 30 minutes continuously.
Going to Bed Early and Having a Sleep Routine
Many people have the opinion that students stay up late and wake up in the afternoon; some students do. But there is evidence that shows that going to bed earlier and waking up earlier can reduce anxiety and stress. It is also common for students to not get enough sleep or disrupt their sleep schedules – we may have an assignment due or a part-time job to go to, and then we have to get up early to *try* to pay attention to our 9am lecture. It has become part of being a student. However, for continued success at university, it is crucial that we try to get enough sleep, so that we can remain productive and attentive.
Sticking to a sleep schedule is also beneficial for concentration levels. If we don’t keep to a consistent sleep schedule, we disrupt our internal body clock which will make us even more tired and fatigued. This means that even if you do sleep for the same amount of time, e.g. 8 hours, you can still wake up feeling tired rather than well rested.
We are mostly made of water, so it’s no surprise that it is vital for us to drink it. But, alongside the physical necessity of it, drinking water can help reduce headaches – which is especially important considering our increased use of screens as university has transferred online. An additional benefit of drinking water is that it can also reduce the chance of hangovers!
Water is a great alternative to a lot of drinks as it contains no sugar, caffeine, or additives. Drinking water is also financially sustainable as it is either free (especially if you live on campus) or extremely cheap, which is perfect for students.
Healthy eating enhances mood and increases our energy, which in turn makes us more productive. That’s not to say we should never have an UberEats or Deliveroo ever again – sometimes takeaway food acts as a reward which can also be great for our mental health, as well as being really quick and easy – but we should be aware of what we are eating. Also, by using less delivery services, students can expect to save money and it also has the benefit of reducing our carbon footprint!