We talk a lot about student mental health and wellbeing don’t we? And that’s a good thing, because they were ignored or pushed away for centuries. But what it is also important to remember is that we need a healthy body in which to ‘transport’ our mind and spirit.
Mental and physical health cannot be separated. They are forever intertwined. So it is really important to look after our bodies as much as our emotional health, and that means more than just trying to eat the odd carrot, reducing cake consumption, or taking the stairs instead of the lift (and hopefully you do at least try to do that sometimes?!).
It can be hard to make ‘healthy’ choices all the time. So be kind to yourself and try to make healthy choices most of the time- add some fruit or veg to your meal if it’s looking like pizza again, or have a non-alcoholic drink, in-between those beers or glasses of wine. If cooking feels boring, add some spices or share the preparation with a friend, and make it social. But make it fresh, and full of vitamins as well as great flavours!
Try doing exercise that doesn’t always feel like such an effort mentally, like a dance class with a friend, boxercise, canoeing, surfing, mountain biking, or hiking in the countryside, frisbee on the Downs, walking someone’s dog, horse-riding, self-defence classes, gardening or tai chi. There’s way more to life than running, swimming and going to the gym. Those can be great, but can sometimes feel more of an effort. Although if your gym has free personal training advice, which many university and accommodation gyms do (including true Salford, Swansea, Birmingham and Glasgow), then you’re onto a win-win, as the trainer can help motivate you, mix things up in your routine, and chat with you to make the time go more quickly.
The other massively helpful thing you can do for your physical wellbeing as well as your emotional health (and its free!!!) is SLEEP! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, sleep is the single most important ‘activity’ we can all do to help ourselves be more healthy, think more clearly and do better academically.
It helps reduce anxiety, improves your mood, regulates your appetite (so you snack less), keeps your weight at a better balance, and lets your brain do the stuff it’s supposed to do, to help you study better. Put simply- Getting your 8 to 9 hours a night will help you to perform better in every single aspect of your life! It’s an actual superpower.
And finally- we’ve thought about food, and exercise and sleep, but it’s also important to look after our bodies by relaxing. So think about what would help you to feel chilled out and peaceful, and plan to make that a part of your life once in a while.
Are you a person who loves soothing massages, or facials, or are you more of a sports massage/ hot tub fan? If that feels too expensive or out of reach, try a nice hand cream to make your hands feel soft, or a body scrub for the shower. Have a lovely long bath, and ask someone you trust to massage your scalp or neck. Go to a barber who offers a nice hot flannel for your face. Even just a few minutes of relaxing will help you feel soothed and cared for.
Your body needs to carry you around for the next few decades, and is the source of your mental and physical health. So be kind to it, to help it to last well -for as long as possible!
For more advice or support check out Dominique’s Student Wellbeing Series of books!