Looking after your mind and body at uni should be as much of a priority as getting good grades and making the most out of your student experience. After all, without nurturing your mental and physical health, everything else comes as a compromise.
On this page, you will find tried and tested ways to bolster your holistic well-being; in most cases, what is good for the mind is also good for the body. For example, maintaining an exercise and healthy eating regimen will provide psychological and physiological benefits, and practising mindfulness meditation can improve concentration, memory, sleep, and overall mood.
It is also crucial that students adjusting to balancing academic and social pressures are careful not to overload their schedules – especially in the run-up to exam and assignment deadlines. Burning the candle at both ends is something many students are guilty of. While this is okay as a one-off, doing it too frequently will result in burnout and potentially the development or exacerbation of other mental health issues, such as chronic stress, anxiety or depression. With that in mind, here are the five top tips on how you can cater to the needs of your mind and body at uni.
How to Look After Your Mind and Body at Uni: 5 Top Tips
1. Manage Your Time and Schedule Effectively
We all have the same 24 hours to work with; however, if you’re not using your time correctly or listening to your body when it is giving the tell-tale signs it is time to decompress, a hectic schedule will always take its toll on your mind and body at uni.
Creating a calendar with important deadline dates, social events, and exams to sit is one thing, but it doesn’t quite compare to building a personalised schedule around your unique needs. When creating a schedule, always consider your personal rhythm; for example, do you tend to have more energy in the evening and always hit a slump in the afternoon? Incorporate your energy spikes and crashes into your routine as much as possible. You won’t be able to propose that your 10 a.m. seminars are taught at 7 p.m., but you will be able to organise your social engagements, solo study sessions, and chores better.
2. Stay Connected
Contrary to popular belief and myths that all students are social butterflies with an army of new campus mates to hit the town with every time there is a student night, the university experience can be incredibly lonely for students. In February 2023, the Higher Education Policy Institute published the findings from a survey that asked students how often they feel lonely; staggeringly, almost one in four students answered all or most of the time.
Loneliness is so much more than a state of being or mind; it can result in everything from anxiety to high blood pressure to a weakened immune system to depression and even cognitive decline.
For some students, it can take time to develop strong bonds with people they trust on campus, in lecture halls and in student accommodation – making it crucial to always stay connected to people back home who will provide moral support and guidance.
In 2018, a study was published that revealed that almost three-quarters of students concealed their mental health issues from their friends. Suffering in silence can ultimately lead to an increased sense of alienation and isolation from your peers; it is always better to communicate how you feel. If you don’t feel like you can share how you are feeling with family or someone in your social circle, use mental health helplines and services.
3. Practice Mindfulness
In a time when going from app to app on your smartphone while half-watching a TV series on Netflix has become the norm for many people, it is becoming harder and harder to practise mindfulness.
In essence, mindfulness is taking time to check in with your body in the moment, not thinking about the past or present, just simply being aware of how your mind and body feel. Mindfulness can be practised through breathwork and meditation practices or it can become a more integral part of your daily routine. Whichever way you incorporate it into your routine, mindfulness can reduce anxiety and stress and improve cognitive performance, attention and focus. As another benefit, your emotional and social intelligence will drastically improve, too!
4. Make Nutrition and Exercise Staples of Your Self-Care Routine
While social narratives would have you believe that eating a tub of ice cream in one sitting while you enjoy your favourite feel-good film in your pyjamas with the curtains drawn is more of an act of self-care than ensuring you eat a balanced and nutritious diet with all the vitamins and minerals you need to keep firing on all cylinders, only the latter is a true act of self-care. In fact, the former is simply an act of indulgence.
The same goes for retail therapy sessions that you can scarcely afford; a far better way of caring about yourself is to ensure that your financial worries are as minimal as possible and you are being as kind to yourself as you can be.
Exercise is also a fundamental part of a self-care routine. The endorphins will help you to improve your general state of well-being and reduce levels of stress. Endorphins from cardio, weight training and resistance training will even help you to reduce pain! If you are only just starting to incorporate exercise into your self-care routine, as advised by the NHS, start with 2.5 hours a week and build from there!
5. Use Student Mental Health Resources
When dealing with mental health issues, everything can seem futile; even the prospect of reaching out for support will seem pointless to some. Others will feel a deep sense of shame or embarrassment in communicating their struggles or feel they are not worthy of help. These are the kinds of tricks the mind can play in depressive episodes or serious bouts of anxiety. It is always crucial that you recognise these feelings and emotions as a mental health problem, not any form of truth; they are far from it.
Student support services are available for a reason: to help you get through your university experience and make it as positive for you as possible. Never allow your mental state to trick you into believing you’re not worthy of support from a university counsellor, a student charity or your GP.