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Me time

Read advice on eating and sleeping well as well as guidance on mindfulness so you can look after yourself whilst at university.
© University of Reading

As well as your studies, looking after yourself is something you need to keep on top of as soon as you start uni. It’s worth thinking about the actions below and getting into a good routine before you arrive.

Sleep

Sleep, along with exercise and a balanced diet is essential to staying healthy. There are a few things you can do to help you sleep better:

  • Reduce caffeine consumption
  • Limit your use of mobile devices before bed
  • Exercise regularly to promote good quality sleep
  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool. Conditions like these help you sleep better
  • Try to sleep in your own bed and avoid taking naps
  • If you feel yourself starting to get frustrated about not being able to fall asleep, leave the bedroom and return when you feel sleepy

These may seem obvious but can make a huge difference to how well you sleep. Establishing a bedtime routine can have a positive impact on your sleep.

If you suffer from sleeping problems, keeping a sleep diary will help you monitor the situation. Try to make a note if you wake up during the night, the time and how long you stay awake for. Also note the time you wake in the morning and how well-rested you feel.

The longer sleep disturbance goes on for, the harder they can be to live with. If you’re experiencing sustained issues with sleep contact your university’s Counselling and Wellbeing Support Service, Student Union or your doctor.

Eating healthily

Again, some of this advice will seem obvious but when you’re busy and stressed, it is amazing to see how many people slide into an unhealthy diet. You need to arm yourself with some knowledge of how to eat healthily so you can help maintain a balanced lifestyle. Eating regularly will help keep your energy levels up so you remain awake and sharp when you’re studying, working and socialising.

  • Drink plenty of water. It’s good for you and it’s free.
  • Take healthy snacks with you wherever you go. This way you won’t be tempted to reach for an unhealthy snack from a vending machine and you’ll save money.
  • Eat a variety of fruit and vegetables. Frozen and canned fruit and veg are good options if you are on a tight budget. Or share the cost of buying fresh fruit and veg with a friend if you’re worried about it going out of date sooner than you can eat it.
  • Go outside to get your dose of Vitamin D from the sunshine.

Exercise

Being active is great for your physical and mental health. It may seem a chore to get involved but your reward is that you feel healthier in body and mind, and it’s a great way to release stress and endorphins.

  • If you can, take the stairs instead of the lift, walk or cycle instead of driving or getting the bus.
  • If you’re studying, take regular breaks. Go outside for some fresh air and move around for 10 minutes or so.
  • Join a sports club at uni.
  • Join the uni gym. Specifically, for student and staff, uni sports centres often offer very competitive rates.
  • Or find some exercises you can do in your bedroom. YouTube is a great source for fitness tutorials.
  • You don’t have to exercise as though you’re training for a triathlon. Find something that works for you and your body, and pace yourself.
  • If you need motivation, consider downloading some fitness apps that help build structure into your routine.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness practice involves paying attention to the present moment by using simple meditation and breathing techniques that enable awareness of thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations – helping to calm and restore balance in your thinking.

There are many excellent apps, audio files and videos online that you can use to guide you in your meditation – have a listen to different ones as it’s important to find the right voice in order for you to relax and feel comfortable listening. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Reduction of anxiety and stress levels, depression and exhaustion
  • Improves working memory, creativity, attention span and reaction speeds
  • Enhances brain function
  • Improves the immune system, heart and circulatory health
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Practicing mindfulness can help build your resilience and improve your mental health.

The benefits of mindfulness can be seen from regular practice, using time set aside each day as part of your everyday routine. Be kind and compassionate to yourself and practise for 10 minutes each day in order to build up your skill.

© University of Reading
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