Living Well

There are ways in which you can care for yourself to maintain a healthy body and mind.  For example, eating well, keeping active and sleeping well can contribute towards that inner balance, helping you to get through those rocky periods.  However, if you find yourself struggling to cope in some way, whether it be with anxiety, depression, stress, drugs and alcohol or relationships, there are ways in which you can get support.

Eating well can have the most significant impact on your wellbeing, by allowing you to sleep better, have more energy, as well increasing your concentration and ability to think positively and creatively.

When you are feeding your body you are also feeding your mind and your mind's ability to function under stress and deadlines. While it might be tempting to stock up on ready meals and buy takeaways, with just a bit of forward planning you can find a healthy diet that works for you without too much time, effort or expense.

Helpful Tips:

  • Remember to get at least your five a day (five or more different servings of fruit and vegetables)
  • Start the day with a solid breakfast such as porridge with nuts and dried fruit, its quick, simple and healthy.
  • Prep your food in advance to help you stay on track during your busier times during the week

Next Steps:

There are so many great recipes and online pages, especially for students when you might want a quick meal on a budget, check out some of our favourites:

  1. How can food affect your mood
  2. Student Recipes
  3. Tips for eating well on a budget

There are lots of reasons why physical activity is good for your body – having a healthy heart and improving your joints and bones to name a few – but physical activity is also hugely beneficial for your mental health and wellbeing. Keeping active throughout the week helps to reduce stress, boost your mood, improve self-confidence and increase mental alertness.

Helpful Tips:

  • Try to decrease the amount of time you spend sitting, take study breaks and make sure you get up and move around.
  • Go for walks, run, or best of all take up a new sport – do something fun that you will be more likely to stick to.
  • Set yourself a challenge, give yourself something to beat! A Step goal, a fun run, something to aim for.

Next Steps:

  1. How to…look after your mental health using exercise
  2. Get Active for your Mental Health
  3. Easy exercise ideas
  4. Nine Ways to get more active

Sleep is essential and its effects are magical. Sleep balances your mood and can make you happier: lack of sleep can contribute to depression and other mental illness. It is essential for studying and learning, creativity and boosts the immune system.  If you are finding it difficult to get enough sleep, the following resources are full of useful information and handy tips.

Helpful Tips:

  • Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time everyday
  • Go walking outside during the day to get as much natural sunlight as possible
  • Limit caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and big meals at night
  • Create a restful and calm environment for bedtime

Next Steps:

  1. Mental Health Foundation: How to Sleep Better
  2. Mental Health Foundation podcast: Wellbeing and sleep
  3. The Sleep Council

The term ‘mental health’ is a pretty general term, so what is it? And how do we know when we have good mental health?  The World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

There are many factors that can affect our mental health, and it is important to take steps to keep ourselves healthy and happy. Check out our general tips below, and our useful links to help you on your journey. Likewise there may be times when we might be suffering from something more specific that is impacting our mental health. Below there is more information on particular issues such as anxiety and depression.

Helpful Tips:

  • Social interaction is important, so get to know your flatmates and agree to support each other
  • Look after yourself! Getting run down makes you vulnerable to flu and other illnesses so take care of yourself by eating well, getting enough sleep and keeping alcohol consumption within reasonable limits. Make sure you register with a local GP, and for further information and advice, refer to the NHS Student Health website
  • Exercise enhances mood and improves mental health and wellbeing.  Try taking a brisk walk for around 20 minutes every day especially in nature.  Have you been to The Rye yet?  It’s round the corner and there’s a lovely outdoor swimming pool as well.

Next Steps:

  1. 5 ways to wellbeing
  2. NHS Moodzone
  3. NHS Self-Help
  4. NHS Choices

If you’re in need of mental health support, or are finding it hard to find what support you might need, you might want to speak to someone who is trained to listen. As well as the Student Counselling service, or your GP, you might also like to try these services, many of which are available 24 hours a day.

We all feel anxiety - a natural response to the threat of danger - but we can learn to manage it. Moderate levels of anxiety can help us perform well in certain situations, such as job interviews or exams. However, excessive anxiety over a prolonged period, anxiety triggered by harmless situations or with no apparent cause, can become problematic.

There are many ways in which we can overcome anxiety. It might be that you find apps to help you, or a particular practice such as mindfulness that can help calm and clear your mind. It might be that the issues underlying your anxiety are complex and you may need support from a counsellor or your GP.

Helpful Tips:

  • Take 10 steady breaths - Do not worry if you cannot breathe ‘deeply’ or slowly, particularly if you are feeling panicky. Just focus on your breath and be aware of your body in the present, rather than worrying about the past or future.
  • If you feel anxious for much of the time, or it is affecting your life, consider getting support from a counsellor or through therapy

Next Steps:

There are several apps that you can download onto your phone.  Here are some of the best:

  • Headspace features meditation and mindful techniques to help manage stress and anxiety
  • Anxiety free uses self-hypnosis to help lessen stress and anxiety
  • What’s up Uses CBT to train anxiety sufferers how to identify negative thinking patterns and the sources of their anxiety.
  • Anxiety UK – Charity and support network specifically to help those suffering from anxiety

Depression is a very common problem, characterised by a persistent sense of feeling exhausted and demotivated and that you are unable to cope with life. It is an illness, not a sign of weakness.  It is not the same as feeling fed up or unhappy. You may feel low at times due to life events, such as bereavement, or stressors such as big changes, money worries or difficulties in relationships. This is normal and not necessarily a sign of depression. People experiencing depression cannot just ‘snap out of it’ and often report that they cannot identify any particular event as a cause.

Helpful Tips:

  • Research has demonstrated that taking regular exercise is at least as effective as taking antidepressants for some people, give it a try! This doesn’t have to be a gruelling gym session – you just need to get your heart pumping. Exercise releases endorphins; feel-good hormones that can help reduce tensions and allow the mind to focus on something other than your worries and concerns.
  • Talking to someone – Isolation has a significant negative impact on your health. Accepting that you may need some help with how you’re feeling, is often the first step to feeling better. First and foremost, talk to your friends and family – these people know you best and care about you most. Studies suggest that socialising with friends even just once a week can be as effective as therapy for improving your mood.

Next Steps:

There are a number of support services that can help you. We would advise contacting the Student Counselling Service or visiting your doctor if you feel you are suffering from depression so that you can explore the support options available to you and ensure you get the help you need.

Bucks Student Counselling Service

Students against Depression

Depression Alliance

Being at university can be one of the most exciting times in your life, yet it can also be very stressful. There are many resources available to help you manage your stress levels.

Helpful Tips:

  • People often get stressed when they feel that they’re running out of time to complete something. However, time management techniques can help you feel more relaxed, controlled and focused. Try creating a written work schedule. Look at your deadline, and break down tasks into manageable chunks. Divide your work into urgent and non-urgent tasks, and important and non-important tasks.
  • Make sure your plan includes frequent study breaks, time management is about achieving high-quality work, not high quantity.
  • If your stress levels are proving too hard to manage by yourself, and you have tried other resources, it is advisable to contact the Student Counselling Service or visit your doctor.

Next Steps:

  1. Calm – An app with relaxation practices, stories, background music, and more focused mediation for beginners
  2. Wind Down – These articles and features offer a practical resource, and are written by experienced wellbeing experts
  3. Free relaxing sounds of nature: delivers what it says on the tin

Being well informed about drugs and alcohol can help you to best look after yourself and others.

Helpful Tips:

  • Be mindful of when alcohol or drugs might be playing a role in your life that might be concerning, be aware of the dangers by checking out the information below.
  • Support your friends by looking out for one another

Next Steps:

  1. Find out more online and chat confidentially to My Crew: http://www.mycrew.org.uk/
  2. Talk to FRANK 
  3. DrinkAware Alcohol Support Services - https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-support-services/