Sunday, September 27, 2015
Leaving home for the first time and moving to university is often a daunting period of change for many young people, but at the same time, it can also be very exciting. You can truly test your independence, as you’re managing everything on your own. Not to mention it's easy to make new friends and get caught up in the charm of a town or a city far from the comfort of your home.
Embracing your new lifestyle with open arms is one thing, however, making sure your mind and your body are ready for these changes is another. According to Dr Shamez Ladhani, a consultant paediatrician in infectious diseases, "going off to university increases the risk of a number of different illnesses, due to changing patterns of behaviour and coming into close contact with large numbers of other students". As a result, many students suffer from common health problems, but there are steps you can take to reduce risks.
Freshers' flu tends to strike first-year university students during the first few weeks of the academic year. Common symptoms include fever, sore throat, coughing and severe headaches and it is caused by a few different factors. When you begin at university, you will undoubtedly come into contact with lots of new people from many different places, and some of these people may be carrying viruses. Also, your immune system may not be operating as well as it should; this is due to freshers generally being more susceptible to a poor diet at the start of the year. For example, you may be cooking for yourself for the first time or not eating enough and drinking too much alcohol, which can lead to illness.
Freshers' flu can be avoided if you are aware of the causes. Touching something that contains someone else's saliva, such as sharing cutlery, drinking out of the same cup or kissing someone all have a possibility of spreading viral diseases, which tend to lead to these pretty debilitating flu-like symptoms. You should be aware of your health while living in halls - alcohol based hand gels are a good source of protection for your hands and if your flatmates are also aware of freshers' flu, then it makes it easier for all of you to stay healthy and virus-free.
You should also be aware of other diseases such as meningitis, mumps, STIs and glandular fever. There has been recent media coverage by the Daily Mail about this topic and educating yourself on these diseases is important to staying healthy at university.
Developing your own independence and making decisions for yourself may not come easy to some people, and some may struggle to live on their own. Freshers week may be a fun time to make friends and go out and drink, but soon you will have to settle into your studies. For this reason, finding a balance between your social life and an academic life is vital to keeping your mind and body healthy. You can do this by making sure you do not get behind on your work, whilst also not neglecting your friends and your social life. Always try and make time for friends, family and your studies but most importantly, try and make time for yourself if possible. Reading a good book or listening to music you like can help you to relax, even in a fast-paced environment like university. Finding balance between what you do each day is key to helping you maintain a healthy lifestyle and live happily at university.
Being physically healthy is important, but you mustn't ignore your mental health and wellbeing either. Studies show that three quarters of all lifetime mental illnesses start by the mid-20s, and for many, university can trigger this. Life at university can have a massive impact on your stress levels and this can wear your mental state down - causing sleepless nights, anxiety issues, eating disorders and depression. If you feel that your mental health is deteriorating and this is having a negative impact on your studies and yourself, seek help immediately. It can be good to talk about how you're feeling to someone that you trust, whether it's a friend, counsellor or doctor, in order to get the help you need. Mental health is extremely important and knowing the signs of anxiety and depression is vital to keep your mind healthy.
Having fun and working hard at university is important, but looking after yourself and watching your health is vital to sustaining a healthy mind and body for life.