It's the time of year where freshers are just getting used to life as a student; you're all moved in, you're stuck into your lectures and your actual degree and you've met all of your flatmates and classmates. In all the new excitement of moving to university and starting a new chapter of your life, it can be easy to forget about the essential things that are really important to our health - I know when I started university, everything seemed like a bit of a blur and there was so much to take in things like health and doctors took a backseat. I've teamed up with Canesten for their "Stay Fresh, Freshers!" campaign, aiming to help students look after themselves during their time at university, particularly in relation to intimate health. It's something we shouldn't feel embarrassed to talk about and is especially important when you're beginning to fend for yourself as a teen or young adult at university. Here are my top tips for taking care of yourself while at university.
1. RECOGNISE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
University is incredibly tough and no student will deny it. Yes, there are great parties, events and everything else fun we associate with student life but all of comes with strain. There are tight deadlines, long hours, heavy assignments, hours and hours of reading and in general being a student can be incredibly stressful. I had a great time at university and I absolutely loved my course but there were times throughout my three years that my mental health suffered, particularly around Christmas where there are a lot of deadlines and May which is of course, exam season. I read a few weeks ago that more than half of students can suffer with mental health problems so it's so important that if you do start to struggle, you speak to someone as soon as you can. I know my university had a counselling service that you could use if you were struggling and we all had mentors who we could speak to - find out about these services and use them if you need to. Seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of and we all need to work together to beat the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
2. LOOK AFTER YOUR INTIMATE HEALTHLet's face it, every single one of us, male or female, student or no student, is going to probably have to think about intimate health at least a few times during our lives yet these kind of issues can be so taboo. It's so important to get tested for STIs regularly as many of them don't have any symptoms at all yet can be easily treated with antibiotics after a simple wee in a tub and finding information about the right contraceptive for you is vital. I had the biggest struggle with the implant for a year before I finally got it sorted after I had a really bad reaction to it (think three weeks on your period, one week off for an entire year a.k.a hell on earth) and you don't need to put up with it for that long. Nurses and doctors know their stuff about this kind of thing and it's nothing to be embarrassed about.
The Canesten Stay Fresh, Freshers! campaign is all about promoting awareness of this sort of thing and get rid of the embarrassment that comes with conditions such as cystitis, which can affect up to 40% of women. I'm sure a lot of you have had cystitis before (I have and it is not pleasant) but if you haven't it's basically inflammation of the bladder generally caused by bacteria. If it's your first time suffering from cystitis or if your symptoms persist or are particularly bad, you should visit your doctor for advice but a lot of the time, when you've had cystitis before it will clear up on it's own. If you're looking for some home treatment options, CanesOasis is a treatment option that helps alleviate any pain and stinging while going to the loo but remember that if your symptoms are severe or if it's your first time having cystitis, you should always visit your doctor. There's nothing to be embarrassed about!
3. GET THE RIGHT BALANCEAt university, there's a lot to think about. There's the obvious side of the experience and that's the actual studying part but there's also the social aspect, making friends, going out and having a good time. If this isn't enough, most students now have to work part-time to actually live during the three years at university (*ahem* I happen to have worked three part-time jobs plus having my blog in my final year so know exactly what this is like) and there has to be some chill time in there somewhere. It's absolutely vital that you get the right balance to avoid totally stressing yourself out. I know at one point I completely burnt myself out and ended up crazy stressed when I didn't need to be. I was so much happier when I took a step back, had some me time and stopped making myself feel guilty for doing things other than work. Equally though, you don't want to go the other way and just party party party because although it may be fun, it's not fun falling behind and struggling to catch up. You can have so much fun, work and still come out with a great degree - I know I did!
4. EAT WELLI'm a big believer in eating whatever the hell you want. If you want to eat last night's leftover pizza for breakfast then you go girl or if you want to eat a ham and cheese croissant with a coke and a coffee (cough cough Kirstie Allsopp) then that is totally fine too. However, when you're a student and you're living on a budget, it's all too easy to fall into the same cycle of eating supernoodles and baked beans and whatever other random things you may have in your cupboards. It's so important to get some actual nutrients into your body because you'll not only feel so much better, but you'll perform so much better at your uni work too. Try and eat an actual full meal (yup, with some vegetables and everything!) regularly - it's way too easy to just snack and eat the easy, cheap things but your body will not thank you for it.
5. GET PLENTY OF SLEEPI know I probably don't even have to say this (9am lectures are a draaag that everyone struggles to get out of bed for!) but you absolutely need sleep. I'm one of those people who neglects sleep a lot and I know I shouldn't - it can really get to you. This is especially important during exam times and deadline dates. Doing all nighters in the library ain't good for nobody and if you're up all night panic revising before an exam, it's almost guaranteed your work will suffer. It's not only university work that will suffer either; lack of sleep will negatively impact your mood, productivity and well-being so do not underestimate it's importance!
Let me know how you're Staying Fresh at university or your top tips for looking after yourself as a student - if we're all more open with each other about things we're often ashamed of, it will be easier for us to tackle our problems together.
THIS POST IS IN COLLABORATION WITH CANESTEN. ALL WORDS AND VIEWS REMAIN MY OWN.