CONTENT WARNING: This post is a happy one, but it will reflect on topics that may be upsetting to some people. If topics such as extreme weight loss/body image, chronic pain, mental health, or hospitalisation are sensitive areas to you, please read with caution and look after yourselves 🙂
If you’ve been reading my posts even semi-regularly, you’ll already know that I have some health problems that began shortly before I started university and that caused me to transfer to Glendon. Last weekend, my latest scans showed what was actually going on- which means that now I have the chance to try and fix the problem. It’s been a long, tiring and frustrating time living with chronic pain, so to have a glimmer of hope is giving me something to smile about.
Hindsight really is 20/20. Here’s my top 5 tips on how to look after your health as a student:
- Manage your eating habits. I love to cook, and in my first year I took full advantage of my kitchen access. My problem is that when I’m super busy or stressed, my appetite shuts down. During the exciting and hectic first weeks at uni, I was always doing something, so I didn’t want to waste time cooking when my appetite eventually kicked in. I’d wolf down some Ainsley Harriott instant couscous (the lime and coriander one was my life), some veg or salad, and I’d be on my way. If my blood sugar dropped, I would grab something sweet to boost it quickly. Obviously this wasn’t a very good idea. Within six weeks, I’d lost a huge amount of weight.
- Get enough sleep. Did you know that not getting enough sleep can effect your brain in similar ways to being drunk? Pulling an all-nighter to finish a paper, going to pub night the night before a morning class and Netflix binges are commonplace amongst students, but trying not to do it all too often will help a lot. Limiting laptop and phone use in the hour before you go to sleep, cutting down on caffeine and exercising regularly should all help if you struggle to unwind before going to sleep.
- Exercise. Getting exercise is good for pretty much everything. Living in a big city that is freezing cold for most of the year can sometimes limit the amount of walking you’ll do in a day, but the GAC (Glendon Athletics Club) membership is only $15 for the entire year, so there’s no excuse not to get one! Living in smallish cities in the UK meant that I would walk literally everywhere and it improved my fitness, posture, mood and energy levels. Since my chronic pain has worsened, I haven’t been able to be as active as I’d like, and I’ve noticed the effects of not exercising. That being said, I’m really picky- I love to swim, and I don’t mind doing cardio, but there are workouts I just can’t stand.
- Seek and accept support. I honestly can’t stress this enough. If you’re dealing with mental or physical illness, chronic pain etc.- reach out to those who love you and more importantly, those who are equipped to help you. We’re lucky at Glendon to have such an incredible counselling centre: I visited them a few months ago to discuss the emotional effects of my illness and was told that there was a chronic pain support group on campus, and that I could recieve support from my profs and the university to continue my studies successfully- I would never have found this information on my own.
- Make a fuss. I saved the most important point for last: speak up. I battled with extreme pain, fatigue, nausea, and repeated infection without bothering to go to the doctor simply because I was sure it was nothing serious. THIS WAS A VERY BAD STUPID THING. It’s so important to be your own advocate; you are the only person in your body, experiencing your symptoms. One of my classmates ended up needing a blood transfusion for anaemia- she had thought she was just tired. I was convinced I had food poisoning- what was actually happening was I had a 43 degree C fever, I was hallucinating, and I had a really severe kidney infection that kept me in hospital for almost a week. As I discovered once my fever had come down, I also took a hallucinating-in-hospital selfie.
The point I’m trying to make is not that students are incapable of looking after themselves. I like to think that I’m a very mature person who knows how to take care of herself- and it happened to me. To a certain extent we really can’t prevent getting sick. But we can take steps to look after ourselves and each other. Trust me, hospital food sucks. I wish I had been more proactive in insisting that something was very, very wrong. I could have avoided eating unidentifiable white soup and watching a middle aged nurse with drawn-on eyebrows try to steal my boyfriend (both true stories).
If you have any of your own healthy-living tips for student life, tweet me at @JasminElyGL – I could definitely use them 😉