3 Harmful freshers’ habits and how to avoid them

24 Sep 2018
By Emma D., Student at King's College London

There’s a lot to do during your first weeks at university. Settling in, socialising, and self-study will all demand your attention. So you can be forgiven if you forget to do the most important thing - look after yourself.

That’s right, despite all the exciting stuff going on around you, you’re the most important. Lots of new students get into habits that are less than helpful health-wise.

Here’s how you can side-step three common and unhelpful habits.

1) Binge drinking

Binge drinking is drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time, or drinking in order to get drunk. It can cause problems for your physical and mental health, and put your safety at risk.

At the time, it can affect your balance and coordination. Just two pints of beer will increase your chances of injuring yourself. In the days after, your mood and memory can both suffer.

That Doesn't mean you can't enjoy alcohol. Of course you can. It's just about moderation and knowing your limits. Find out more about binge drinking at the Drinkaware website.

How to avoid

  • Slow down: Sip your drinks and spread them out over a number of hours
  • Alternate with water: Drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink
  • Have food: Eating while you drink slows the effect of alcohol on your blood
  • Set a limit: Stop drinking after a while, and switch to water or a soft drink
  • Say no: Feel comfortable saying no to an invite, there's always another night out

2) Convenience eating

After a long day of lectures or revision, ready-meals and takeaways can seem like the best option for saving time and minimising stress. However, choosing food for ease often means you miss out on the basic nutrients your body needs.

A quick homemade dinner will do less harm to your revision schedule than a kebab will to your health. Ask a flatmate to cook dinner with you - minimal prep time and social interaction all at once!

How to avoid

  • Shop smart: Plan your meals and save money by avoiding 'mini supermarkets
  • Brush up: Practice basic cooking skills, and test them with beginner recipes
  • Stay fresh: Prioritise veg, fruit, and salads to get the nutrients your body needs
  • Cook in bulk: Prepare your meals in large batches and portion-off for the week
  • Freeze it: Invest in plenty of tupperware so there's always something ready to eat

Read more: Batch cooking: Take the stress out of your kitchen

3) Losing sleep

Hitting deadlines at university is important but it shouldn't come at the cost of your well-being. Pulling all-nighters in the library might seem like a good idea but sacrificing sleep is not good for a student brain.

You need around eight hours of sleep a night. If you're staying up revising till 2am every night, your body's not getting the chance to repair and recharge. Without good rest, you're not yourself.

Take some time each week to schedule your workload and allow for enough space for sleep. Don't forget to plan rewarding activities too - everyone deserves a break!

How to avoid

  • Eat early: Have dinner before 7pm so your food is broken down before bed
  • Wind down: Avoid coffee, other caffeine sources, and stimulants after 2pm
  • Limit light: Make your room as dark as you can to get your body ready for sleep
  • Block out noise: Use foam earplugs so background noise doesn't keep you up
  • Switch off: Ignore your phone and tech for at least an hour before bedtime

This article was written by Emma in collaboration with Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity. Emma studies Psychology at King’s College London and is currently on a placement year working within the NHS.

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Emma is studying Psychology at King's College London. She's also a Student Minds blogger.