Maintaining your wellbeing as a new student

28.03.19

You’ve started studying, you’re meeting amazing new people and you’ve got freedom you never had before. It’s easy to get so caught up in this exciting new chapter that you forget about some of the everyday stuff that will help you nail student life.

Looking after your health might not be top of your priority list when you’re having such a good time. But it’s important to look after your body (and your mind) so you can have the best possible student experience.

 

Eating well

When you’re short of time it’s tempting to rely on fast-food options, but eating a healthy diet is vital to help you cope with stress and perform well in your studies. Always make time for a healthy breakfast to set you up for the day ahead. Also, having healthy snacks on hand, such as fresh fruit, wholegrain crackers and unbuttered popcorn, can help you avoid the lure of the vending machine on campus. Avoid foods that are high in salt, saturated fats and sugars, and drink plenty of water.

It’s also important to make sure you’re getting around eight hours of sleep and enough exercise. So, if your family keeps going on at you about those – they have a point.

 

Keeping illness at bay

Unfortunately, campuses can be a hot bed for upper respiratory illnesses due to so many people being in close proximity. To help keep the common cold at bay, wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before preparing food or after coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth – that’s how germs spread. Cough and sneeze into your inner elbow or cover your nose or mouth with a tissue (and then throw it in the bin). If you’re sick, it’s a good idea to stay home from class to avoid passing on your bugs.

 

Mental wellbeing

Research suggests that students may be at higher risk of depression, so try to keep yourself as mentally healthy as you can. These tips can help boost your mental health:

  • Getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, drinking plenty of water and eating a healthy diet can contribute to mental health. Similarly, cutting back on smoking, alcohol and drug use can help mental wellbeing.
  • Maintaining strong connections with other people (like your mates and family) is also key.
  • Mindfulness exercises and meditation can help quiet your mind, which may assist with managing stress.
  • Having a sense of purpose can help build self-esteem and motivation. This could involve having a part-time job where you use your talents, volunteering at an organisation where you help people, or contributing to a hobby or project you’re passionate about.

Sexual health

It’s okay to have sexual feelings and want to have sex. It’s also okay not to have sex. You should live by your own values and beliefs. Finding trustworthy information and people you can turn to for support will help you make informed choices, and stay safe and well between the sheets. These are a few things to consider when it comes to your sexual health;

  • Healthy sexual relationships come in all shapes and sizes, but they tend to share some key ingredients. The first step is getting mutual consent before anything intimate happens. It’s also important to take responsibility for preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. Keeping these things in mind will help you and your partner(s) feel good and stay safe, both physically and emotionally.
  • You must ask someone for consent if you want to kiss, touch or have intimate, sexual contact with them. This means finding out if they want it – and whether it’s “yes please” or “no thanks”, either answer is okay. Consent needs to be:
    • Voluntary. Don’t assume you have consent if the person doesn’t say anything or they sound unsure. It should be freely expressed in words or behaviour.
    • Given with a clear head. If someone is asleep, unconscious, or affected by alcohol or drugs, they can’t consent.
    • Given at every moment. You can give and take away consent. Saying yes one time doesn’t mean yes every time, or even at every moment. If you ask someone to stop, or if someone asks you to stop, then sex should stop.
  • It’s usually easy, free or inexpensive to have safe sex – Might be worthwhile rather than going into full detail to refer them to a site to learn more about Contraception.


Need help or advice?
If you need advice about sexual health/sexuality or think you might be pregnant or have a STI, you don’t have to go it alone. There are many people you can talk to privately, including:

AIHW. Australia’s health 2018 [Online; last updated Jun 2018, accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.aihw.gov.au

Better Health Channel. Breakfast [Online; last updated Oct 2012, accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Better Health Channel. Contraception – choices [Online; last updated May 2018, accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Better Health Channel. Safe sex [Online; last updated Mar 2018, accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Better Health Channel. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) [Online; last updated Feb 2018, accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Better Health Channel. Tertiary students and healthy eating [Online; last updated Nov 2014, accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Clarke University. 10 healthy eating tips for busy students [Online; accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.clarke.edu

Healthed. STI rates in Australia [Online; accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.healthed.com.au

Healthy WA. Common cold [Online; accessed Mar 2019] Available from: healthywa.wa.gov.au

Ibrahim AK Kelly SJ Adams CE Glazebrook C. A systematic review of studies of depression prevalence in university students. J Psychiatr Res. 2013; 47: 391–400.

NHMRC. Breaking the chain of infection [Online; last updated 2013, accessed Mar 2019] Available from: nhmrc.gov.au

Queensland Health. 5 steps for making your mental health a priority in 2019 (and beyond) [Online; last updated Jan 2019, accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.health.qld.gov.au

Sleep Health Foundation. Facts about sleep [Online; last updated 2011, accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au

Virginia Tech: Schiffert Health Center. Common cold and the college student [Online; last updated Jan 2016, accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.healthcenter.vt.edu

ReachOut. Having sex for the first time [Online; accessed Mar 2019] Available from: au.reachout.com

Family Planning NSW. The importance of healthy relationships in sexual health (infographic) [Online; accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.fpnsw.org.au

Family Planning NSW. Consent and sex [Online; accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.fpnsw.org.au

The University of Western Australia. Your sexuality [Online; accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.student.uwa.edu.au

ReachOut. Understanding your sexuality [Online; accessed Mar 2019] Available from: au.reachout.com

ReachOut. 5 things you need to know about sexual consent [Online; accessed Mar 2019] Available from: au.reachout.com

Better Health Channel. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) [Online; last updated May 2018, accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Better Health Channel. Contraception choices [Online; last updated May 2018, accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Get the Facts. Male condoms [Online; accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.getthefacts.health.wa.gov.au

Get the Facts. Female condoms [Online; accessed Mar 2019] Available from: www.getthefacts.health.wa.gov.au