The serious stuff: Looking after your health

University life places a whole new barrage of pressures on your body. explores the dangers, and where you can get help

Credit:  Timbrauhn

Credit: Timbrauhn

Very soon you’ll be arriving for freshers week. Now I’m sure you’re all thinking that I’m going to blab on about the dangers of alcohol etc? Well you’d be right. Although by now you know all that stuff. I’m going to be telling you how to survive university life with as few negative connotations as possible. Unfortunately this doesn’t include how not to embarrass yourself on nights out, nor the best way to survive the stairs in The Willow.

First on the agenda is safe sex. Yes I know people have spent many hours tilling at this particular windmill but just try and make good choices and use protection. You don’t want to be playing “Never have I ever” and be forced to raise your glass at that particular question. Nobody wants to be that person. Condoms are available around campus for free (YUSU Student Centre in James College is best bet) so there is very little excuse to “risk it this one time”. Even ignoring the possibility of STDs then think about how much it costs to raise a child (and just consider how many nights out you’d miss out on).

Next up is drinking. Most people at uni drink, but not all. Those that do are probably going to drink a lot. The best advice I can give you is to know your own limits, go too far and you could be labelled “chunder dragon” by the end of week 1, a title that few wear with pride. Alcohol’s a diuretic, this simply means it removes fluid from the body. Hangovers happen because this leads to dehydration which then causes the hangover. Drinking water at points through the night won’t always stop the hangover but it’ll make it a lot more bearable in the morning. Simple things like painkillers will relieve the headaches and although many people will claim there is no true cure to a hangover everyone develops their own way to make it through. I recommend trying out various combinations of food and drink (non-alcoholic!) the morning after, even though it’s not what you want to do just to see what works for you. It’s either that or spend the day under the duvet proclaiming you’ll never drink again (there is no shame in doing this – we’ve all been there).

Nutrition is next on the agenda. If you’re catered then for the most part you’ll be looked after very well, lots of fresh fruit and veg will be available. For after first year finishes you’ll see the true cost of having to buy fresh food. All of the self-catered people may well be in for a rude awakening without your parents’ cooking. The best thing to do is dive in early as a kitchen, the vast majority of people will have never cooked more than the odd meal before. Although it may be tempting to veg out on ready meals at the start, whilst all your house mates are cooking, you’ll soon come to regret that they can already cook by the time you start. Grab a cook book and get involved – also check out Nouse’s top five recipe guide for a few ideas to start with. Another tip is to make that scary trip to Morrisons (other supermarkets are available) rather than stick to Costcutter, this will save you money which can then be invested back into York’s night-life.

The last point is drugs. Yes there are drugs at university, pretending there isn’t is like pretending England have a shot to win the world cup. Just don’t do them, there are far better ways in life to get a high than dishing out lots of money for what may well just be ibuprofen or a far more dangerous cocktail of drugs (or washing powder). Although spiking drinks is uncommon in York you should be aware that it does happen. Make sure you don’t leave your drink unattended. If drugs start having a negative impact on your life you can visit the on campus health clinic for advice, the Open Door Team or Nightline (details of these can be found here). Talk to Frank is a great site for checking out the risks and getting help.

Don’t be worried, most of this stuff is common sense and it’s just a matter of listening to it from time to time. You’ll have an amazing year, a year that will stick with you until the end. Enjoy Freshers’ Week because before you know it exam season will be once again upon us.. now isn’t that a daunting prospect (best not to think about it!).

A complete line-up can be found in our guide to campus welfare services.

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