Hello everyone – this blog was inspired by a number of conversations I have had recently with our students about staying healthy. At this time of year, there are a myriad of coughs/colds/viral illnesses doing the rounds and many students feel that they have felt grotty for a number of weeks. This can be a real pain when deadlines and exams are looming. How can we improve our natural resilience and bounce back quicker from illness? Here are some tips that I have picked up over the years of seeing students:

  • Get a decent nights sleep. This is important anyway as lack of sleep has been associated with a number of chronic health conditions. It’s even more important if we are feeling below par with a cold or sore throat as good sleep allows the body to heal more effectively. Earplugs and eye masks are helpful if you are exposed to extraneous noise from the eternal party-ers in Selly Oak.
  • Eat well as this provides decent nutrients for your brain. This will allow you to recover and also to study more efficiently. It is possible to make healthier choices on a student budget. Aldi on the Bristol Rd does very reasonable good quality fruit and veg and there are a number of reasonable independent shops now in Selly Oak selling fresh veg as well as all the usual supermarkets. Reduce processed and sugary food as much as possible and get rid of aspartame from your diet. This is the artificial sweetener found in diet drinks and some meals. There are healthier alternatives.
  • Drink plenty of water. This is a biggie. Our bodies are actually made of anything from 50-65% water and most of us don’t drink enough. A healthy person needs between 2-3 litres of water per day. Our brains need good nutrition and hydration to function optimally. You can make water more interesting by adding slices of lemon or orange or by chilling or warming it. Birmingham water comes directly from the Elan Valley in Central Wales and so is some of the nicest tasting water in the UK (in my humble opinion).
  • Manage stress. We have to learn how to manage and process stress in order to function effectively. One of the best ways to do this is to learn to meditate. It’s a great way to train the brain to process stress differently and better. I would recommend Headspace https://www.headspace.com which is an app that provides bite sized daily meditations that fit around your life. The first ten days are free and after that there is a subscription to continue. There are also a number of stand alone apps that do not require a subscription. Simply type “mindfulness” into the search facility on your App Store. I have meditated for years and found it transformational.
  • Talk to friends and stay in contact with family. We are social creatures and isolation from others affects us in a negative way. If you are feeling unwell with a cold or cough, rest by all means but chat to your housemates and your family and let them offer you moral support. Many students feel very anxious when they are unwell because they are away from family and this is very normal and understandable. Keep in contact with loved ones and let them help you.
  • When to see your GP with a viral illness. NHS choices has some useful information as does this website http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/when-see-doctor

Have a good week and if there are any topics you would like to see covered, please do let me know
The blog is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional, personalised advice from your doctor. Please, if you feel ill and are unsure or concerned, seek advice from a qualified health professional which could be your GP or Accident or Emergency if you have a life threatening medical problem. If you unsure, NHS 111 – http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/Emergencyandurgentcareservices/Pages/NHS-111.aspx can help you decide.