How can moving out affect my health?
When you are living in somebody else's house, there are usually some things that are done for you or shared and other things that are done according to someone else's rules. All this goes out of the window when you move out. You can make your own rules which is very exciting - it's freedom - but there are a lot of new responsibilities too like paying the rent, keeping the place tidy, cooking and generally looking after yourself. How you choose to live, what you choose to eat and when you choose to get medical advice can make a big difference to your health as Wayne discovered when he moved out.
How can going to college or university affect my health?
Moving to any new environment full of new people will bring you in contact with new health risks. It is also stressful. Stress makes your body less able to cope than usual and also brings problems of its own. You will be your own boss - perhaps for the first time - and decisions about all aspects of your life, including health, will be yours - not your parents' or teachers'. In other words, if you are worried about something, it's down to you to see someone. Register with the health centre and consult them if you're feeling unwell and don't know why.
If you find yourself feeling rundown, give your immune system the support it needs to do its job - plenty of vitamins (take a supplement if you're not eating properly) and liquids, no fags and booze.
All the extra freedom sounds great - and it is - but it also means there are extra responsibilities on your shoulders. For example, you don't have to go to every lecture so it's tempting to skip a few. Trouble is you'll probably still need to the work. You might figure that getting the info prepackaged in a one hour lecture is easier than working it out for yourself through reading umpteen books. You need to find a balance. Spend all your time working and you'll miss out on a lot that college has to offer. Spend it all partying and you're unlikely to last the first year - let alone three or four. If you're having problems with your workload or planning your work, talk to your tutor. That's what he or she is there for.
When you first arrive you may:
- feel lost and confused in your new situation
- miss your old friends and family
- feel you can't make new friends
- be anxious that you will be out of your depth
- be worried that you will not be 'one of the group'
- be worried about your parents' expectations.
All these are normal. There isn't a student alive who hasn't felt them at some time. You will have to put up with it for a while but usually it gets easier. If it doesn't or you're worried that you are depressed or you're still having these feelings after several months, seek help at college rather than at home.
Every university has its own NUS (National Union of Students) and you become a member of this when you join the college. They can offer help and advice on a variety of topics including health, housing, money and your course. For more information check out the NUS website. (For information on courses you can study at university check out Ucas. Most student unions have a welfare or health officer who is a student themselves and knows just what it's like.
The university also has helping agencies including counsellors and chaplains. Your tutor can give you information about these. Indeed, it's worth talking to your tutor as the first point of contact with any problem. Academics were once new students too and they are human beings (honest). Talking to your tutor may well break the ice between you and improve your relationship with them as well as helping you sort out your problems.
It's hard to make generalisations because everybody's experiences are different but here's one: you may well feel that you are the only person who feels like you do but you are not. The guy who seems like the most popular person on campus is probably feeling much the same thing. (See Tony's story.) Every year thousands of new students - probably the majority - are feeling bad, perhaps worse than you. That's guaranteed. What's also guaranteed is that time and talking will help.
If you really feel there isn't anyone you can talk to at college, you may need to explore help back home. You can always call a helpline or the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. (You don't have to be feeling suicidal to call the Samaritans.)
There's no shame in saying you have a problem or are unhappy. Look at it this way: college offers more opportunities than you've probably ever had before or will ever have again but it only lasts a few years - no point in being miserable now and regretting it later. Tony had many of these problems and graduated happily three years later.
Managing money will be a new challenge. You probably won't have enough of it and will have to work bringing extra commitments and stresses into your life.
Finding somewhere to live and being happy there is also a major step. You should be able to sort out accommodation through the college but sometimes this is not the case and you may have to find somewhere yourself. This can be daunting, especially in a new area you donâ€™t know well. The accommodation services at the university and/or student union should be able to point you in the right direction. They sometimes hold property lists from landlords in the area. You could also look at the local paper and register with some local estate agents and leasing agencies.
Sexual freedom can create problems. (Strange but true.) Just because you can sleep with anyone (assuming they want to sleep with you) doesn't mean you have to. Only do what you and the other person feel comfortable with - what's the point of doing something you're not happy about? - and make sure your sex is safe. If you don't know how or why you should use a condom or about other forms of contraception, click here. For more on sexual problems, click here.
How do I eat healthily?
For infomation on what food to eat click here. This section deals with how to make sure it is prepared safely.
Experts reckon there are about 4.5 million episodes of food poisoning a year with 60 deaths. Many of these occur in the home but you need to choose your take-away or restaurant with care too. According to the Food Standards Agency, over half of the UK's 500,000 eateries broke health and safety rules in 1999 and environmental health officers say the level could be higher.
Bacteria - the main cause of food poisoning - live on raw food but given half a chance will be all over the cooked stuff like tourists on a beach. This cross-contamination is one of the major causes of problems. You should store raw food BELOW cooked food not above or beside it and wash your hands when moving from handling one to the other.
Bacteria need three things to multiply to a dangerous level: time, the right temperature (5°C to 65°C) and a moist environment (which is why drying is an effective way to preserve food safely). You can reduce the risk by:
- washing hands and cooking utensils
- storing food properly
- keeping cold food cold (make sure your fridge is below 5°C) and hot food hot (above 65°C)
- serving food promptly
Cheap meats are a particular health hazard. Chicken and other poultry contaminated with salmonella and campylobacter is responsible for a quarter of cases of food-poisoning. A recent Consumers Association survey found that one in five chicken products in Britain's supermarkets were contaminated. If chicken looks undercooked or is lukewarm, don't eat it.
Raw eggs are best avoided because of salmonella. Hidden raw eggs may lurk in mayonnaise or Caeser salad.
Burgers, kebab and sausages are a big risk because they contain food on the inside that was once on the outside and could therefore be contaminated. These products must be cooked all the way through (70%C for at least two minutes - to be sure you can buy a meat thermometer which you stick in the meat).
Seafood must be properly cooked. Raw stuff like oysters or clams are best avoided unless you are confident of the the restaurant. If you have to force a mussel open, don't eat it.
Bacteria love proteins so meat, eggs, cereals, beans and, particularly, rice are favourite stomping grounds. The B Cereus bacteria is very keen on rice - boiled, egg-fried or pillau.
If you're using a microwave, especially for rice, remember that the standing time is part of the cooking time. It ensures that the whole product is at the right temperature. Beware of food that comes directly from the microwave to your plate. Only reheat food once.
Watch out for display counter food. In the UK, food can be legally displayed within the dangerous temperature range (5 degrees C and 65 degrees C) for four hours so if it looks like it's been there too long, it probably has. In ideal conditions one bacteria can multiply to 2,097,152 in seven hours. Also check that cooked and raw meats are displayed well apart.
Look at restaurant floors. Dirty ones are a common hygiene breach according to inspectors, along with dirty work surfaces, mouldy, out of date food and cockroaches, mice and rats in food preparation areas. Mice piss as they run substantially increasing the risk. Some hygiene breaches are still more spectacular - staff using a corner of the kitchen as a toilet for example.
Top tip: watch out for a 'Closed For Redecorating' sign at your local eatery. After a dodgy health and safety inspection a restaurant can 'volunteer' for closure and legitimately display this notice. (If officials have to enforce closure the full reason must be displayed.)
If you're concerned about a local eatery, contact your local authority's environmental health department
How do I keep my flat healthy?
Over three million people have asthma and the commonest trigger is the droppings of the house dust mite - a creature about 0.3mm long of which there are millions in every home. If you're affected, bare floorboards, vinyl flooring, fabric mattress covers and synthetic bedding may help see the creature off. The mites don't like it hot (wash linen etc at temperatures above 58°C) or cold (so put items like soft toys in the freezer regularly). Use a vacuum cleaner that retains as much dust as possible (or get someone else to do the cleaning!)
Assuming you are not allergic to the house dust mite, the main reason for housework is to reduce the risk of food poisoning or infestation by pests. Don't leave food lying around or bins unemptied. Problems with mice and rats are increasing and if your local area is affected you need to be particularly vigilant. The Council should be able to advise if you have a problem though you or your landlord may well have to pay for it to be treated.
For day to day cleaning, don't go over the top with heavyweight anti-bacterial cleaners (you may be doing more harm than good) but keep things clean - a weekly regime is enough. Wayne has some good tips on housework.
How do I make friends?
Two obvious places are through where you live and through your workplace/college course. Although many people find many friends in this way, there's no reason why you should. You could narrow it down to people you know you'll have something in common with by joining a club or society to do with something that interests you.
Think about how you would prefer people to be with you - wouldn't you like someone to come up and talk to you? - and be like that with others. Make other people feel good. Don't put them down. Anyone can talk - good listeners are much rarer. Ask others about themselves. Ask them for help or advice - people love to feel valued. You will be a good mate if you learn to listen and to ask questions (two skills that are also very useful when you're learning or working, by the way). Click here to read about Tony's experiences of making friends.
And remember, what it was like at school. At one point, you probably thought you'd never make friends there too. These things take time. It's a fact. Especially when everyone is concentrating so hard on being cool. Drop your guard, occasionally. What's the worse that can happen? People who are quick to laugh at others are only doing it so nobody will laugh at them.
See moving out as an opportunity to broaden your existing network of friends rather than replace it. The less reliant you are on one circle of friends the better. Just talking to people in shops can make you feel part of the community and local projects are always desperate for volunteers so you'll probably be welcomed with open arms.
How do I deal with problems with housemates?
Wayne had some problems with housemates. It's not unusual. House-sharing is not as easy as it looks on Big Brother! If you ignore these things and carry on living in the house, you're going to be very happy. It's best to deal with a problem face to face (not with rude notes) and promptly (otherwise your flatmate's tendency to leave the grill dirty or the ironing board out may become a habit). A few clear ground rules right from the start may not sound cool but housemate problems are even less cool and ground rules make life easier for everyone, especially someone new to the house.
How do I cope with money worries?
Budget before moving into your new place to make sure you can afford it. List monthly income against expenditure. You need to be honest about how much you're going to spend and if you know there are going to be problems reconsider the move. Once you have moved, it's easy to record your income and expenditure as you go - especially if you have a spread sheet on your computer.
Banks and credit card companies love to lend money because that's how they make money. Having a credit card is not a badge of success but a sign that you need credit. Only get one if you can pay it off each month. Increasing numbers of successful people, especially busy ones, don't bother with credit cards as it's so easy to forget to make your repayment.
Check your bank statements. It will help you see where your money is going but may also save you money. Banks regularly make mistakes. (Another good reason to keep your own records.)
Money problems snowball very quickly is neglected so sort things out sooner rather than later.
If you get into trouble, the Citizen's Advice Bureau give excellent money advice and there is a comprehensive list of who can help (for those in England and Wales) on their site.
How do I cope with revision and exams?
Exams are a big deal but equally if you don't get the results you want, life will go on. Remembering this may help make them less stressful. The better your preparation, the better your revision and exam performance will be. So check:
- exactly when, where and how long each exam is.
- what exam carries what mark and what percentage is course-work.
- exactly what areas each exam covers (very important otherwise you may revise the wrong topics)
- you have all your notes and books
- past exam papers so you know the style of question - eg. multiple-choice or essay based - and type of answer required.
- if you have any exam timetable clashes and how to resolve them.
- you have somewhere quiet to revise.
Use this information to plan your revision timetable. Don't spend ages worrying over something that carries only 2 marks. If coursework is 80% of the final mark, make sure your coursework is as good as you can get it.
Make a simple revision plan you can stick to with a daily schedule including sensible breaks and meals. Mix your strong and weak subjects up on your timetable. Set targets you know you can reach and tick them off as you hit them. (This will make you feel you're getting somewhere)
If your plan goes wrong re-schedule but don't spend more time revising your revision timetable than actually working! Keep it simple. Working with others is good for mutual support and sharing ideas and it makes a change from working by yourself.
Follow our rules of revision.
During the actual exam, read all the instructions carefully so you know how many questions to answer, what they're worth and which ones are compulsory. Read all the questions rather than leaping on the first one you spot. Plan what order you'll answer the questions in and how long you'll have for each.
Answers the questions set, not the ones you'd hoped to see. Keep to the point. If you're running out of time, list what you would have included in your answer - that way you should still score some marks.
What do I do if I get a panic attack during an exam?
If you find yourself really panicking in an exam, or you want to relieve the tension in your neck and shoulders, try this emergency relaxation technique.
- plant feet squarely on the floor, so shins are at right angles to thighs
- drop your hands loosely onto your lap
- consciously lower your shoulders and put them back so you're sitting upright
- close your eyes
- imagine your body is transparent and filled with a warm liquid in a soothing colour. This liquid is going to be forced gently from your body.
- breathe in, counting to 4 slowly, hold the breath for a slow count of 4, then breathe out slowly again counting to 4. As you breathe out, imagine the liquid being forced gently out of your fingers and toes from the space that is appearing in your head and upper body as you let the air go. The part of your body from which the liquid has drained will feel light and free of tension. After breathing out, count to 4 slowly before breathing in again.
- repeat this 5 times, imagining you're forcing out an equal amount of the warm liquid each time.
Practice it at home when you're not stressed so you're comfortable doing it. It works and it can save you from panicking.
Page created on November 3rd, 2003
Page updated on January 21st, 2010