How to get health and wellbeing support as a student

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Starting university comes with fresh challenges, so here’s how to find the help you need

How to get health and wellbeing support as a student

Going to university can be an exciting time. With the chance to focus on a subject you love, make friends, and try new experiences, many find student life enjoyable and fulfilling. But starting university can also be daunting. And if you have a mental health problem, or another health condition, it can be even harder to adjust to student life.

Thankfully, there’s lots of support available to help you make the most of your time at university. Here’s how to access it.

Speak to the disability team

Often, the first port of call is speaking to the disability team at your university. This service is there for students with any additional needs, including mental health conditions, dyslexia, sensory impairments, and physical disabilities. They are used to supporting people, so don’t be nervous about approaching them.

It’s best if you can reach out to them before you start, to make sure they can arrange support from your first day, but don’t worry if you’ve already started – they are available to help you anytime.

Disability teams often have disability advisors who you can meet with to talk through what’s known as ‘reasonable adjustments’. This, for example, could mean they recommend you get extra time on exams, because you have a condition that affects your reading or concentration.

Your university’s website should have the contact details for the disability team, as well as info about what they provide.

Apply for Disabled Students’ Allowance

You may be eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). This is additional funding that helps cover extra costs of being a disabled student – including having a support worker, or help towards the cost of equipment.

What you get depends on your individual circumstances – you have to fill in a form and have an assessment to decide what would be best for you. There’s more information about DSA at gov.uk.

Don’t worry if you feel daunted by the application process, the disability team at your university will be able to help.

Speak to someone

If you’re struggling, it’s OK to reach out. Lecturers and staff are used to helping, whether you’re finding it hard living in halls or are overwhelmed by work. And if you’re worried about deadlines or feel stressed, letting your lecturers know means they can be more understanding. Sometimes, having a chat is enough to make you feel better. They may also be able to suggest practical ideas to help.

Universities usually have their own counselling service for students, offering the chance talk about anything that’s troubling you. Check your university’s website or speak to the student support team to find out what’s available where you are.

You may also find that your university runs wellbeing sessions that are open to all students. These can cover things like dealing with stress or learning mindfulness, and are worth checking out.

Support from your students’ union

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Down to Earth: what are the wellbeing benefits of gardening?

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Explore the glory of gardening, and how it can help sow the seeds of wellness

Down to Earth: what are the wellbeing benefits of gardening?

It was May 2022. My first batch of parsnip seeds failed to germinate because it was too cold. Slugs had eaten the first leaves of the runner beans that I had planted two weeks before. The courgettes had suffered the same fate. My plans for the year were wrecked by a seemingly unsympathetic nature. Welcome to the world of gardening for absolute beginners! It’s good for you, honestly.

I was 35 when I got a garden. I possessed only a rudimentary knowledge of plants, seasons (plant in spring, harvest in autumn), and crop rotation, but was keen to learn more and to experiment, knowing that failure would occur. And indeed it did. Repeatedly.

Some of my thoughts were surreal. In my mind I could bargain with the ‘King of Slugs’, and provide him with a humble offering of a broccoli plant that would satiate his kind, allowing me to harvest the rest of my produce in relative peace. He betrayed my trust in what turned out to be a Faustian bargain, and he also allied himself with the cabbage butterflies to further wreak havoc on my small, defenceless, vegetable kingdom.

However, each disaster brought me back to the drawing board. Some issues such as yellowing (under- or over-watering, or a lack of nutrients) or infestation can be identified. But in a similar manner to much that will happen to you in life, sometimes there is no clear explanation for misfortune. Depending on your outlook, it is either cosmic chance, a Gaian malaise, a Darwinian struggle on the micro-scale, divine intervention, or just plain bad luck. And you have to resiliently accept this, and either adapt quickly, or try again next year while being as stoic as you can.

But remember, you are not alone in this struggle, and of course, each disaster will lead to a profusion of opinions about what you did wrong, and what to do again, and may lead to some conversation on non-Covid/cost of living/environment/Ukraine issues.

I have pleasantly chatted about the difference between ‘second earlies’ and ‘main crop’ potatoes. I have been provided with divergent ways to ripen green tomatoes. “Put them in a brown paper bag and leave them on a radiator,” one person said. “Move your tomato plants into the living room,” said another.

Colleagues who never discussed gardening before, and who I thought had no interest in the subject, have told me that broken egg shells or a spray bottle filled with cayenne pepper can deter slugs. Ever discussed parsnips with a man who owns beehives? I have. If someone asks what you did at the weekend, tell them you planted something. I would wager that they will take an interest.

The day I was asked by a friend when her dad should plant his potatoes, my heart could have burst with pride. “Are they first earlies, second earlies, or main crop?” I sagely enquired. There are also numerous Men’s Sheds (menssheds.org.uk) and local allotment groups on the internet that would be willing to help you.

Down to Earth: what are the wellbeing benefits of gardening?

Of course, trying to grow plants in itself is a valuable ecological lesson. You can see that, without direct intervention, many of our food crops are so vulnerable and require the near c

Rest to recover: Grace Victory on the power of giving yourself a break

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Society conditions us to think that we must always keep going, that fortune favours the busy, and to applaud the relentless hustlers. But columnist Grace Victory is here to share the real urgency, and necessity, to cut yourself some slack. This is your rallying call to rest – you deserve it

Rest to recover: Grace Victory on the power of giving yourself a break

Recently, I’ve found myself trying to rest, but then immediately telling myself to ‘just’ unload the washing, to ‘just’ put that pile of stuff away, to ‘just’ reply to one last email, to ‘just’ sort out Cyprus’s bag for tomorrow… There’s always just one more thing. My mind tells me to keep going when my body is screaming to just stop.

I think rest is complicated for a lot of us, including myself. It’s not necessarily about feeling as if rest isn’t deserved, but more about believing other things are more important. Or, sometimes, it’s simply the fact that our to-do list is nowhere near finished, and the thought of going to bed to wake up to the shit we ‘should’ve’ done before going to sleep is counter-productive.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe our need to feel productive stops us from being able to slow down. However, if the past two years have taught me anything it’s that resting when needed and when called to do so, is probably one of the most productive things we can do for ourselves.

Within the Western world, we have normalised constantly doing, moving, and working so much that rest, recovery, and rejuvenation is few and far between. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is a great example of the state of our society, but things are slowly changing – and rightly so. Our wellbeing is in the gutter, we are more burnt out than ever, and if we aren’t in despair at our government, we are in despair at global crises, and you know what? Something simply has to give.

Rest to recover: Grace Victory on the power of giving yourself a break

The grind culture isn’t fulfilling us anymore, and working nine-to-five with little to show for it doesn’t seem as acceptable as it once did. We want more. We deserve more. We’re demanding more, and I’m here for it.

But I also think we deserve a little more love and compassion from ourselves, too. We need to recognise that, actually, sleeping five hours a night, skipping breakfast, and binge drinking on the weekend, is taking its toll, and maybe we need to pause, slow down, and stop filling every waking moment with ‘stuff’. That it’s healthy and empowering to have moments within our lives that are quiet, somewhat boring, and unhurried.

I really recommend reclaiming rest and making it something you actually enjoy, because rest looks different for everyone, and different circumstances will require a different form of relaxing, too! Sometimes you just need to forget about everything and go to sleep. Other times you might only need a break from work, so going on a walk to listen to a podcast with an iced coffee would benefit you better. Maybe it’s a hot bath? Maybe it’s dropping your

10 new things to try in October to benefit your wellbeing

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From connecting with nature to a film about a rock ‘n’ roll legend, and a podcast that’ll inspire you to make a change, try something new with our enriching suggestions

1. Page-turners

10 new things to try in October to benefit your wellbeing

You Need To Hear This: 365 Days Of Silly, Honest Advice You Need Right Now by Chronicle

It’s the pocket-sized agony aunt you never knew you needed, and this trusty book comes with 365 pieces of advice, affirmations, and jokes for your everyday conundrums. It’ll help to keep you grounded when anxiety strikes, or just provide you with a chuckle when you need it the most.

(Chronicle Books, £12.99)

2. Out and about

Make a pine cone bird feeder

There can be less food on the ground for birds to feed on during autumn, but, fortunately, September is the month that pine cones start to fall. Use this opportunity to connect with nature and make a pine cone bird feeder for your feathered friends. Head outdoors and select your pine cone, then simply spread peanut butter over the scales and dip or roll it in bird seed.

(Visit countryhillcottage.com for more inspiration)

10 new things to try in October to benefit your wellbeing

3. Act of kindness

Regift your Happiful magazine

Are you guilty of throwing away your magazines once you’ve finished reading them? If so, try passing on the kindness by dropping off a magazine to your nearest and dearest, or offer to donate it to a local salon or doctor’s surgery so they can make use of it in the waiting rooms. That way, your magazine can be enjoyed by others over and over again – and remember Happiful is recyclable!

4. Lend us your ears

‘The Climate Question’

How can oceans help us capture carbon? How does climate change affect our mental health? These are just a few of the questions discussed by BBC specialists in this informative podcast about climate change. If you’re worried about the planet, and have questions that you want answered, give this a listen.

(Available on all platforms)

5. Plugged-In

Tales of Eleanor

If you’re looking to break free from a heavy news cycle, meet the hedgehog who’s injecting Instagram with doses of positivity, one paw at a time. The wholesome, hand-drawn illustrations explore the daily struggles of a hedgehog, each with their own reminder to slow down and take a moment.

What is orthosomnia (and is it ruining your sleep)?

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Between smart watches tracking our sleeping patterns, apps to help us calm down before bed, alarms set via our home assistants, and dozens more modern tricks and tips we may be trying to help achieve that ‘better’ nights sleep, could we actually be causing ourselves more stress?

What is orthosomnia (and is it ruining your sleep)?

Technology has become an intrinsic part of our lives. Most of us would be hard-pressed to remember the last time we were more than a few feet away from our smartphone or smartwatch. We’ve got tech that can help predict depression, tech to help address alcohol dependency, endless apps to help us get organised, ease our stress and get a better night’s sleep. Tech even helps us stay on track and keep our motivation levels high when we’re struggling at work. Yet, could some forms of tech be causing us more stress than good?

Missing out on our much-needed rest and relaxation doesn’t just make us feel tired - our lack of sleep can be bad for our health. Along with feeling grumpy and not working to our full potential, not catching enough z’s leaves one in three of us feeling more stressed, on edge and less focused. According to the NHS, regular poor sleep puts us at risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and a shorter life expectancy.

Typically, we need eight hours of good-quality sleep to function properly. If you find yourself waking up tired or longing to catch a quick catnap, chances are, you aren’t getting enough sleep.

While it’s hard to deny the benefits of a good night’s sleep, do we really need the endless stream of sleep tech gadgets the market is trying to sell to us? Or could our obsession with sleep trackers be leading to a rise in insomnia and orthosomnia?

What is orthosomnia (and is it ruining your sleep)?

What is orthosomnia?

You may have heard of orthorexia - a rise in ‘clean eating’ that has led to a condition bearing all the hallmarks of a new type of eating disorder which sees individuals obsessed with the ‘purity’ of what they are eating. Orthosomnia is a new term being used to describe an unhealthy obsession doctors have started seeing, where people focus on getting a ‘healthy’ amount of sleep.

As Dr Abbot explains to Health, “We realised we had a number of patients coming in with a phenomenon that didn’t necessarily meet the classical description of insomnia, but that was still keeping them up at night. They seemed to have symptoms related to concerns about what their sleep-tracker devices were telling them, and whether they were getting good quality sleep or not. They were actually destroying their sleep by becoming so dependent upon these devices.”

In some cases, we are becoming mo

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