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How to Overcome Homesickness at Uni

This is something that I really didn’t think I would experience.

I am so independent, and I couldn’t wait to get to uni to have my own freedom to live exactly the way that I wanted to live. BUT in the first few weeks, I felt so homesick that I seriously considered quitting uni altogether. I would get the train back home every weekend, and would absolutely dread it come Sunday when I had to travel back. It’s when you are put in a situation like this that you appreciate all the things and people that you feel lost without.

In my opinion, starting uni is one of the hardest things to do as you become so accustomed to having a long summer off, doing what you want when you want, allowing you to get somewhat complacent, then suddenly September comes and so many changes arrive all at once. It’s not just the moving to a new area, it’s all the things and loved ones you are forced to leave behind, the new friendship groups you have to make, getting accustomed to how uni works (making sure you don’t miss the dreaded 9am 😉 ) and getting involved with that uni lifestyle. On top of this, you have freshers week which as fun as it is, it is very exhausting …sleep deprivation and homesickness definitely do not go hand-in-hand!

To me, homesickness is not a sign of weakness and I think everyone experiences it to a degree when they first start. I think that is where half of the problems occur as people don’t know how to deal with it, and will often turn to other coping mechanisms (especially alcohol) in hope to overcome this, but that is the worst thing to do! I think it’s best to acknowledge it, accept it, and understand it – you will feel like this at times, it’s perfectly normal when going through a major life change such as this.

I’m now in my second year, and I haven’t felt like this at all! I always feel a little lost when I first start uni after summer, due to the extreme contrast of seeing loved ones every day and then suddenly once every three months…But I learned last year how to deal with these feelings and I’d like to share them with you ❤

1. Home is everywhere

If you truly look and are mindful of your surroundings then reminders of home can be found everywhere. I came to uni with stuff that would help me feel connected to home such as photos, ornaments, candles etc, anything that will make you feel grounded.

2. Stay Connected with your Family

I think students think when they come to uni they have to paint a perfect picture to their loved ones that everything is okay, but that is simply not the case. I certainly didn’t, I made it very clear to everyone how I was feeling and they all helped me so much and made me feel very anchored. My mum actually sent me up a mindfulness book to help me overcome this. I was always Facetiming my family, friends, and my pets :’). Use whatever social networking helps you, I used Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat and these all really helped.

3. Talk to your flatmates.

Everyone is in the same boat as you! When I felt bad I would always talk to my flatmates about it. However, I think the key thing here, is that you don’t compare your experience to another’s – we all experience the same event differently, and just because someone may not be feeling as homesick as you, it doesn’t mean they don’t feel it at all.

4. Go home

Failing all of this, then go back home and visit those who you love! Touch base for a few days and you will feel so much better and refreshed on return. Uni will certainly make you realise how much you value your family and friends (and a nice home-cooked roast…make sure you binge on them before you come to uni because they will be very missed :’) ).

Although overcoming homesickness is mostly about finding what works for you, I hope you can adapt some of my tips to help you out! Uni is a great thing to do and it will open up so many doors and opportunities for you – make sure you enjoy every moment, as it will go by quicker than you think.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this was helpful.

Jazzy B ❤

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The Impact of Diet on Mental Health

Yes, food really does affect your mood.

When you think about what effects your mental health, the typical answers are stress, self-esteem, and relationship issues, to name but a few, however, we often underestimate the impact that food has on our mental health. When you consider the science behind it and the growing evidence that food has a greater effect on our mental health than we give credit for, I think we could all check what we are fuelling our bodies with.

There is no doubt that what we eat has an impact on our mental health, this link has been proven repeatedly. A review of studies looking into the issue of diet and mental health found that regular consumption of a Western diet (a diet consisting of highly processed and sugary foods) increased the risk of depression (O’Neil et al., 2014). Moreover, a poor diet is proven to impact biological mechanisms that are commonly associated with depression such as impacting the immune system and altering the levels of certain brain proteins potentially leading to depressive symptoms (O’Neil et al., 2014). This further strengthens the link between diet and mental health.

Moreover, some of the factors that contribute to poor mental health, such as stress, have been proven to influence food preferences. For example, a study by Kandiah, Yake, and Meyer (2006) found that when participants were not exposed to stress they made healthy dietary choices 80% of the time compared to when participants were exposed to stress, which they made healthy food choices only 33% of the time. This highlights an issue, the fact that something like stress can lead to poor mental health, yet when we experience stress we tend to eat unhealthier options, also negatively impacting our mental health. Therefore, healthier dietary choices could break this cycle as evidenced by Ansari, Adetunji, and Oskrochi (2014) who found that when fruit and vegetables weren’t consumed on a regular basis, there was a greater association with experiencing more depressive symptoms for both males and females.

Although there is little research on a diet that has been proven to reduce the likelihood of depressive symptoms and promote better mental health, there have been studies conducted on specific foods. For example, the following foods have all been linked to better mental health when in their raw form; carrots, bananas, apples, dark leafy greens like spinach, grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumber, and kiwifruit (Brookie, Best & Conner, 2018).

I hope you found this an interesting read,

Jazzy B ❤

References:

Kandiah, J., Yake, M., & Meyer, M. (2006). Stress influences appetite and comfort food preferences in college women.  Nutrition Research, 28(1), 118-123. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2005.11.010 

Ansari, W.E, Adetunji, H., Oskrochi, R. (2014). Food and mental health: Relationship between food and perceived stress and depressive symptoms among university students in the United Kingdom. Central European Journal of Public Health, 22(2), 90-97.

O’Neil, A., Quirk, S.E., Houseden, S., Brennan, S.L., Williams, L.J., Pasco, J.A., Berk, M., & Jacka, F.N.(2014). Relationship between diet and mental health in children and adolescents: A Systematic Review. The American Journal of Public Health, 104(10).

Brookie, K.L., Best, G.I., Conner, T.S. (2018). Intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(1). doi: https://doaj.org/article/956172bb66c747b1a3efbf9a4a4d9023