Our Getting Off To A Good Start Guide is a collection of tips and advice for new or returning students who want to start the year as best they can. Originally a print guide, it is now a series of interlinked blog posts that you can bookmark and return to at any point and resume reading. Living online, the guide is constantly updated. This section deals with looking after yourself whilst you study.
Getting off to a good start academically is half the battle.
The other half is making sure you are looking after yourself as a person.
This is multi-faceted and involves self-care, managing existing health conditions and keeping yourself socially connected.
Engage in self-care
Self-care refers to the intentional and ongoing actions that individuals take to maintain their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It is about recognising that your choices, decisions, actions and attitudes do influence your outcomes and taking responsibility to change them for the better. It is caring for your body and mind……you need them both to study successfully.
When I was in my early 20’s, if someone gave me a document on ‘self-care’, I probably would have scoffed and thrown it in the bin. The reason being that I was reasonably healthy and happy, doing OK in my studies, and had little reason to think about allocating mental energy to caring for myself in such a deliberate way.
Now that I am older, the story is different. I have aches and pains, conditions that need treating. I am prone to getting tired and rundown and cranky. I now appreciate that if I am going to be effective at my job, and effective as a friend, family member and citizen of the community, I have to be deliberate and focused in looking after my body and mind. That took me many years to realise, but you may have already realised it, if you’ve battled at all with illness, injury or significant life events.
There are many aspects to self-care. Some are familiar and include the well-worn but still highly relevant advice of getting regular sleep, eating nutritious food, exercising regularly and building positive relationships. Others are a little more abstract and include finding meaning/purpose and increasing your self-awareness. All of them are focused on equipping you to handle the challenges of everyday life as well as take advantage of the many opportunities afforded to us by studying at uni.
I’ve pulled a bunch of these strategies into a single ‘self-care’ document, so……….
Access and read our ‘Self-care Mega Guide”. Some of the advice in there repeats what is in this document, but there are a whole lot of other strategies worth considering as well.
Now, if like me in my 20’s, you are scoffing at the concept of self-care, I totally understand. All I ask is that you consider the possibility that you could make significant improvements to your study capacity and wellbeing, by implementing just 1 or 2 self-care strategies.
And if you decide not to focus on your self-care, remember you can always return to these strategies at a future date, if you feel you need to enhance your overall performance and wellbeing.
Ensure any known health or mental health conditions are being well managed
It is commonplace for students to have existing ongoing health and mental health conditions prior to starting their studies.
If those conditions are poorly managed, it can add to the stress of study.
‘Managing’ a health condition means having things in place (e.g. medications, regular counselling or GP appointments, self-care) that help alleviate the primary symptoms of the health/ mental health condition or manage their impact.
As you start your university degree, ask yourself whether you are managing your health condition well. If not, consider contacting your primary health professional or use one of ours to review your treatment/ management options.
You might also consider having a chat to one of our Disability Advisors to find out whether you might be able to access some additional supports at university as a result of your health/mental health condition. This is done through an ‘Access Plan’ which entitles you to some pre-determined adjustments to your degree that will assist you in getting through (e.g. extra time in exams). Disability advisors will also keep you updated on programs and opportunities specifically for students with disability.
Many students with health conditions don’t associate themselves as ‘having a disability’ but the term ‘disability’ applies to a wide range of conditions: acquired brain injuries, autism spectrum disorders, hearing or vision impairments, mental health and neurological conditions, medical conditions, physical/mobility difficulties, and specific learning disabilities.
If you have an existing and ongoing health/ mental health condition that you believe will impact your ability to do your studies, contact Disability Services to see whether some additional supports might be available to you. Visit their website and/or contact them via email (email@example.com) if you have questions or wish to make an appointment.
Try not to isolate yourself
We want you to feel part of the Flinders Community.
Admittedly, the Flinders Community is 28000+ people so it might take a little bit of searching to find your place in it.
Students who become socially isolated typically do worse both academically and personally – so ensure you allocate time and effort to developing and maintaining supportive relationships.
Start with Orientation activities which run well into the first semester. Try to get along to a few events (face-to-face or online). You might meet someone that you end up meeting again in one of your lectures, who is doing the same degree as you and might become a regular person in your life.
When lectures start, one of our counsellors suggested “sit next to someone, say hello/introduce yourself, put yourself out there even if you feel shaky doing it…do this in the first two weeks!”.
The truth is everyone is feeling a bit freaked out in their first lectures, so a smile and a hello will be greatly appreciated.
As the year progresses keep your eyes and ears open to the many opportunities the university provides for social connection: clubs, college-specific events, professional development events, as well as connections within your topics/courses (e.g. study groups).
One of the services that HCDS manages is called Oasis. It is a community centre on the Bedford Park Campus where you can meet new people, access different programs and services, chat to a volunteer or chaplain. It is a place where new connections are made. It is particularly popular with international students because of the conversation and networking groups that are run there.
Finally, don’t forget your social networks outside of university. Just between you and me, I connected with virtually no-one in my first 3 years of university, but I had friends and a partner outside of university that provided the support I needed. This is particularly the case for students who are studying primarily online or remotely and have fewer opportunities for campus-based interactions.
How much you socialise is totally up to you. Introverts might need less social time, extroverts more. It isn’t the number of friends you have or the time spent with them. It is about feeling like you belong in the incredibly diverse Flinders Community.
Find at least one avenue for social connection during your time at university: a friend or friends that you attend lectures with, a study group, a club that you join, a professional development program that you attend.
Section reflection 🤔
What aspects of your health and wellbeing do you already know you’ll need to pay attention to as the year gets busier?
Sections of the guide 📘
- Know your way around
- Getting off to a good start with your studies
- Know what is involved in being a successful student
- Allocate an appropriate amount of time to your studies
- Use evidence-based study techniques
- Use available services for study tips, writing and assignments
- Tackle procrastination directly
- Know your advocates
- Get off to a good start by looking after yourself
- Engage in self-care
- Ensure any known health or mental health conditions are being well managed
- Try not to isolate yourself
- Familiarise yourself with the support environment
- Further reading
- Final words