Food & Drink, Life & Style, University Life

Stress, Sleeplessness and low self-confidence: What you can learn from my first year at university.

Written by Deborah Airey

Last year, I began studying at Leicester. I had just moved into The Pavilions in the Oadby Student Village and the year ahead was looking bright. That was, until, a few short weeks later when the workload and intensity of my course caught up with me. You see, I’m a law student and without droning on about how heavy the workload is for us (as we know that’s probably annoying for other courses to hear), it was far more than I had anticipated. I had taken a year out after finishing my A-Levels to do something completely unrelated to academia, so it’s fair to say that resuming my studies was quite a change.

What I didn’t see coming, was the impact studying would have on my physical and mental health. As well as what seemed like an unattainable amount of required reading, I had the added pressure of building my CV now, or face what seemed like a real possibility of unemployment after graduation. The anxiety over my studies and future consumed all of my energy. I was constantly tired, often seeking refuge in a daily nap. My limited free time led me into poor eating habits and an addiction to sugar. I had low self-confidence. I was so anxious and overwhelmed that I couldn’t sleep at night. I was studying until after midnight some evenings, without a proper break during the day. I rarely had time for myself, let alone time to socialise.

However, don’t despair. I’m pleased to say that since being back at university, I haven’t hit the lows I did this time last year.

Well, what changed?

During lockdown I made significant lifestyle changes. My energy levels have never been so high, my sleep quality never so good, my concentration so immense, and most importantly, my anxiety almost non-existent (because there’s no shame in having bad days). 

What changes am I talking about?

The two words that we want to run away from, that we hate people suggesting because we know it’s true but have no desire to do it: I’m talking about a balanced diet and exercise.

I know. From that dramatic build up you were probably expecting something much more exciting. Unfortunately, when it comes to enhancing our overall wellbeing, diet and exercise play a key and inescapable role. 

Now please don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that this is the formula to cure all physical and mental health issues. If you are struggling, please see a professional. Equally, if you have health issues please consult a doctor before making substantial lifestyle changes. That said, there is indisputable science that a balanced lifestyle will improve your quality of life. You only have to listen to individual stories, such as mine, to realise the truth in that. 

So, where does this leave us. Over the coming months, I will be publishing short articles with hints and tips on how to get fit and have a balanced diet. I know I am not a professional in this field, however, I hope that hearing from someone who went from one extreme to the other will be a source of encouragement. 

Goodbye for now.


Deborah Airey is a second year law student. Since lockdown she uses her spare time to exercise and is passionate about healthy eating. She loves to encourage others in this area.