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Student Health Dunedin|Mental and Physical Health

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

Welcome to Dunedin! Whether it's your first or final year I hope it's going to be a great one. Every student who moves to Dunedin needs a doctor and to know how to take care of their mind and body so they can enjoy life and be successful in your academic studies.


Being a Dunedin resident, a doctor and mum to a uni student, I want to share some important student health essentials for your health and well-being while studying in Dunedin.


LET'S GO | MIND | BODY | FUEL | FITNESS | SEX | ALCOHOL


Healthy MIND


Maintaining good mental health is a huge part of student life in Dunedin. All university students are under pressure and stress, and need to be proactive about your mental wellbeing.


Stress, anxiety, and depression are the most common mental health conditions among tertiary students. Here are some important ways to support your mental health.


Student Health Dunedin, Mental and Physical Health, Otepoti Integrative Health

Difficulty Sleeping


Sleep is a major health issue for university and polytech students. I get it, you study late, sleep in, and party hard. You also might be unable to sleep at times due to worry about deadlines and exams.


A lack of sleep and difficulty falling asleep negatively impacts other aspects of your life, including your mood, your resilience to cope with stress, your academic performance.


To get a better night's sleep:

  • Keep a regular bed and wake time

  • Avoid caffeine after lunch

  • Limit screen time before sleep or use a blue light blocker on your computer or device

  • Exercise during the day

  • Get sunlight exposure in the morning

  • Try mindfulness or relaxation exercises while in bed

  • Melatonin can be helpful when used a few hours before bedtime

Homesickness


Missing family and friends can cause feelings of homesickness upon arriving in Dunedin or you might actually not feel home sick at all until you become unwell or become more stressed.


If this is your first real time living away from home, you need to know it's totally normal to feel homesick. Make time to stay connected with your loved ones back home, while at the same time reaching out to make new friends and doing activities that you enjoy.


If your homesickness is interfering with your studies talk to student health as you may benefit from counselling and other support.


Exam stress


Exam stress can be quite overwhelming and take its toll on your mental health. It's important to recognise that no matter how hard you're working, it is normal to feel stressed during exams. Having a plan in place can help with reducing the stress levels.


Tips include:

  • Stay on top of your workload: Attend lectures, stud as you go and don't fall behind.

  • Plan ahead: Think about what you need to do now , and what you can do later.

  • Organise your study environment: Have everything you need in one place

  • Balance your workload by breaking down what you need to learn into manageable chunks and prioritise the things that need to be done first

  • Take regular breaks: Breaks allow for time to process information, have a snack or something to drink

  • Stay connected: It’s important to keep in touch with family and friends

  • Get some exercise each day: a 20 min walk or jog will give you some fresh air, get you in nature and reset your stress hormones.

Don't forget to reach out for support when you need it. You can talk to your GP, student health or a counsellor. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you are feeling overwhelmed. Good luck and make sure you look after yourself!


Hobbies, Activities and Clubs


Extracurricular activities can enrich and enhance your life as well as your mental wellbeing. They are a great way to find friends with similar interests and learn new skills. They can also help you to say active if you join a sports team or get you out into nature both of which are beneficial for your mental health.


Find out more about clubs, activities and events at Otago University Students Association OUSA.


OUSA otago university student's association, otepoti integrative health,

Sunlight and vitamin D


If you have moved south to Dunedin, one thing you need to know about Dunedin is that over winter - which is long, there is often low UV and light lux from the sun as well as shorted light exposure due to shorter days.


This impacts on your mental health in 2 ways:

  • Your vitamin D levels drop off between May to October, because the sun's UV is consistently below 3 - the level required by the body to activate vitamin D.

  • Low exposure to light during winter disrupts your circadian rhythm and alters mood in many people, resulting in low mood during the low light winter months.

If you find your mood is suffering during the winter months supplementing with vitamin D between May and October can help. Additionally light therapy with exposure to early morning sun and using a light lamp with at least 10,000 lux for 30 minutes daily before 10 am can support your circadian rhythm and mood.


Get Help


If you do experience low mood, anxiety or are struggling to cope with your studies start by talking to someone. Reach out to a friend or your family to talk about how you are feeling.


Student support services can help you negotiate extensions for your assignments if you are struggling.


And remember, mental health support is available to all students in Dunedin via:

Support can be accessed via a variety of helplines:

  • The Depression Helpline (0800 111 757)

  • Healthline (0800 611 116)

  • Lifeline (0800 543 354)

  • Samaritans (0800 726 666)

  • Youthline (0800 376 633) txt 234 or talk@youthline.co.nz

  • Alcohol Drug Helpline (0800 787 797).

There are also some excellent online mental health support sites including:


Healthy BODY


Your physical health is important for your academic and social lives. Eating healthy, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and staying hydrated are all key components of a healthy lifestyle that can help you body remain well and reduce your chances of infections while at university.


Read more about the 6 pillars of lifestyle medicine.


There are some important health issues you should be aware of that are common among students due to living and studying in close proximity to each other.


Common illnesses


The common cold, flu, and sore throats are common, yet annoying health issues that are very prevalent on university campus. Living in close proximity and spending time with hundreds of other students in labs and lectures increases the risk of spreading these illnesses to each other, as we've learnt during those years with Covid.


If you are unwell, it’s important to practice self-care:

  • get plenty of rest and sleep.

  • drink plenty of water

  • use simple pain relief to manage pain or fever.

Also make sure you are avoiding close contact with others and get tested for Covid-19, before returning to classes or work.


If you are uncertain if you should see a doctor, call healthline on 0800 611 116 for free health advice.


Meningitis


Meningitis is a serious illness that can have potentially fatal consequences. Meningococcal bacteria are commonly carried in the nose and throat, and do not usually cause disease.

There are sometimes outbreaks of meningitis among student populations due to ease of transferring the bacteria between people through contact with saliva such as:

  • kissing

  • sharing cups and drink bottles

  • coughing, sneezing or laughing.

If you are living in a hall of residence or flatting situation you can consider getting Bexsero vaccine to prevent against Meningococcal B infection. You can also get Menactra which protects against meningococcal A, C, Y and W.


It is funded by PHARMAC for people living in boarding school hostels, or in tertiary education halls of residence from 1 March 2023.


Scabies


Scabies is an itchy skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin. In 2022 there was a significant outbreak among student flats in Dunedin. If you get an itchy rash see your doctor as soon as you can to get treatment for you and your flat mates to try and eradicate scabies.


Everyone in the flat should be treated together and your bedding needs to be hot washed and changed.


Hopefully you will stay well during your school year in Dunedin.

Read more about how to stay well in STUDENT HEALTH DUNEDIN Part 2:



Dr Deb Brunt @ Ōtepoti Integrative Health and supports students with a holistic approach to your health and wellbeing.


She is a GP who practices lifestyle and integrative medicine in New Zealand and Health coaching internationally. She has a passion for supporting student wellbeing holistically with their health challenges to help them succeed with their studies and experience a joyful life.


Schedule a free health discovery call or clinic appointment with her online.


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