Your checklist for university

As our latest Guest Blogger said, “Recovery is a mindset, and it’s possible to cultivate it wherever you are.”
This is a reminder that a big part of recovery involves holding yourself accountable to your goals and taking proactive steps towards creating an environment that fosters your recovery.

Right now, many people are preparing to move to university. It’s a huge milestone – one that symbolizes a transition into a chapter in life where you may enjoy new independence, freedom, and feel more in touch with your personal values and academic interests.

But with the transition comes an adjustment to a new routine and environment. As Paula, our Senior Dietitian, recently said,

“Eating at university is no different from eating at home. It’s just different pressures that come into play. We have to plan for how we’ll resist those pressures by asking, how will I honour my recovery plan?”

So, here’s a checklist for you to consider ahead of your move:

1) Register with a GP or your university’s medical centre

Registering with a GP (and a dentist!) should be your first port of call. When you register, make sure to tell them about what you’re going through, what your challenges or concerns are, and they will be able to refer you to the local service as necessary.

This link will help you to location a GP near your university halls.

2) Inform your university of your eating disorder

There are lots of ways a university can support you in recovery. Whilst you may never even need their support, it’s good to have it as a precaution, rather than waiting until things are challenging.

Whilst the type and degree of support will differ from university to university, there are 3 main ways:

  1. Speaking to your Personal Tutor
  2. Liaising with the university Wellbeing Department
  3. Speaking with the Disability Advisory Service (DSA)

Eating disorders are considered a disability under the Equality Act and, as such, universities have an obligation to provide reasonable adjustments to supports students who disclose their eating disorder. While you may not consider your eating disorder to be a disability, having a conversation with the DSA team is the first step to understanding what help and support is available to you.

Your Personal Tutor is the dedicated point-person for your wellbeing and academic needs. These individuals will be assigned to you upon arrival and will be able to help you navigate the services available.

Many universities can offer free counselling to students via the Student Wellbeing Department. We’d recommend reaching out to this department upon arrival so you are on their radar.

3) Consider what help you can take with you

Have a list of support services on your phone. These may include:

  • Beat, the eating disorder charity. They have a helpline and numerous online support groups
  • Nightline is a student-run listening service specifically for students. Click this link to find your Nightline
  • Student Minds has numerous resources and support groups available
  • There may also be some local eating disorder charities in your area who can offer support. For instance, First Steps is based in the East Midlands and offers a variety of services

4) Know your foundations

Foundations are the basic, every-day things you need to keep you safe. This might include sleep, a meal plan, take space away from the hustle and bustle, perhaps medication. We have to honour our foundations when we move to university and take time to attune to our needs in the moment.

Pippa, our Yoga and Body Awareness Therapist, recommends attuning to your needs via the following questions:

  • What does my head say?
  • What does my heart say?
  • What does my body say?

The next step is granting yourself permission to assert your needs by enforcing boundaries. Boundaries are what we set so that we don’t reach out limit. They protect our energy and keep us feeling safe and present in even the most turbulent of times.

5) Know where/when you may need additional help

Be honest with yourself and your loved ones (i.e. a parent or a close friend) about what you might struggle with at university. You might want to note these down and come up with manageable next steps whenever these situations arise.

For instance, you might find food shopping really overwhelming and struggle to select foods that will support your recovery. Instead of winging it, write yourself a shopping list and be specific about what items you’ll buy. Have a back-up option in case those items aren’t available.

You can read Paula’s tips for writing a shopping list here.

Most importantly…

Keep in mind that it will take time to adjust and find your feet, and that is totally okay. You’re allowed to pace yourself. The most important thing is that you’re honest about the challenges you’re facing and that you grant yourself permission to seek support for those challenges.

You’re human and putting your hand up to say ‘I need help’ is such a testament to your commitment to yourself.

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