Hi again! Paris here, back with some more tips to getting through the cold winter months. This time we’re tackling all things health. My friends will tell you that I have been pretty unlucky this winter and got sick quite a lot! I’ve got a lot of experience on how to recover quickly and attempt to stave off another illness, so here are my tips and tricks on how to *try* and stay well this winter. 

My mum is a nutritionist, and so when one of us is sick the first medicine she tries is food. Most of the time it works! Eating healthy in winter and making sure you’re getting all the right vitamins and minerals is incredibly important. Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits and colourful vegetables (peppers, broccoli…) is the ultimate sickness-fighting vitamin. Vitamin D is something that a lot of us don’t get enough of in winter due to the dreary British weather, and so the British Heart Foundation recommends that we take an additional Vitamin D supplement during these dark months. I personally take a daily Vitamin D spray , but there are many alternatives you can find in Boots or other healthcare shops.  

But other than focusing on the vitamins, making sure you’re cooking hearty meals in the wintertime not only improves health but improves my mood too. Soups, stews and curries are cost-effective, warming meals that can contain tons of veg. My current favourite soup to make is a thai sweet potato and carrot soup with chicken and mushrooms – it’s a warm, spicy dish that’s packed full of nutrients and tastes delicious!  

Thai sweet potato and carrot soup

I firmly believe that having a good breakfast makes the rest of my day good too. Yet as we’re all very busy students who need our sleep, it’s really tempting to just grab some toast and run to campus. I’ve been making these cheap and easy blueberry and banana muffins from a modified Deliciously Ella recipe, and with some peanut butter these aren’t just a low-cost breakfast but a really filling one too! They’re also accidentally vegan and full of antioxidants in the blueberries, so are perfect for your Veganuary goals and getting a vitamin boost with your breakfast. My recipe below will provide you with an easy, healthy and very tasty alternative to toast to prep at the beginning of each week.  

Blueberry and Banana Muffins 

To make 6 (total £1.10, Morrisons price ref.): 

  • 100g Self Raising Flour  
  • 40g Caster Sugar 
  • 1.5 tbsp Milk (I use Almond) 
  • 1.5 tbsp Vegetable Oil  
  • 2 Bananas  
  • 75g Frozen Blueberries 
  1. Preheat oven 180C. 
  1. Mush 1.5 of your bananas with a fork. 
  1. Add the wet ingredients into the banana mixture and combine. 
  1. Add your dry ingredients and combine into a batter. 
  1. Mix in your blueberries. 
  1. Scoop into muffin cases and place a slice of banana on top. 
  1. Bake for 30 mins until golden! 
My blueberry muffins

Other than eating well, exercise is annoyingly also pretty important to keeping healthy. With a lot of us making New Year’s resolutions and starting a variation of the ‘75 Hard’ challenge (I’m doing 75 soft!), by the end of January the motivation to go to the gym everyday may have vanished. That’s why consistency is key when it comes to exercising. Whether you’re picking back up again from before Christmas or you’re completely new to it, moving your body in any way at least once a day is really important to get those endorphins going. In Exeter, this is actually very achievable!  

Campus is around a 40-minute round trip from my house, and so just going there and back for class, studying, or the trek to the Sports Park is exercise in itself. This also gets the bulk of your 10,000 steps in, which although arbitrary is a good method of tracking how much movement you’re managing a day.  

Joining a gym can be pretty intimidating; I definitely suffered from gym anxiety when I first started going. I would honestly recommend starting with both of the uni gyms (but particularly Streatham Sports Park) as really good gyms to try out. Because of how big Streatham gym is, it’s a lot easier to find your own mat or treadmill and ignore what everyone else is doing. It’s also really nice being mainly surrounded by students, and of course getting gym outfit inspo is a bonus too. 

At the gym!

Or if you’d prefer a small gym instead, the St Luke’s gym only has a capacity of 30 people, meaning you’re more than likely to find yourself basically alone in there if you time it right. On the iExeter app, there’s a live availability feature that tells you how full each gym is at that time. It also isn’t up a massive hill, so if that puts you off of the Streatham gym then there’s a perfect alternative at St Luke’s.  

With the Exeter uni gym membership you get access to both gyms, and if you want you can also choose the membership which includes classes. Although I personally don’t, going to fitness classes like Pilates or HIIT can be another form of motivation to exercise if you’re paying that bit extra, or if you’ve signed up for one of the limited places that day. It’s also a good way to meet some new friends to get brunch with after! 

As I mentioned earlier, we really don’t get enough Vitamin D in winter due to the lack of British sun. But on those days when it’s not raining, getting outside the house and going for a walk can really help lift your mood, and will in turn improve health too! Exeter is stunning in the winter too, and the fresh air definitely beats a stuffy campus classroom. Just make sure to wrap up warm in case the weather turns! 

I found that the times I fell ill last term were almost exclusively around my deadlines. This was incredibly inconvenient and meant I had to edit and submit all my essays when I was sick. But what I learnt from this is that stress is one of the factors that increases chances of falling ill, and so finding ways to destress at these times is crucial for both mental and physical health.  

As an English student there is constant academic reading for me to be doing, and so there is always the temptation to be reading solely for my modules. Making sure I read a book for my own personal pleasure is therefore a way to truly destress and relax, as well as being a good alternative to being on my phone before bed. I’m currently reading The Burning God, the final book in The Poppy War trilogy by R F Kuang, which I would highly recommend. 

Relax with a good book or tv show

Watching a comfort show with a cup of tea and sweet treat is also something that without fail always destresses me. My boyfriend and I are currently watching the new season of Silent Witness which is so good. My housemates and I also have a projector in our lounge where we have movie nights every once in a while. In the most recent we watched Legally Blonde, a classic feel-good movie!  

In the event where I did get sick, it wasn’t just a little cough and cold but a proper week-long bout of tonsillitis, complete with fever dreams and chills. It was at this point that I would ask my boyfriend to take care of me, and he very kindly cooked for me and kept me company when I was feeling sorry for myself! If you aren’t well at some point in the year, it’s important to reach out to your friends, housemates, or even go home if you feel you aren’t able to take care of yourself properly. It’s always nice to have someone looking after you, even if they’re just making you lots of cups of tea! 

My boyfriend’s mac n cheese

If you do need to see a doctor during your time at uni, then luckily the university makes this easier by having the Student Health Centre accessible to all students. If you’re living on Streatham campus you’ll receive a registration form to complete before you arrive, and just need to take it into the Centre which is next to Reed Hall. There is also a list of GPs you can find on the NHS if you want to register elsewhere; if you’re nearer St Luke’s then Heavitree Health Centre is the closest. I’d advise calling up as early as you can to get an appointment! For more information on this, visit https://www.exeterstudenthealthcentre.co.uk/.  

I hope that you stay well this winter, avoid getting sick, and are able to try some of these things that keep you going to spring. As for me, I’ll definitely be making my muffins again that’s for sure!