Looking after yourself really comes down to you.
You will come face to face with a whole heap of changes when you make the step from school into the workforce or into further education.
Your day will be a lot longer, you’ll be meeting, mixing and working with new and different people, you might be expected to pay board, rent or to help out your family more, or you may even find yourself in a different part of the world.
There are a bunch of changes heading your way.
You're now responsible for your own health
Of all the changes you face, one of the most important is that you will now need to take much more responsibility for your own health. Going into this really important stage of your life, you actually owe it to yourself to keep as healthy and well as you can. That way you can cope with them and enjoy your new life to the full.
One way to stay on top is to keep up your fitness and interests in sport or other such pursuits. Of course the other side is what we put, pop, push or pour into our mouths. You are at your best when you eat right, and when your ability to think and act is not unduly impaired. It’s called moderation and the better you get at it, the better you’ll be
Here are some tips to help you start thinking about how you and your body can best handle the major changes coming down the pipeline at you when you leave school:
You and your Health Professional
- If you’re planning on being a student, you can enrol with your tertiary institution’s Student Health service. Get yourself a Community Services Card and appointments with Student Health are a lot cheaper.
- Another alternative is to check to see if there’s a Youth One Stop Shop (YOSS) in the town where you will be living; these provide low cost or free health care and advice. See a list of YOSS centres across the country here.
- If you’re going to be living in a hostel, hall of residence, or somewhere else with cramped living quarters and shared facilities like computers, be aware that these can be prime breeding grounds for germs, especially in the winter.
You and your Food
- Get to know the four main food groups and what each does for you. Your body needs all four in regular doses to keep you at your best, so if you can start understanding these, you are off to a great start.
- If you are going to be moving away from home, you’ll most likely be cooking much more than you have before. Keeping a balanced diet will not just be more important but will actually be harder to do. There is not a lot of vitamins in a pack of ramen noodles or Dorito chips. Eat your greens!
- Away from home, watch out for the phenomena known as the ‘fresher five’: the weight that new students or workers who have left school and home can typically gain from a new diet of fast food, alcohol and not a lot of exercise. Actually there is some debate as to whether or not the fresher five actually exists, but the best advice is to do your body and wallet a favour and try to keep takeaways and big drinking sessions as treats.
You and your Drinking
- Once you’re 18 you can legally purchase alcohol. There are still plenty of laws relating to alcohol you need to follow, so just because you can buy it does not mean you are allowed to do anything you like.
- Many people are able to drink and enjoy themselves, but alcohol is a powerful drug that brings its own issues you need to be aware of. It is a depressant that can make your feelings of depression, stress and anxiety much worse.
- Alcohol slows your nervous system and stops you thinking straight and empties your wallet faster than anything else. You can very quickly end up in dodgy situations and do things you wouldn’t otherwise do because of alcohol.
- Ask yourself, if you were sober, would you:
- Drink and drive?
- Be angry, violent and try to start fights or scraps?
- Abuse or take advantage of someone else?
- Spend your money for the next fortnight in one big night out?
- End up in an awkward one-night stand?
- Throw up in the hall?
- Getting so hammered you can’t get up for work in the morning is a really dumb way to lose a job, and if you are studying, making up lost classes is a real waste of time. Don’t let it get in the way of your future.
- There is tons of material about relating to alcohol, drinking cultures and what to do if you think you are or someone else is going too hard. This is a good place to start.
You and Drugs
- Drugs further up the chain fall into a couple of categories, hallucinogens and stimulants. Hallucinogens include ecstasy and LSD or acid, while stimulants include methamphetamine, cocaine and party pills. These are all manufactured and so the reality is that no one really knows what is actually in each.
- Of these, methamphetamine or ‘P’ has had really harmful effects right across New Zealand both short-term and long-term. An incredible amount of the violence and aggression reported in NZ these days is fuelled by P, and many of you will already have seen its horrible effects in older people you know.
- Like alcohol, excessive drug use can lead to very real problems with your studies, your work, with your family, friends or flatmates.