HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Postgraduate study is the highest level of education you can attain, and so the stakes can seem pretty high sometimes. Most postgrad students, when they start their degree, hurl themselves into their work like an Olympic sprinter – pushing themselves as hard as they can, working every second of the day.
But your Masters or PhD, unfortunately, is not a sprint. It’s a marathon: three to five years of steady work and progress, during which you’ll need to maintain your energy (and your sanity), stay on track and continue to live your life. So to achieve the greatest success in your degree (or at least to finish it without your head exploding) you need to take care of yourself.
Eat well. Sleep well. Exercise. And if you’re ever feeling unwell, exhausted, stressed or overwhelmed, don’t ignore it. Don’t ‘push through it’. Speak to someone about it. Getting help and support doesn’t make you weak, lazy or incapable; it’s the smart thing to do.
UON has a wide range of services and support teams, both on-campus and online, to keep your mind and body firing on all cylinders.
No one likes going to the doctor, but it’s important to know where your local healthcare services are in case you get your finger stuck in something there’s an emergency. Here are the some of the most accessible options.
On-Campus Medical Centres
The university runs medical centres at both Callaghan and Ourimbah campuses for students and staff. They’re basically GP clinics, and can help you with everything from general illness and injury through to vaccinations, women’s health care, STI testing, mental health support and specialist referral. Both operate by appointment only, so you’ll need to book in advance unless it’s an emergency.
Callaghan’s medical centre is located on Level 1 of the Student Services Building, on the Hunter side of campus. It’s open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, even during semester recess periods. To make an appointment (or find priority care in an emergency), call 4921 6000.
If you need a prescription filled, there’s also a pharmacy at Callaghan campus, on the ground floor of the Shortland Building (below the Godfrey Tanner Bar). They’re open 9am – 5.30pm, Monday to Friday, and they’ll deliver your prescription to you anywhere on campus for free! Otherwise, there are similar pharmacies throughout Newcastle that can assist you.
Ourimbah’s medical centre is located in the student amenities building, next to the library. It’s open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9am – 5pm. To make an appointment (or find priority care in an emergency), call 4348 4060.
GP Access After-Hours
9-to-5 clinics are great and all, but if you need medical assistance during the other 16 hours of the day, not so much. GP Access provides free comprehensive after-hours medical care and advice to people of the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Maitland areas on weeknights, weekends and public holidays. Essentially, they’re open whenever your GP is closed.
Check out their website for a list of GP Access clinics and the services they provide, or call 1300 130 147 to find out more.
13SICK National Home Doctor Service
Sometimes it’s difficult to get to a GP clinic when you need it, either because you don’t have easy transport or because you’re in that much pain. (Remember, though, that if you’re in that much pain, the best thing to do is call 000 for an ambulance).
13SICK, like GP Access, operates during evenings and weekends, but they also come straight to your door! They service most major cities in Australia (including Newcastle), but it’s best to go to their website, type in your postcode and see if they operate in your area. To contact them, call 13SICK – that’s 13 7425.
Otherwise, there are plenty of GP clinics around Newcastle, as well as a handful of major hospitals, such as John Hunter or the Calvary Mater Hospital (just a minute from campus). The best hospital, of course, is the one closest to wherever you happen to be; a quick Google Maps search will help you find it.
Check if your GP clinic bulk bills. If you’re a domestic student covered by Medicare, this essentially means that the appointment costs you nothing.
If you’re an international student, the Australian Government requires you to have approved health cover for the duration of your visa. UON has an arrangement with Allianz Global Assistance; if you haven’t made other plans, they can sign you up and deduct the cost from your deposit when you enrol.
Remember, though, that this isn’t your only option. You’re free to shop around and compare other insurance providers, so do your research in advance. You may just save yourself some money.
If you’re feeling stressed, confused, anxious or strung out, UON’s Student Support Advisors (SSAs) are a really good place to start. They’re the first point of contact for the UON Counselling Service, but they can refer you to dozens of different support services, depending on what you need.
SSAs will listen to your problems and then work with you to create an individualised plan to resolve them. This might include academic workshops to build particular skills, language support from Learning Development, or – if stress, homesickness or relationship conflicts are making work hard for you – an appointment with a counsellor or health professional.
Everything you discuss with them is confidential, and you’re free to accept as much or as little of their advice as you wish. Think of them as a signpost to all the different support resources you can access, both within and outside the University.
And a helpful signpost too. Better than all of those other signposts you see these days.
‘Counselling’ is a word that intimidates a lot of students. You may picture yourself lying on a couch, pouring out your innermost thoughts to a stranger with a notepad, but counselling (particularly in Australia) is really just a chance to talk to someone privately about something that might be worrying you, and to get some objective support and advice.
UON has a Counselling Service available at all of its campuses, as well as online. You can talk to them about anything from exam stress and workload (they can teach you some great time management tips!) to relationships, family drama, trouble settling into a new place/culture, or feelings of anxiety/depression. Everything you discuss with them is absolutely confidential. And their services are free!
Appointments on Campus
You can also see a counsellor in person at NeW Space or the Ourimbah, Port Macquarie or Sydney campuses. Each has a different number to call (click each campus name to see it), or you can call 4921 6622 and select your campus from there.
Your first appointment will likely be a 30-minute session with a student support advisor (see Student Support Advisors above), who will find out more about your situation and give you some help resources to get you started. Subsequent appointments with a counsellor will generally run for about 45-60 minutes.
If you’d like to know more about the appointments themselves (what happens, what’s required, and so on), we’d recommend looking through the counselling website’s Frequently Asked Questions page.
If you’re an off-campus student, are unable to get to campus for any reason, or need to talk to someone outside regular appointment hours, the Counselling Service has a suite of online support tools to help you as well.
You can book an appointment with an online counsellor much as you would on campus; these are run through Skype or Collaborate Ultra (Blackboard), depending on your preference. They also run drop-in sessions during certain hours, where students can log onto Skype without an appointment and chat with them:
Thursday: 2:30-3:30pm (and again from 8-9pm)
In addition to this, they frequently blog about various issues related to study skills and mental health (such as perfectionism and anxiety), and run UON eCliPSE, a free site that allows all students to access clinically proven online programs to tackle issues such as depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol use.
They even keep a huge database of tip sheets on everything from relaxation techniques to being assertive, healthy relationships and enhancing cognitive functioning. If you’re hesitant to speak to someone directly and would rather work through it all at your own pace, these are a brilliant source of info.
Finally, everything you say to a counsellor is confidential. But don’t take our word for it: read through the privacy and confidentiality document on their website.
When you’re buried in assignments, journal articles, thesis chapters or (shudder) undergrad papers to mark, actually feeding yourself is often an afterthought. The old clichés – ‘I lived on ramen noodles for three years!’ – may not be true for everyone, but a majority of students still rely on heavily processed foods for convenience, and neglect their fruits and vegetables.
It’s ironic, really: we get so caught up in our studies, wanting to produce our best work, that we ignore the one thing our brain and body rely on to make that happen. A lot of us assume that healthy eating demands additional time and money (neither of which postgrad students have in great supply), but in reality, there are all kinds of tricks to make it easier. Here are some basics:
Mix up your shopping! Choose a wide variety of foods – including grains, fruit and vegetables, lean meat (or alternatives) and dairy (or alternatives).
Limit foods that are high in saturated fats, such as pies, hot chips, pizza and sausage rolls. (Yes, we do serve a lot of free pizza at our movie nights, but, y’know, once or twice a month is okay. Just don’t make a habit of it.)
Limit foods that are high in sugar, such as cakes, biscuits, lollies, soft drink and energy drinks. (Yes, we do serve a lot of biscuits and lollies at our social events, but, y’know… there are strawberries there as well! Eat those!)
Limit salt (unless you’re defending yourself against a poltergeist – see Library). Do not add salt to cooking, and read labels for low-sodium options.
Drink plenty of water! A lot of experts suggest 8 glasses of fluid each day (including water, tea, coffee, milk, etc.) as a standard, but the best practice is to keep a water bottle filled and on your desk throughout the day while you’re working. Staying hydrated has tons of benefits, from staving off sickness to losing weight and keeping your skin healthy, so it’s a great habit to get into.
These tips and others can be found in the Nutrition Guide on the university’s website. There you’ll also find the Student Sustainable Cookbook 2017, a brilliant collection of quick, cheap, easy and healthy student-submitted recipes. It also contains all sorts of useful information: what staples to keep in your pantry, where to store things in your fridge, what fruits/vegetables are available (i.e. cheap to buy) each season, and – most important of all – a guide to legumes.
A little less of this, basically.
Unless you’re specifically researching the effects of CrossFit and marathon running on you (which is a bit niche, and unlikely to attract grant funding), postgraduate study is a fairly sedentary pursuit. While exercise can be a chore, a lack of physical activity can be harmful to your body over time, so it’s important to make it a regular part of your schedule.
Exercise can be as simple as a walk around campus on your lunch break, but if you want something guided or a little more structured, the university has all sorts of gym and sports facilities available to you at Callaghan and Ourimbah.
Here, the best place to go is the Forum – a massive, multi-level fitness complex that includes a fully-equipped gym (with cardio, cycling, strength training and group/personal training), indoor heated swimming pool, indoor sports courts and rock climbing wall. It also has an in-house dietitian who can give you nutritional advice (see Nutrition above).
At Ourimbah, the university and Yourimbah run a fully equipped gym clinic in the Exercise Sports Science and Psychology Building. It’s open 8am – 6pm Monday to Thursday, and 8am – 12pm on Fridays.
Here you can access exercise equipment, complete a health screen, undergo fitness testing or take advantage of health and fitness programming; training sessions are available that combine intervals of cardio and muscle conditioning for maximum calorie burn.
If price is a concern (and when is it not?), there are plenty of free resources and facilities as well, both on campus and online. Callaghan campus, for example, has a fitness track and outdoor gym equipment spread across Ovals 2 and 3 (near the Forum) that anyone can use anytime.
If you’re an online student with no access to campus facilities, free online tools like the NSW Government’s 15-minute health check are a great way to get feedback on your diet and exercise habits.
You have no idea how hard it was to choose just three of these.
If you’re looking for spiritual guidance and support (or just someone to talk to), the University’s Chaplaincy is available throughout the week. At Callaghan, it’s based in the Hunter Building (HA152) and keeps 15 chaplains on staff, representing a variety of faiths:
Anglican – Fergus King
Baha’i – Tom Jones
Baptist – David Malcolm, Grant Watts
Buddhist – Gregg Heathcote
Catholic – Dom Carrigan, Greg Kerr, Camillus Nwahia, Anne Daugherty
Muslim – Farooq Rah
Presbyterian – Bev Paterson
Presbyterian (Church of Eastern Australia) – Robin Tso
Sikh – Amarjit Signh Chawla
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – Graham Clark
Uniting – Kim Langford
At least one chaplain is available each day between 10am and 2pm. You don’t need an appointment to see them, and it’s free! If you’d like to arrange a time a see a chaplain of a particular faith, though, you can always call: (02) 4921 5571.
There’s just one chaplain available at Central Coast campus, the Reverend Roy Hazlewood (Anglican). He’s on campus Tuesday to Friday during office hours in the Student Support Unit (C1.14). Again, if you’d like to schedule an appointment outside of this, you can call: (02) 4348 4036.
Chaplains offer all sorts of services: they provide pastoral care (regardless of your religious affiliation), run regular study groups, prayer and meditation sessions, can answer any questions you may have about various faiths, and can also help you in any instance of religious disrespect.
More than half of them are registered Justices of the Peace, so they’re also the people to see if you need to authenticate major documents.
Alas, his Noodliness is not yet represented.