Your university room, be it in halls or in a shared house, is supposed to be a place of comfort. It is probably the only space that is truly yours for a year or two and your escape from the tumultuous world of shared accommodation. However, there is a risk of becoming too comfortable– an experience for which I certainly can attest. I want to share with you how I let my room encompass my life and negatively effect my mental and physical health, and hopefully provide you with some tips on how to avoid doing the same.
In an excellent youtube video, entitled 7 ways to maximise misery, CPG Gray coins the phrase ‘all room’, meaning a room in which you do everything. This was my second-year room. I did everything in that 5m x 5m box: eat, sleep, study, watch tv (all of these whilst lying in bed) and, due to the bizarre fact that I had a fucking kitchen in my room(!) I cooked in there too. Despite living in a 12-person house, I rarely saw another soul – apart from when I crept out to use the toilet. When I occasionally popped to one of my lectures, I would virtually run back to my room the minute it was finished, making no effort to interact with my course mates. Part of my problem was when I did leave my room and decide to interact with my peers, it was exclusively to get extremely pissed, often for days in a row. The hangovers left me bed-ridden and miserable nurturing my dependence for my bed. Whilst conducting all my social interaction inebriated eroded my confidence when sober, in my head I couldn’t live up to the person I was when I was drunk and so avoided people when I wasn’t. A sorry state of affairs.
However, I understand that there are many reasons beyond getting drunk that may draw someone to the dark comfort of spending all their time cooped up. Nevertheless, the snowball effect is the same no matter why you spend your time there. The more time you spend in your ‘all room’, the more attached you become to it. Although at the time it feels ‘good’ to be in there, really you are making yourself mentally and perhaps even physically unwell. Getting back pains aged 20 because you’re lying down too much is a sure sign that something needs to change – trust me I know. So, without further ado, here are some tips for you to not make the same mistakes that I did…
The best advice I’ve been given since this episode of my life is to keep your bed exclusively for sleeping and sex. Nothing else. Spending your time watching tv in bed, eating in bed or even studying in bed may feel nice at the time, but it can negatively affect your sleep and is a sure way to turn that bedroom of yours into the dreaded ‘all room’.
Dont do it alone
There are some things which are more enjoyable doing with others and which will help get you out of your room. I am talking about eating and watching tv. Although one of my student houses didn’t have a kitchen table (a handy excuse for dinner in bed) the vast majority do. Obviously it is good practice to eat at the table, but beyond that you should try and make the time and effort to cook with your housemates. Even if its once a week or even once a month, it is truly a nice thing to do! Take turns, play come dine with me, teach recipes – regardless of what you choose to do it’s a great way to promote flat cohesion and to get you out of your bloody room. And, for that matter, ask your housemates to watch tv with you! Although halls often don’t, most houses I lived in had a tv, so why not start a series with someone, or even everyone that you live with. The problem with streaming services is that they have moved tv onto laptops and into bedrooms, away from tv’s in living rooms – especially in student houses. It becomes so easy and comfortable to watch tv in bed, but ultimately, it’s lonely. Fight back and save money on Netflix subscriptions.
For most of my four years at uni I had about eight contact hours per week. That is fuck all. The hardest thing was filling this cavernous void of time, week after week after week. You must build yourself a structure beyond what is most likely a pathetic one provided by the university (UK average of 15 contact hours a week). I have said many times that my biggest regret from uni is not joining a society (see here), it is a great way to start building some more structure to your life and meeting different people. If I could go back, I’d join two. Instead, after spending five days in my room after a hangover, starting to feel ready to go out again, there was sometimes the case where plans for a night out fell through. That’s when my room started to feel like a jail cell. If I had been busy up to that point, working in the library, going to society meetings etc, a Friday night without something to do might have been more bearable. But instead, because I’d spent five straight days in there the night would drag by and I truly wouldn’t know what to do with myself and feel like I couldn’t leave.
But things got better for me in my third year. Instead of going in at one o’clock for an hour lecture and then returning home, anxiously sweating, I treated uni like it was my job – 9-5 in the library. Not only did my grades improve dramatically, but returning home felt deserved and I no longer felt miserable resting in bed. Ultimately, building a varied and balanced structure to your life is so clearly the antidote to the draw of the ‘all room’. Study, exercise, eat with friends sometimes, eat alone sometimes, watch tv with friends, get pissed every now and again (I still eat in bed from time to time as a special treat). As long as you maintain a balance and you keep yourself busy you will keep yourself away from the dark vortex of the ‘all room’ .
Director ‘Thrive & Survive’
University of Leeds Graduate