There’s no question that the last year has been challenging for us all. As we enter into our third virtual quarter (not counting summer or December intersession!) it’s natural to be feeling the fatigue, disillusionment and challenges that come with virtual learning and virtual life. Creating healthy habits and routines can bring about some normalcy to each day and can help bolster our mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical health. Now while the idea of a routine may seem boring at first, bear with me, there truly are some great benefits to finding routines that work for you.
For starters, having a routine can free up some mental space. Without routines, each day becomes a bit more unpredictable. Your brain has to make a lot more decisions about when to do what and how to do it. Even a few simple routines like going to bed and waking up at the same time or set times to take breaks, eat or get outside can free up some of the mental power that would otherwise go to finding new times for each of these things. Additionally, while spontaneity and change can certainly be positive things, they can also create undue stress. By establishing a healthy routine, you may be able to eliminate some of the unnecessary stress that comes with spontaneity. Additionally, by making your routine flexible, small tweaks to it can reenergize the day-to-day structure and provide enough variation to avoid monotony. Establishing a routine can also help alleviate stress and anxiety, in part by allowing scheduled time in your day to pause and check-in with yourself. However, as great as routine can be, it can be difficult to establish one so here are some tips for building healthy routines and habits as we begin winter quarter!
- Make a checklist: The tasks of a week, even a day, can often be overwhelming. We frequently have more to do in a day than we can reasonably be expected to keep straight in our head. Writing out the things we must accomplish in a day or a week can be an excellent way of ensuring everything gets done and is accounted for and it can clear up headspace leaving room for the more important and complex tasks at hand. It may also be useful to distinguish what must be done from what can be done. This will allow you to prioritize your day and more importantly, it will create space for you to be kind to yourself and give yourself a break when needed by letting go of the things on your list that may not be a priority that day.
- Create a schedule that plays to your strengths: Some of us are most productive first thing in the morning, for others, their best work happens once the sun has set. Tune into your body and mind and observe when you focus and work best. When possible schedule your work in accordance with those times. If you’re able to work from home, now is a great opportunity to create a schedule that allows you to work when you want. Scheduling your work time and your non-work time will also allow you to be focused and productive for a set period of time each day. It will set clear boundaries for work and make it easier to step away when your scheduled work time is over.
- Schedule in breaks: Scheduling in breaks is a great way to ensure that you maintain healthy boundaries between school, work and time for yourself. When we try to work straight through the day without breaking we are less productive than when we give ourselves the grace to step back for a minute. We all have different thresholds when it comes to the amount of time we can effectively focus for however, the bottom line is we all have a threshold. Once we reach that threshold taking a break will allow you to return rejuvenated and reenergized for your work.
- Create a sleep routine: Sleep has one of the largest influences on our mental and physical health. This is also a great place to establish a routine! A sleep routine is a great place to start since you can flexible with it by aiming to go to sleep and wake up within a 30-minute window. This provides flexibility while also setting an expectation. The time before bed can also be a fantastic place to establish a pre-bedtime routine. This routine could be something as simple as reflecting on what you’re grateful for while you brush your teeth; or something longer, like taking time to meditate, or read and listen to music before you sleep. Think about things that might be helping your routine and things that might be hurting it. For instance, spending 20 minutes scrolling through Instagram is likely to negatively impact your sleep. On the other hand, an activity like reading a book or meditating will be more likely to improve your sleep and help calm your mind after a long day before resting.
- Routines can be a great tool to add to your toolbox and try out in this quarter. With the challenges of online class, work, and the stessors or daily life, routines can be a valuable tool to help reduce stress and alleviate anxiety. Try establishing a new routine this quarter and let us know if it helps! Start small and build up. Give yourself freedom to adjust your routines as necessary so they work best for you. As always, the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness is here to support you in whatever you need. Please don’t hesitate to reach out!Allow for flexibility: While routines are a great way to alleviate stress, if you find a new routine simply isn’t working for you then it might be time to try a different routine! Routines are there to help guide you through your day and reduce overall stress. If routines become a source of stress then they become counterproductive. You are not beholden to your routines – they should be assets, not burdens!
Office of Health Promotion and Wellness
Phone: (773) 325 – 7129
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