With so many changes, restrictions, cancelations, and uncertainties right now, many students are feeling anxious, sad, overwhelmed, lonely, and a range of other emotions. That’s okay and totally normal. But it’s possible to find ways to feel better during these strange times, and you can do so by building a daily routine that will get you and your mental health back on track.
A routine is one of the best way to feel better in times of crisis because it provides stability and familiarity. A daily routine will help keep you motivated, feel on top of things, and give you something to work toward. Here are a few things you can do to create a new healthy routine right away.
1. Maintain a regular sleep pattern
Sleep is so important for your physical and mental health. Getting enough sleep will not only make you feel energized but help you keep all those negative emotions at bay. And this doesn’t necessarily mean having to go to bed early either—you can have a regular sleep pattern by going to bed at 1:00 am every night and waking up at 9:00 am. It’s just about getting a full eight hours and maintaining consistency!
2. Start the morning right
No matter what time you wake up, as soon as you do, hydrate! Leave a cup of water by your bedside when you go to sleep every night so you can wake up the next day and fuel up. If you keep your body happy, your body will keep you happy.
Then, whether it’s taking a shower or washing your face with cold water, make sure you really wake yourself up. It’s easy to feel groggy in the morning, but it’s just as easy to feel energized and alive if you take an active role in it.
Related: How Important Is Sleep to Academic Success?
3. Have a “focus of the day”
When you decide what you want to accomplish each day, you’re more likely to feel motivated to achieve your goals instead of procrastinating or getting distracted. Writing down your tasks in a planner or agenda is the best way to master this and not feel overwhelmed. Try planning your week by figuring out what you need to accomplish each day to complete your overall goal for the end of that week. As students, we often worry about the future, creating meaningful lives, and achieving our dreams and visions—but taking everything day-by-day is the best way to make it through the current situation.
If time management is your problem, know that in reality, time is elastic. The key to time management is prioritizing your tasks and figuring out what you really want and need to spend your time and efforts on. However, if focusing is your problem, the next step can help with that.
4. Exercise more
Exercise is directly related to your mood, so if you’re feeling negative emotions, any type of physical movement will make you feel better in no time. Not only that, but physical activity is proven to help increase focus, attention, memory, mood, and energy.
In times like this, exercising can be hard, but there are so many workouts, easy or more advance, you can do at home. If even just the idea of working out tires you out, remember that taking a walk outside counts too. Just taking a quick five-minute walk has numerous benefits—you’re literally making your brain healthier! You could also try yoga, which has all the benefits of exercise and mindfulness combined. Which brings us to the next tip…
5. Practice mindfulness
Before “officially” starting your day, try 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation to aid your mental health. Mind-wandering is a direct cause of unhappiness, and a byproduct of mindfulness is staying in the present moment—a key to happiness—and better focus, which is really rewarding in your day-to-day life. You can download apps like Aura or use websites like Calm.com to do guided mindfulness meditations that’ll easily calm you down and change your perspective and motivation for the rest of your day.
Mindfulness may seem useless to you at first, but it takes time, patience, and practice to get better at it. The best part is there’s no “wrong” way to do it, so don’t be afraid to give it a try—you’ll feel the benefits the longer you keep at it.
Related: How to Make Your Semester More Mindful
6. Eat better
Let’s get one thing straight: You don’t have to turn into a health freak, but you can always eat better and take better care of your body. Food has a direct correlation to not only your physical health but your mental health as well. If you take care of your body, you’ll feel so much better overall. Try cutting down on sugar and caffeine and see if you notice any changes mentally or physically.
7. Try journaling, gratitude, and positive affirmations
Sit down, turn off the news, put your phone away, and spend just 30 minutes a day in some kind of transcendence experience. Whether it’s writing, reading, doing art, or just looking at nature, do it. Then end this daily practice by journaling about your thoughts and writing down at least three things you’re grateful for. This has scientifically been proven to improve satisfaction with your life. Like mindfulness, you may not see the effects of practicing positive affirmations at first, but the more you practice, the easier it will get to embrace them.
8. Spend time with others
If you feel like you’re “stuck” at home with your family, try and make the most of it! Social relationships and connections are so important to life satisfaction, happiness, and mental health. So whether it’s watching a movie, playing games, or eating dinner together, make sure you carve some time out to be with someone: a family member, a friend, or anyone you trust.
Related: COVID-19: Why Is Social Distancing Important?
9. Learn and grow
Learning is directly correlated to your mood because both of these things are located in the hippocampus of your brain. Knowledge isn’t just the key to success; it’s also the key to improving your mental health. Learning builds confidence and self-esteem, so make it a habit to learn something new every day. It can be honing a particular skill, reading, or even just watching/listening to podcasts.
10. Don’t punish yourself for not being productive
It’s important to realize that you do not have to use this time to try to do everything you’ve ever wanted to do—we’re not having a productivity contest! Your growth isn’t about some destination far in the future; it’s more about the daily changes you make so you can enjoy life, be happier, and feel more aligned with yourself.
Related: Stuck in a Rut During COVID–19: A Student's Perspective
Above all else, remember that it’s normal to seek help, and there’s no shame in taking care of your mental health. Just the last five minutes of this TED talk will show you that life is beautiful in its entirety, and everything will turn out just fine.
Looking for more student advice and information to help get you through this roller coaster of a year? Check out our COVID-19 resources page.