Advice: New routines to break out of a rut

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Photo by Malvestida Magazine on Unsplash

The days are getting longer, the grass is getting greener and the assignments are getting tougher. Spring has nearly sprung, which means the newness of 2020 has started to fade away. After January and February – two of the saddest months of the year thanks to gloomy weather and the end of the holidays – it’s not uncommon to feel stuck in a rut. 

We all go through periods where we just feel off. Maybe you’re a little anxious, sad or stressed. Maybe you’re more tired than normal, or everything seems to not be going your way. If these kinds of periods persist for longer than two weeks, checking in with a counselor or therapist is the best option. However, if you’re simply going through a brief bout of sadness, there is an end in sight. Spring is a time of new beginnings, which means it’s a great time to climb out of the dumps with the help of a fresh routine.

Routines help improve sleep, stress-levels and overall health. Adding structure and good habits can make you more productive and happier. I’m going to walk you through aspects of my daily routine that I have found help prevent procrastination and anxiety and give me a major mood-boost. 

Morning meditation

I, like most people, have a tough time waking up in the morning. I love nothing more than a five-minute – well, more like 10-minute – snooze after my alarm goes off. Recently, however, I have implemented morning meditation instead of snoozing. 

I recommend downloading a meditation app, such as Stop Breathe Think, and tuning into a five-minute guided meditation right when your alarm goes off. The great thing about meditation in the morning is you gain another five minutes in bed and get to keep your eyes closed. Plus, when the meditation ends with a chime, you’ll feel relaxed, awake and ready to take on the day. 

Tidy up 

Once I’m done meditating and am about to walk out the door, I like to try to pick up one or two things. I make my bed, pick up the homework that has inevitably gathered itself on my desk and fold and put away my pajamas that I probably left on the floor after changing. Would it be more efficient to just put away my clothes after I changed? Yes, but routines aren’t about going for perfection. It’s about going for consistency and implementing simple, easy habits. 

It’s good to also tidy yourself up in the morning. Take care of your skin, put on clothes you feel good in and fix your hair. I don’t like to wear athletic clothes to class because I find that dressing up makes me feel more put together. The most important part of a morning routine is hyping yourself up and making sure you feel confident in your ability to take on the day – no matter what that looks like for you. 

Step by step

My room is somewhat picked up, and I’ve gathered everything necessary for class. Now is one of my favorite times of the day – the walk up. I live in the Shumaker Sorority Complex, which is about an eight-minute uphill walk to my classes. Most residents drive to a closer parking lot, but I find the walk to be one of the best parts of my daily routine. There’s nothing like starting your day knowing you’ve already accomplished something – even if that thing is as simple as climbing up a hill. I like to listen to the news while I walk to class and to a fun podcast on the way back down.

Getting more steps in is something every person can do, even if you don’t have the opportunity to walk to class or work. Think about all the places you go in a day. Is there any building that has stairs where you usually take the elevator? Try parking in the last row of the grocery store parking lot instead of pining for that front-row spot. 

An important aspect of getting more steps in is to not allow weather to be a factor. I’ve walked to class when it was a minus 11 degree windchill and snowing, and I lived to tell the tale. Umbrellas, coats and scarves all exist for a reason. 

Get it done

Once I’m out of class, I like to go straight to work. Of course, this is easier said than done. The best way to implement this habit is to make a rule of only checking your phone when standing up. It sounds funny, but it’s effective. 

Maybe you need to answer an email or respond to a text. You think, “I’ll just respond to this text and then I’ll start my reading.” We all know what will actually happen is you’ll sit down, respond to the text and then scroll on Instagram for 30 minutes. Suddenly it’s time for your next class and you never started the reading. 

Instead, tell yourself you’ll answer the text in 15 minutes. Open your book as soon as you sit down. Once you’ve read a few pages, get up and walk to a new location to answer the text. You’ll not only stretch your legs, but you’ll also be more intentional with your phone usage. I find that this tactic makes it a lot easier for me to get started on homework. It’s easier to go from walking around to working than it is to go from sitting on your phone to working. I feel less stressed, and tasks become more manageable. 

Rate what you ate

It’s time for a meal. If you’ve ever struggled with dieting or obsessive eating, this is a habit that I’ve found to be extremely helpful. Before I eat, I like to mentally rank how hungry I am on a scale of 1-10, one being shakily hungry and 10 being painfully full. I also then rank how hungry I am after a meal or snack. 

The purpose of this is to encourage myself to stay around a three, which is comfortably hungry, before meals. After meals I try to be at a six, which is satisfyingly full. Many people who have dealt with unhealthy food relationships spend a lot of time at a one or two, which means they are depriving themselves of crucial nutrients. This then causes them to binge eat, reaching a nine or 10, which induces feelings of shame and self-loathing. 

By checking in with yourself before and after you eat, you can learn to respect and understand your body, no longer depriving or gorging yourself. I used to feel shame and anxiety around food, but this routine has helped me feel confident in my ability to balance my eating habits. 

End the day the “write” way

The day is winding down. A good evening routine sets you up for a great tomorrow. Having a nighttime routine encourages better sleep – which we all need. Writing out my schedule for the next day is the most important part of my evening routine. 

I like to check my calendar on my phone and take a moment to remember what is due the next day. Then I type out an hour-by-hour schedule on the notes app of my phone. This calms me down because I realize that I have plenty of hours in the day to get everything done. I also include hours to relax or do something fun, which makes me excited for the next day. 

After I’ve planned my next day, I journal. Planning my day and journaling together take about 10 minutes, meaning they both are low-maintenance activities to incorporate into your routine. In my journal I write down what I did that day, how I’m feeling and anything I’m worried about. I like to end my journal with three things the day made me thankful for. 

Moonlit mindfulness

You meditated in the morning, so it only makes sense to bring it full circle and also meditate at night. I like to do another guided meditation using Stop Breathe Think right before I go to sleep. It’s a great way to relax and fall asleep with ease. You can also choose to be mindful on your own, maybe by praying or simply thinking about some things the day made you feel thankful for. 

Not every person looks for the same things in a good daily routine. However, what is important is that you establish a routine that works for you. If your routine isn’t working for you – or if you don’t have a routine at all – try implementing these tips. Consistency is key, so challenge yourself to do each habit each day for a week. You’ll be on your way to living a more relaxed, productive and joyful life. 

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