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5 Questions to Help You Find Your Perfect Routine

2020 sucked, and for a lot of us that routine of going to class, coming home, doing work, going out, and going to sleep has been stolen. Days blend into one another, which is bound to happen when you can’t leave the house, and I find myself spending hours doing nothing without even realizing it. Everyone has a lot on their plate right now and we all deserve some time to just mope around doing something unproductive for once. The thing is though, after a while this can take a toll on our mental health. We reflect on the lives we have been living for weeks or months and think, “How did I get here?” Even if we can’t yet be bothered to put on anything other than sweatpants, I think we can all agree that it’s time to start showing up for ourselves again. Self-care is something that we can actively make happen for ourselves, and isn’t being stuck inside the best time to do it?

Winter is practically here, and with cold weather comes a lot more isolation in our houses. It’s time to get productive… but not in the way that you might think. Sure, turning in all of your assignments early is ‘being productive’, and so is sending your CV to that professor you’ve been eyeing for a research position – so don’t forget to do all of that. However, self-care is also ‘being productive’, because the second we stop showing up for ourselves, we stop showing up for everyone around us. It can be exhausting just to get up and out of bed in the morning when you know that Tik Tok is calling your name. We can’t blame ourselves for this, and we have to give ourselves time to just be, but there are ways to get out of this cycle too. 

My favorite form of self-care is my routine. Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes me feel better than when I wake myself up before noon (a rare occurance), get my coffee, and sit down fully ready to tackle the day. I know I get overwhelmed easily, so I make sure that my to-do list is never longer than I can handle. I also make sure to schedule in every little thing because I so miss the structure of in person classes that isn’t afforded to me by Zoom University. Finally, I love for my days to end with watching an episode of my show of the week (currently The Crown). That is my perfect routine. 

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself, so that you can find yours:

What do you want to wake up to?

I can’t eat breakfast in the morning. I know that it’s the most important meal of the day, but I just can’t do it. Instead, I opt for an ice coffee almost every morning. Does this make me an addict? Maybe. But the point is to find something that makes you excited to get up and out of bed each morning. I just don’t feel ready for the day until I’ve had my coffee. Maybe for you that’s scrambled eggs, your skincare routine, or going on a morning run. Even if it’s something as simple as reading a page out of your favorite book, do it first thing. Try to stop reaching for your phone to mindlessly scroll right away. Sometimes our brains don’t need the bombardment of bad news so early, and Tik Tok can only suck you in, I promise. Start off every day with something good. Getting out of bed might get a little easier if you just can’t wait to do your favorite thing.

Planner or Journal?

I know you’re sick of hearing it but a planner or journal will seriously change your life. Plus, having a pretty little book you write anything you want into is the easiest way to feel like the main character. If you are someone who likes to get all their thoughts out on paper to sort through them, then a journal might be the way to go. If you are someone who loves structure like me, then grab a planner and schedule away. You can even do a combination of the two. The point is to find time every day to go through your chosen book and decide what is in store any given day. I would even suggest taking time out once a week to reflect on the past week, or to plan your upcoming week in advance. This time to connect with yourself, your plans and your goals can really put you in the right mindset to crush your day. So, which is it going to be?

A great option, and my favourite, is from the company Golden Coil, who allow you to make custom planners, that can even include space for journaling!

How much can you really handle?

I’m serious about this one. There is no worse feeling than looking back at your to-do list at the end of the day and realizing you only got one thing done. Try your hardest not to overestimate yourself. You are strong and capable, but you are also human and can only get so much done in one day. Allow yourself to work up to be a total assignment machine, and allow yourself to have days where not everything on that list is going to get checked off. There is always tomorrow, and productivity and self-care are not a race. By not biting off more than you can chew you set yourself up for success every day, and every day becomes a little victory. Everyone loves a win. 

What makes you happy?

Cheesy, but valid. I am at my happiest when I’m playing piano (poorly) and listening to music, so my study breaks usually consist of me doing one of those two things. Think about what makes you happy when you do it and what leaves you feeling that way even a little bit after. Take this and fill the gaps in your day with it. This might mean you take a break from a busy day by going for a hike, turning on some music or practicing your embroidery. By filling in your days with things that really make you happy, your breaks will feel meaningful as well as beneficial to your mental health.

Check out this recipe for apple pie from Meghan Rienks, and try it out on your next study break!

How do you wind down?

Your day is done, you’ve done your best and you’re trying out the whole routine thing. The ending is the most important part. Try to stay off of social media and choose something that will get you ready to fall asleep. Get cozy under your blankets or make yourself a soothing tea. Maybe you like listening to ASMR, or watching an episode or two of a show on Netflix like me. Whatever it may be, if you go to bed happy and know you did a good job no matter what you got done, you will definitely wake up ready to do it all over again. 

Finding a routine that works for you is challenging, and there is really no step by step process, or sure-fire way to achieve it. Looking inside yourself to see what parts of a routine you would benefit from, is the only way to make sure that your routine works for you. It may take time, and you might have off days. Not every day is perfect. Nobody can be productive every day of their life and that is okay. As long as we try to be there for ourselves, we are doing all that we can, and that is always enough.

Selena is a second year student at McMaster pursuing a double major in Biology and Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour. When she isn't studying you can find her writing short stories, making Spotify playlists or on the hunt for a new coffee shop.
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