Occasionally, three weeks will pass before I take a breath. I am not enrolled in an obscene amount of credit hours nor am I am on every club or team imaginable at my university, but I have just enough going on that sometimes I get in bed at night and wonder how the entire day has passed so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to breathe. These days run together, and suddenly the sun is setting on Sunday night, and it’s time to restart the entire cycle. Homework stresses me out, quizzes and exams stress me out, laundry and cleaning stress me out, even thinking about being stressed stresses me out because I know how badly it can affect your body physically. I am so hyper-focused on getting everything accomplished on my to-do list that I forget I’m a nineteen-year-old-girl and not just a future-journalist-what-internship-should-I-take-but-I-need-to-make-money-but-I-need-to-write-that-research-paper-but-I-need-to-plan-my-future-step-out-of-you’re-comfort-zone-or-YOU’LLNEVERFINDAJOB, you know. However, the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem. I know I stress myself out. This is what I do to calm down.
Make time for yourself in the morning. This is crucial. If you wake up 10 minutes before you are supposed to be at work or in class, you’ll be rushed from the very start of your day. Give yourself time to wake up and lay in bed for a while before you have to be productive. Open your blinds. Make yourself a cup of something hot and in a mug, I prefer coffee but tea also looks nice in mugs, and eat something for breakfast. I have been starting my day recently with pumpkin waffles (‘tis the season), an apple and either something to watch on my computer or a book I need to catch up on. I also take the time to sit in front of my mirror and put on my makeup for the day, one of my favorite activities. Even if I’m wearing something minimal, the process of getting ready makes me feel like I am already productive, and I carry out this feeling throughout the rest of my day.
Walk wherever you can. I live about a mile away from some of my classes, a mile and a half from the gym and almost two miles from my car. While it takes much less effort to hop on the bus to get to these places, if I have the time I walk as often as I can. Like most people my age, I live on a college campus, and college campuses tend to have some aspect of beauty to them. If you live on a college campus that doesn’t have changing fall leaves and buildings with aesthetically pleasing architecture, watch the people you pass as you walk to your destination. Nothing gets you out of your thoughts more than thinking about what other people are thinking. Listen to a playlist or a podcast as you go. Playlists that are entirely full of songs you want to listen to all the time can be hard to find and make, so I’ve been getting into podcasts recently. My favorites are Dear Sugars, Modern Love and Don’t Blame Me (they’re also good to listen to while driving).
Exercise. No, you do not have to run one million miles in order to have a successful workout. You also don’t need workout clothes from Lululemon, although they help with motivation (I swear it's true). Exercise is a way to literally sweat the stress out of you. Sometimes I go to the gym just to sprint a mile on the treadmill as fast as I can to make myself feel better. Other days I do my full workout and feel like a new person afterwards. Whatever you have the time and capability to do, do it. It doesn’t matter how far away the gym is. You’ll feel like a more productive human afterwards.
Write in a planner. This one is simple. Nothing makes me happier than checking something off my checklist in my planner. Yes, a physical planner that you need a pen to write in is required because it’s not quite as satisfying erasing something from the notes app on your phone. If you write everything in a planner, you don’t have to constantly be trying to remember anything at all. Every morning and every night look at your daily to-do’s and accomplishments, and a weight will literally be lifted off your shoulders. The burden of having to remember things is quite heavy.
Take a shower. A lot of nights the last thing I have motivation for is a shower. But it is 100% necessary not only for cleanliness purposes but also because you can feel the day and its stresses and anxieties washing down the drain. Use a shampoo and conditioner that smell delicious. Shave your legs and scrub your body. Wash your face, especially if you wear any makeup throughout the day, and sit in the hot water for an extra minute or so just to enjoy it. When you get out, use any products that make you feel like you’re in a hotel spa. It could be a $5 moisturizer, it doesn’t matter, but if you can rub some lotion into your skin and feel soft and hydrated, you have ended your day correctly.
Talk to your siblings. This is something I didn’t discover the importance of until I got to college. A lot of students get homesick and make time to take to their parents because, well, parents beg for FaceTime calls, but it is just as important to make time for your relationship with your sibling(s). Nothing will make you feel more at home than hearing what crazy thing your mom said that day or how cute your dog is as he’s sleeping on a phone call with your sister. Parents will tell you that “Everyone’s doing great at home! We miss you!” but your siblings will tell you the details of your daily life that you actually miss, the stuff that’s hilarious and real. Make time for them.
Listen to a sleep meditation. I don't usually meditate throughout the day, but I have recently discovered sleep meditations, and they are lovely. If you have trouble winding down at the end of the day because you can’t seem to stop your brain from running in circles, try one of these. It’s like the person with the most calming voice in the entire world is in your room and their only job is to make you fall asleep. Youtube has a wide variety, but if you use the iPhone podcast app there is a feature you can select that automatically shuts off your phone once the meditation is over. This is extremely helpful because most likely you’re going to fall asleep during it, so you don’t want your phone to be playing a continuous loop of these all night and draining your battery. Ending your day peacefully sets you up for a more productive tomorrow.
Pay attention. To yourself, your body and your passions. Do your homework, but work on yourself too. Don’t let three weeks pass without breathing. Oh, and if you can watch the sunrise or sunset, do that. They're beautiful.