Sticking to a routine during the pandemic helps me stay motivated and healthy

Everyone seems to be handling quarantine differently. Some are waking up early to exercise, and others binge shows until an assignment looms closer to its deadline. No matter what your days have turned into, this lack of freedom takes a toll on our mental health. Being in the same place every day makes it hard to stay productive, even though it’s said to be one of the best ways to stay sane through the pandemic.

Quarantine has helped me learn a lot about myself and what affects my productivity. I’m not perfect – I don’t leave my house most days and I wake up super late – but I still get stuff done. One of the best ways I’ve learned to stay motivated and stabilize my mental health is by setting a routine and sticking to it.

While it would be easy to stay in pajamas all day, changing and getting ready for the day gives me some normalcy and purpose. I make my bed, brush my teeth, take a shower and change my clothes every day. Doing this every day gives me a sense of purpose and makes me feel good about myself. I also avoid the urge to head back to bed, which is a plus when my bed is next to me all day.

Getting in the mood to do work is difficult. I move to a table when it’s time to start. I find a space with minimal distractions, try to keep my phone away from me and have snacks nearby. Every day, I decide two or three top priorities for the day and write them down in a notebook, including which class to focus on for the day or what project I want to start. Twice a week, I have online classes. On other days, I find it easier to complete school-related projects. I try to make progress on at least one non-school related task, like planning a self-care night or baking, every day so I can feel accomplished. But if I’m having an especially hard time doing a task, I work on a completely different, easier one so I don’t ever feel like I’ve wasted a day.

Although school is a priority, it’s important to find time to unwind and maintain my social contact with people we cannot see. I am usually working until 8 p.m. and after I’m done, I have dinner. At night, I socialize a bit with friends and family via video chats and watch TV. When I have time to, I FaceTime my friends for a few hours. I find that having a designated time to be social forces me to make the most of the time I designate for doing work.

Now that we’ve reached the end of the semester, your time has been left up to you. You can use this time to get ahead and put more effort into your classes, or you can dedicate time to improving your mental health and keeping your family safe by picking up extra work and spending time by yourself. No one signed up to do school online this past semester and if it really isn’t your thing, you won’t be punished for it.

There is no excuse for filling your time with things you don’t want to be doing. A pandemic might be the best excuse in history to avoid a tiring internship, so only apply for ones you really love or take this time to focus on other priorities. People who are out of work should use this time as an opportunity to network virtually and reflect on their past experiences so they can best utilize their skills in the future. Make a five-year plan. Start an art journal. Learn a new game. Poke your friends on Facebook. Start that at-home workout regimen you’ve been eyeing for some time.

People should see this as a time of growth. We have all the time in the world to take a break and refocus on the things that matter most. Don’t let the time slip away.

Isabella Sorial, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is an opinions writer.

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