When you’re a student, it’s especially easy for your obligations and assignments to become a major part of your identity, and the things that make you unique as a woman often take a back seat for the sake of finishing assignments or rushing to club meetings.
When I was a college student, my mental and physical health were put on the back burner because I thought that being “productive” and fulfilling my obligations was the most important thing. However, I started to lose a sense of who I was. It turns out, you aren’t just a student. First and foremost, you are a unique individual who needs to be nurtured and cared for. It wasn’t until I started instilling routines and habits throughout the day that took care of myself that I really started to thrive as a student.
I know that might sound counterintuitive – you can become a better student by taking time out of your day for “non-student” things? That’s what I thought too, but these habits helped me truly thrive, not only as a student, but as a person. Here are a few tricks and tips I picked up along the way.
1. Turn Your Morning Routine into a Creative Outlet
During college, finding “me time” was such a struggle. It seemed like my entire schedule from waking up to going to bed was dictated by classes, assignments, and social obligations. I found myself craving some creative outlet but struggled to find the opportunity to fit even 15 minutes of non-scheduled time into my day.
Creating a morning routine was a game changer. I started waking up an hour earlier to have my morning coffee outside, read several pages of a non-school-related book, and spend time washing my face, putting on my makeup, and choosing my outfit. I decided to become very purposeful about this routine, from the type of coffee I chose, how I brewed it, which book I would read, which outfit I picked out, how I would do my makeup, etc.
These decisions may seem small, but they had a massive impact on my mental health in college. This critical hour in the morning helped ground me in a sense of “self” before entering my busy routine.
This critical hour in the morning helped ground me in a sense of “self” before entering my busy routine.
Here are some tips from my morning routine if you’re needing inspiration!
Turn making your coffee into a morning ritual. Which kind of coffee do you enjoy? Fruity? Chocolatey? Do you prefer a coffee machine? Pour-over? French press? Even something as small as choosing how you make your coffee enables you to be creative with this small morning ritual.
Sit outside, even if it’s for only 10 minutes. Be present with your surroundings. Close your eyes, breathe in the fresh air, and take in the smells and sounds. Going to college in Michigan, this small routine made me feel connected to the changing seasons – breathing in the crisp fall air, watching fluffy snowflakes dance to the ground, smelling the first blossoms of spring. Take the time to think about what you’re thankful for and cultivate a positive outlook for the day ahead, no matter how many assignments you have due that day. Purposefully grounding yourself in your surroundings and cultivating gratitude makes you feel more present and in control of your life, rather than the obligations of life controlling you.
Try to read several pages of a non-school-related book. As a student, I know picking up another book is probably the last thing you would want to do. However, I found that reading books for pleasure actually fed my love for learning and jumpstarted my imagination and curiosity for the day. Even reading as little as 5-10 pages in the morning can make a big difference!
Treat your “getting ready” routine as a creative outlet! Be present and purposeful when doing your makeup. Try a new look that you’ve been eyeing for a while. Curate your wardrobe with clothes that you feel fabulous and confident in. The temptation to wear sweatpants and a messy bun is real, but being purposeful with how you present yourself will bring a sense of confidence with you throughout your day. Try on a fun dress or an outfit that caught your eye. Who doesn’t love scarves and beanies in the fall on a college campus? Get creative with it!
2. Move Your Body, Even If It’s for Just 20 Minutes a Day
One of my biggest regrets in college is that I waited until my junior year to start a daily workout routine. For the first two years, I thought that I simply didn’t have time for it and that I could get enough exercise by scurrying around campus going to and from classes. However, it wasn’t until I started running that I realized how tired and unmotivated I was without moving my body at least once a day. Deciding to start working out was one of the best decisions in my life, from my mental and physical health to my confidence and overall happiness.
There are few things more empowering to your femininity than using your strong body.
There are few things more empowering to your femininity than using your strong body. Your body can do incredible things! When I first started running, I could only run half a mile while stopping multiple times to catch my breath. Every morning, I would run a loop around a small lake a few miles from campus, and that half mile seemed like a half marathon for the first few weeks. But by the time I finished college, I was running seven miles straight!
There truly is something special about building a deep connection with your body while working out – seeing how it changes, becomes stronger, and pushes the limits beyond what you thought it could do. If you can get outside and run, even for half a mile, you have conquered a hard thing. It gives you the confidence to go into the rest of your day and face your lists of tasks and obligations with the knowledge that you can do hard things and become stronger! All the better if you can exercise outside.
3. “Beautify” Things That You Use Throughout the Day
Women are “nesters.” We love to create a beautiful environment no matter where we are. However, it can be hard to “nest” when you’re on-the-move all day with busy schedules. That’s why I love splurging on small things that help me “nest” on-the-go. For example, every year, I spend a little extra money to buy a Rifle Paper Co. planner. Their beautiful designs and layouts spark a bit of joy when I’m planning out my day, and it’s worth every penny.
In college, I was known for carrying around a brightly-colored coffee cup from Anthropologie, even in the student union – I would pour the cafeteria coffee in my mug! Something as small as sipping coffee out of a pretty mug while blazing through books and papers made my assignments more enjoyable.
Women love to create a beautiful environment no matter where we are.
These things may seem like small investments, but they can make a big difference in expressing your individuality and sparking a bit of joy throughout the day. Buying things like floral notebooks, fancy pens, fun laptop covers, and even bookmarks can help you nest on-the-go.
4. Create a Nighttime Routine
That dreaded moment…you’re absolutely exhausted, you’ve finally submitted your term paper that you’ve worked tirelessly on for the past month, and the only thing standing between you and your comfy mattress is washing off your makeup and brushing your teeth. Such a small task can feel like an insurmountable feat in that dreaded moment, and, if you’re like me, you’ve skipped the face wash and toothbrush and hopped straight to bed more times than you would like to admit.
This was one of the hardest routines for me to adapt to, but it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the day, so much so that I still use the same routine!
In college, I started struggling with insomnia. It would take me so long to fall asleep with the thoughts running through my mind, like the events of the past day and all that I had to do the next day. A night routine became absolutely vital in calming my mind and focusing my attention on my surroundings rather than the events of “yesterday and tomorrow.” Here are a few tips from my night routine, that I still use to help me process the day and calm my insomnia.
Listen to soft music. This immediately helped my buzzing mind fixate on another sensation rather than the hamster wheel of thoughts running through my head.
Washing away the grime of the day can become a small ritual for washing off the events of the day.
Be present while washing your face rather than rushing through it like another thing on your “to-do” list. This is another sensory experience that helps bring your mind into the present moment. Washing away the grime of the day and massaging silky moisturizer and creams into your face can become a small ritual for washing off the events of the day and preparing your body for some well-needed rest.
Take time to meditate on what you’re thankful for. Too often, life becomes so busy that the small blessings that make life rich and meaningful go unnoticed. Keeping a journal to jot down my memories of the day, from the struggles to the victories, helps me process the day so that I don’t have any lingering thoughts when my head hits the pillow. Ending the day with a posture of gratitude is also something simple that does so much for your overall mental health and happiness.
These are just a few small habits that make a big difference. The biggest hurdle for making healthy habits in college are all the demands that come with being a student. However, unless you make time to nurture yourself, it’s easy to lose yourself in your role as a student. These habits help you nurture your physical and mental health and enable you to express your individuality in small but meaningful ways. Make time for them. You deserve it.
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