By: McKenzie Hickey

When creating a healthy routine for yourself it is crucial to remember that your individual schedule may be different than your family, friends or colleagues routine. You should curate the most beneficial routine that will fit your current lifestyle. Maybe you are someone who needs to have the same routine schedule every day each week? Eat the same breakfast each morning, workout in the afternoon each day, and brush your teeth at 10:15 p.m. each night. You also could be someone who needs constant change and variability in your schedule. Maybe Monday is your day off where you take a self care day, sleeping in, FaceTiming your Mom, going on a long walk around one of the 10,000 lakes. Maybe you need to work late hours from 4-10 p.m. when your brain is most stimulated. 
Something important to keep in mind when crafting your own personal schedule is rewarding yourself with smaller victories. Making a to-do list helps you stay on track, but it is beyond alright if you don’t check off each individual task for the day. Set small goals and celebrate when you achieve them. Treat yourself to binge watching a show or buying that new makeup palette. I learned throughout college that overfilling your plate tends to leave your tank on empty. I personally struggled with having a balanced social, work and school life. I had a difficult time saying no to opportunities and people, and had little time to re-energize on my own. In order to create the prime schedule for your life, sometimes you have to diminish other areas of your life that are taking up too much time. Maybe it is quitting a job that is no longer fulfilling you, maybe it is slowly backing away from a friendship that is draining you, maybe it is learning to understand that you can’t do it all. We are not unfortunately super humans, we can only mentally and emotionally handle so much in our daily lives. 

Find Comfort in the Chaos:
As we are still amidst a global pandemic, it is challenging to face the uncertainty and chaos this world currently holds. Change can be thrilling, but constant change can be draining and difficult to navigate the next steps. I know for me personally, I love the idea of adapting to new jobs, living environment, changing of the seasons, etc. However, adjusting to the quarantine lifestyle was chaos that I was completely shaken by. I had just graduated from college this past December, completely uncertain of my future plans. I was certain I would move away and start this new chapter of my life in a new place, far far away from Minnesota. I applied to at least 50 jobs out of state before I realized that the probability of me landing a job out of state was highly unlikely. It took awhile to accept that I was not being rejected because of my skills for a job, but because of the larger circumstances facing the world. 

I began applying for more jobs in Minnesota and around mid June I landed my first job. The most bizarre part about when I landed the job is that after all of that time anticipating, hoping for the right opportunity to come along, I did not feel whole entirely. I had spent many days drained in my self-doubt thoughts of how I would never be good enough for any job and no one would hire me. Many of us get into these dangerous mind games where we think constantly of why we feel like failure and how we can do better. An enigmatic thought occurred that day when I accepted the job: That we are all more than a job. We are more than a college student or athlete. We are more than the expectations that have always been told to us by others. It is valid if you are unemployed. It is valid if you are still unsure what career path you want to take. It is valid if you do not have your agenda filled out for next week. 
With all of the uncertainty these past few months, it is about finding unexpected comfort in chaos. Trusting the process and struggle, in hope that what is meant to be for you, will be. One beneficial tactic I learned during quarantine was to make the most of the free time that I had. I slept in, I read, I wrote, I ran outside, I painted, I learned the ukulele, and I had many laughs with two of my best friends who I was quarantined with. For me, it was becoming grounded in the notion that it could take months, or even a year, to find a job after graduating. Instead of ruminating on the fear of uncertainty, I began to find comfort in not knowing what tomorrow brings. I learned how to not plan my life a month in advance or a week in advance. I became entwined with the present day and comforted by all that was to be discovered in the near future. 

Taking a Proactive Approach to Winter:

An important approach to staying productive: lessen the attitude that you need to do the most, while we are currently still living in a pandemic. Approach productivity with sensitivity and grace. With this approach, you can see that there is the opportunity to spend more time inside to reduce the contraction of Coronavirus among others. 

Winter can be a challenging season due to the colder days and lack of sunlight.  Vitamin D deficiency can lead to more intense feelings of sadness and little motivation. Two helpful ways that you can create sunlight is by buying a sun lamp, which mimics outdoor lighting. My roommate bought her sun lamp off of Amazon for fairly cheap and loves it. Also taking Vitamin D supplements can help increase low blood levels and help reduce depression.  

When we begin to lose our minds while inside during long Winter days, going outside to escape seems less appealing. During the Summer and Fall there are more activities outside that keep our mental energies positive throughout the work week. However when Winter hits, the most we can withstand in the cold is maybe an hour. Therefore we have to get creative with ourselves to organize activities/outings that will keep us all motivated. Maybe it’s having an indoor paint/wine night with a few close friends. Maybe it’s connecting with a few individuals and working together on a creative side project. One of my creative outlets is conceptualizing photoshoots with some of my friends. I visualize a shoot idea and then my friends help bring that visual to life in front of the lens. Photography has been a creative outlet for me the past few years to express my ideas to others who might share the same interests. Maintaining a personal side hobby can truly increase your productivity, so you do not feel like you are only working constantly. 

One of the best remedies for seasonal depression is establishing an event/activity to look forward to. A few of my close friends and I traveled to Lusten, Minnesota on Sunday and took a Gondola over all of the fall trees and it was a breathtaking experience to see how vast the fall colors spread across Minnesota. We did this four hour road trip in a day and drove back home the same day to make it to work on Monday. Planning a little road trip or activity each week or every couple weeks provides us the eagerness to stay productive during the work week. Productivity is an awesome way to stay motivated towards your upcoming goals. If you do not have many goals in mind, take time to think about what you want to accomplish before the year ends. Reflect and release any old habits that are not serving you. With productivity, also comes creating a  balance between relaxation time as well! Do what aligns best for your needs and prioritize time for yourself as often as possible. Self-care and self-prioritization is an act of self-love and self-respect.

No matter what these next few months bring, always remember that you are only responsible for things you can control. Give yourself some grace and move through these next transitions in life with your intentions in mind. I challenge you to keep an open mind to what may be in store for you and you just may find out that when chaos comes, so does reflection, life-lessons, and new perspectives on self awareness. Take time to enjoy this autumn weather and the winter ahead, and make each day of your life as magical as possible, with small or large acts of self-love; because you deserve it! And you only get one life, so make it count.

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