How To Stick To A Routine In College, Even When Your Calendar Looks All Kinds Of Chaotic

Aside from the fact that May 2019 will mark a whopping six years since I graduated college (be still, my beating heart), I still get those same warm, fuzzy, back-to-school feels every September. I guess I never really grew out of the mindset that summer is this magical time when everything feels significantly more relaxed, and the grind kicks back up again in September. But, honestly, I lived for the chaos that is the first month of college. I looked at it as a clean slate, a time to figure out how to stick to a routine in college, despite how unbelievably full my schedule would become by the time classes started. Trust me, I know it’s not always easy, especially when you consider what being a college student actually entails — classwork, internships, club commitments, and social events — but nailing down a routine you can follow mostly, if not always to a T, will make the semester a whole lot easier to navigate and enjoy.

According to the JED Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit organization working with teens and young adults to sustain their mental health and prevent suicide, over 80 percent of college students in 2017 said they felt overwhelmed by and exhausted from their busy schedules. I know myself, and I totally sympathize: Junior year of college was by far my busiest; I was juggling four classes, an internship in the city that I worked at twice a week, a part-time job as a waitress, a role as the opinions editor for my school newspaper, and I was going out with my friends, on average, at least three times a week. I was living my best life, but I was also living my busiest life. In college, there’s so much to do, so much you want to do, and sometimes, it honestly feels like 24 hours is not nearly enough to get it all done. But that, my friend, is where having at least a semi-consistent routine comes in handy.

"Developmentally, during our college years, we are at the stage where it is essential for us to determine where we are going in our career and who we are as individuals," Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC, a doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, tells Elite Daily over email. "In order for us to accomplish this task, we need to feel personally successful in our daily lives," which is why, she says, structure and routine are so important; these things help you feel "accomplished and productive," Forshee explains.

To stick with a routine this year, and every year thereafter in life, here are a few expert-approved tips that will bring you structure and combat stress.

Combine What You Love To Do With What You HAVE To Do

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One of the best ways to tweak your morning habits and transform them into staple parts of your everyday routine is to combine something you enjoy doing, with something that needs to get done. For instance, you can easily marry your morning cup of coffee and the time you spend going through your daily to-dos.

"It can be as simple as a morning 'coffee routine,' which involves checking emails and prioritizing tasks for the day ahead," Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, tells Elite Daily. Or, he suggests, you can "keep a journal that collects and cements your thoughts for the day" while you're sitting up in bed. Finding clever ways to make life's little pleasures feel even slightly more productive, Glatter explains, can be a great way to ease into a more structured routine overall.

Make Your Mental And Physical Health A Priority

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In a study performed by researchers at North Carolina State University that analyzed the physical activity of over 20,000 students during the 2013-14 academic year, the results showed that even just one hour of exercise per week can increase the odds of graduating by over 50 percent. On top of that, the study's press release noted, for every hour of exercise performed per week, students saw a 0.06 percent bump in their overall GPA. If the endorphins don't make you happy, that statistic certainly should.

I'm sure you're familiar with the many benefits of exercise, like the fact that it makes you stronger and gives you more energy, but committing to a regular workout routine can also "cement our commitment to fitness and long-term health," Glatter tells Elite Daily. Clearly, just a little bit of physical effort goes a long way, so find a routine you genuinely enjoy — be it yoga, weightlifting, or swimming — and pump some iron and those brain muscles, my friend.

Try Meditating When You Need A Breather

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Sticking to a routine doesn't necessarily mean following a strict schedule all day, every day, down to the exact minute. Sometimes it means adopting certain behaviors and implementing them into your day when you need them most — like meditation, for example. "A 10-minute period of daily meditation, devoted to self, helps to maintain our focus throughout the day," Glatter tells Elite Daily. And when the going gets rough — which, unfortunately, will happen occasionally throughout your time in college — it's easy to lose yourself in the chaos and give into that intense feeling of being overwhelmed.

To ensure the hectic nature of a busy schedule doesn't get the better of you, try taking a step back for a second and setting an alarm on your phone for three, five, maybe even 10 minutes to do nothing more than sit back, breathe, and really think about what's going on emotionally.

Always Be Prepared

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When I was in college, the best piece of advice I ever received for how to stay on-schedule was to always do what you can the night before to make the next morning run smoothly. This could mean packing your lunch, preparing a breakfast you can grab and eat on-the-go, making a to-do list, or picking out the clothes you want to wear, ironing them, and hanging each item at the front of your closet. Having a nighttime routine, Forshee explains, is "an excellent example of what people should be doing to structure their time and routine," because it will ultimately set you up for success tomorrow, and for the long-term.