Combatting the winter blues

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Who knew postcard scenes could be so unmotivating? Josh Hild via Unsplash

Ways to help beat that dreaded winter slump

Invest in gold star stickers. Every year in the middle of January, I get the impending sense of “when will this month end?” With the semester off to a rocky start and continuing to work from home, I find it difficult to keep my spirits up. January has felt like it has gone on for three months at this point, and the crummy weather has made it difficult to roll out of bed for school and work. As much as I love staying in my pajamas for class, it is hard to not procrastinate through dark periods. Here is a list of things I do to keep myself motivated:


1. Make attainable goals

Lots of the time when I try to help myself, I go for the absolute most extreme lifestyle flip and stick with it for three days before reverting to my old habits. There is a reason why this does not work, and it is because you are putting your body into circumstances that it does not understand and would rather return to its old ways than adapt. For example, this fall I was determined to start running. I probably ran for a week before I had to quit because my shins hurt so badly and spent another two weeks trying to recover. When I went back, I had a better plan. I would walk to start up, and then I would slow jog for about five minutes of every run I did. Slowly, I worked my way up longer distances with more running incorporated.

It takes 21 days to form a habit, but it makes it so much easier when that habit turns into a hobby. Running is a long-term goal but developing two or three short-term goals can change your week. One of my goals for Sunday is to organize my files on my desktop into my folders so I can start with a clean slate at the beginning of every week. Healthy goals tend to come in small doses.


2. Keep your space clean

I cannot emphasize enough how much easier it is to work in a clean space. I find that when I let things get messy enough in my space, all I do is I sit and stew over the fact that I am uncomfortable in my working and learning space. I cannot think properly because I am so distracted by my own area. It is important to acknowledge that messiness can also be a good part of the creative process – but when my messiness extends over days, I know it does not help my productivity.

I live in a shoebox. I have a single dorm with enough room for my bed, desk, and a chair. While I love my shoebox, I am in a constant state of sweeping and folding to make sure I have enough room for everything in here. Sometimes, when I let it go too far and let it look like a car fire, it reflects my inner turmoil or worries. Cleaning can be the hardest part of my day, which is why I choose to have Sunday afternoons as my tidying period. It is so easy to let simple upkeeping habits go when you are having a big week. Many of those simple housekeeping chores are aiding your productivity. Now, my most busy weeks are times when my room is the cleanest because I know I cannot focus without some sort of functionality in my space.

3. Create encouraging rewards

It is easy to start procrastinating different tasks when you start to lose motivation or burn out. Online classes have been tough for me so far this winter semester because I do not have the
balance between a work and rest space. It is very easy to get distracted with chores or activities in my room when I am supposed to be focused on the tasks that I need to be doing.

Having a balance between your work, school, and personal life is important so you can allocate enough time for each aspect. It’s important to reward yourself for getting activities done throughout the day, so get creative with your rewards. This can come in the form of materialistic things or things that can help you with your work. For example, if I was to choose a materialistic thing for myself, I would probably hit up the Starbucks drive thru. For hobbies, I know that when I hit my 500 miles run mark, I am going to buy a new roller so I can roll my legs in my room rather than at the gym. Some rewards are smaller than others – I often like to make a checklist of three things to get through before I take a break. When I complete a task on my list, I put a little star sticker next to it. It is a small gesture, but it keeps me motivated throughout the rest of my day to keep achieving more tasks.

4. Active resting periods

Creating time for rest is essential for avoiding burnout. Sometimes I feel like I could sleep for 14 hours at a time. It is my weakness that when I have free time, I like to lay on my bed on my phone. Finding different activities to do during free time makes a difference in your alertness throughout the day. When I sit around for all the breaks I have, I find that it is harder to get started on a new task. Now, if I am in the mood to watch Netflix, I am normally doing something stimulating like crocheting or a puzzle.

This is not to discredit rest periods. Sometimes the best way to rest and recharge is to lay down and do something mindless like scrolling through social media. I am someone who really struggles to keep a good routine for themselves and when I get a day off, instead of sleeping in until 10 am, I will sleep until noon. When my sleep schedule gets thrown off, I can stay up until early hours of the morning. My best advice on how to knock yourself out is so simple: books. Reading is something I do not do enough, but often get my hours in trying to fall asleep. However, this means not reading off your phone, tablet, or Kindle. Grab the paperback copy of the book that has been sitting on your shelf and I promise you will be out in no time.

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