Cleaning House and Starting the School Year (Online)

Getting Comfortable

As many of us transition into this upcoming school year, more than ever is it paramount to ‘clean house’ with the switch to virtual learning. While I’m sure we’ve all had a little bit too much time getting to know our homes, the shift to online classes is going to require that we maintain a stable lifestyle. What I mean by ‘cleaning house’ is in terms of both literally and metaphorically: creating a comfortable and fresh living environment, but also clearing away the clutter from our minds and getting our priorities in order.

There’s something oddly refreshing about remodeling our homes and then taking a step back to look at the progress we’ve made. I can unironically already hear my mom telling me I need to clean my room and make it cozier with some accessories, but in fairness, she may be on to something. I’m sure many of us have had those periods where we go on a Netflix binge or feel like we’re in a rut. It’s almost like the feeling creates the problem itself; where when we begin to feel unproductive, we begin to lack a sense of urgency and end up being unproductive in reality. But a seamless way to switch gears is by going out and tackling some of the smaller things on our checklists. Whether it’s putting up some new posters to buying new school supplies, these are ways of giving us some immediate gratification. By checking off all these small tasks, they eventually do build up and get us in a headspace and routine of productivity.

Often, we can get overwhelmed by the seeming avalanche of tasks that lies ahead of us. It can feel like we don’t even know where to begin, that there’s no route to tackling this monster of work. But it’s truly this unique concept of doing the little things that can amount to big results that can make us feel rejuvenated. Part of this is that cleaning house is a practice of self-care whether we know it or not. On the surface, furnishing our workspace can look mundane or for aesthetics and whatnot, but it’s actually all for ourselves. It gives us a sense of accomplishment, that we feel comfortable now because of our own efforts and that we went out and did something. I encourage everyone to go and try and make their room a little more homely, and then take a step back to take in all the new transformations you’ve made. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 

The Five Questions of Self-Care

While ‘cleaning house’ in the literal sense is undoubtedly valuable for our mental health, there’s still much left we need to do in terms of self-care. This brings me to my next point of prioritizing what’s important to us, which is, unsurprisingly, ourselves. But sometimes it can be confusing on what to give precedence to as our responsibilities pile high and everything around us moves so fast. This can lead to us feeling like we’re stuck, that we can’t pinpoint what is making us unhappy so we don’t know what action to take. Fortunately, I’ve stumbled upon something called the five questions of self-care that breaks down what we can do to make sure we’re looking out for ourselves. While I can’t ensure that by doing these things everything will turn out as perfectly as we like to imagine, these are things that are in our control that can make our lives that much better. As we go to reflect upon our days, keep these in mind to see what may be troubling ourselves.

  1. Are you eating well and hydrating?

This one is fairly self-explanatory, yet it seems to get overlooked. Sometimes our psychological problems can translate into physiological problems which only worsens the situation. We’ve talked about eating disorders in another great blog post titled Not Just About Food: Eating Disorders, but this extends for everyone. Watching what we eat and making the conscious decision to take care of our bodies is something that feels very self-rewarding and fulfilling. While I can’t dismiss some of our guilty pleasures and cheat meals, everything should be taken in moderation.

  1. Are you exercising?

This falls in a very similar line with the previous tip, but regular exercise is a fantastic way for us to unwind, especially with all the time we are sitting at home. And it doesn’t have to be some type of rigorous workout or training regimen either, just going outside and taking a walk around your neighborhood is wonderful for getting some fresh air and getting your body moving. Make it a habit to do some sort of physical fitness, and let the endorphins run wild!

  1. Are you sleeping regularly?

This one is going to be especially prevalent during the school year, but even now, keeping our sleep schedule on a consistent schedule will eliminate those groggy, sleep-deprived days where we become highly irritable. I know especially that there are nights when getting those eight hours of recommended hours of sleep is nearly impossible because of a late-night cram session or you have some big assignment due tomorrow, but it shouldn’t ever become a habitual thing to the point where you have no energy to carry out the coming day. If there’s just no way for you to make time for sleep, you may want to consider lessening your load and picking what is truly important to you. It simply isn’t sustainable to be constantly tired for both your mental health and productivity. 

  1. Are you having meaningful social interactions?

‘Meaningful social interactions’ can look different to everyone, but it essentially means that you regularly communicate with people who are supportive and have your best interests at hand. With virtual learning, this is probably the one that hits the hardest as we won’t have the opportunity to see our friends at school like we often do. But that doesn’t mean that we should be devoid of social interaction; we should still be checking up on friends and maintaining relationships. With the new school year starting, now is a great time to go and talk to some friends and catch up on how you’ve been doing. I’ve been trying to make it a habit of checking in on some people I haven’t been in contact with for a while, and I can say that I feel better that I took those leaps of faith and initiated a conversation. 

  1. Are you doing fulfilling work?

We all have different versions of ‘work’ that brings us fulfillment, but finding what gives us energy and excitement to return back to it is what we should be searching for. Whether it’s volunteering, or researching a certain subject in school you really like, or writing for an awesome teen mental health blog (this one especially), there’s bound to be something out there that makes you want to get up and do your best work. Finding just what that is can be understandably difficult, but the best way to discover our passions is by having as many different experiences as possible. So be proactive and don’t be afraid to give something new a shot. Who knows, it could be your calling.

Being There for Ourselves

As I’ve said before, cleaning house is just another way that we can express self-care, and since we’re going to be mainly stuck at home for the foreseeable future, it’s presence is all the more felt. Without the accustomed cycle of going to school and seeing all our friends in person, we’re going to have to rely on ourselves to a certain extent. But we shouldn’t fear or give up in these times of doubt. While it may seem like much of our lives are out of our control, we can always take the steps to make our own happiness. The greatest thing about self-care is that it takes no one else to do it. You’ll always have yourself wherever you go, and that should be more than enough. 

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