Editor's Note: Chris Varano is 2016 graduate of Westfield High School and senior at the University of Maryland where he is studying neurobiology.

If you’re like me, you probably go to sleep worrying about something and wake up with that same anxiety. For me, I am constantly worrying about my classes. Being a premed student has taken quite a toll on me to be completely honest with you. The biology and chemistry classes I take every semester are intellectually exhausting and dense. When I was accepted into my neurophysiology major, my mentality was to attack my classes head on and make sure I’m always receiving A’s. Let me tell you, that surely wasn’t the case. I received slightly above average grades and was spending less time with my friends. In addition, all of the self-induced stress was negatively affecting my sleep. Not only was my stress affecting my sleep, I was now experiencing physical anxiety where I would feel knots in my stomach, tightness in my chest and feel as though I couldn’t breathe. And now that I was experiencing these physical symptoms, I would become even more anxious thinking about these symptoms because I always thought I was having a heart attack.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment where I decided that this self-induced anxiety needed to end, but I am so grateful that I reached that conclusion. It was time to take control of my mental health and not take my studies so seriously. I’m very fortunate to tell you now that I incorporate some strategies into my daily life that allow me to work less, get better grades, decrease my anxiety and create more joy in my life.

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Step One: Setting Intentions

Setting the intention that I wanted to have a balanced and successful day was step one. Once my intention was identified, I established what I wanted to accomplish in the morning to set me up for a successful day. Step three was incorporating strategies such as habit bunching and mini habits to find ways to effectively accomplish my designated morning tasks. Once my morning was structured in the most ideal way possible, I began budgeting time for studying outside of classes that would still allow for me to take time for myself throughout the day. This was most easily done using the Pomodoro technique.

The Pomodoro technique is a time management method that allows for studying/working in 25 minute intervals and 5 minute breaks in between each interval. And after 4 intervals are completed, it is very useful to take a much longer break (1-3 hours). With these longer breaks, I now had designated time to hang out with my friends, meditate or hit the gym.

Here's a rough outline of my current morning routine. It’s important to note that this routine adjusts frequently depending on my goals.

Wake up: usually around 7:00 am- don’t touch my phone unless used as an alarm
Make my bed: right away (doesn’t have to look amazing but it’s definitely “made”)
Make my coffee/clean dishes
5-7-minute shower:
mix time between hot and cold water
meditate for 5 minutes: been doing how to hack the flow state meditation
Read 1 page of a book: This usually leads to more than 1 page.
Writing for the blog (1hr): (this hour flows pretty quickly)

***Notice that I don’t eat breakfast because of intermittent fasting. I'll post about this in another article.

I want to note that this routine has evolved from my previous routine. Now that I am in college and working with a busier schedule, I had to make my routine more efficient and concise compared to when I was home over the summer. Over the summer I had more time to practice yoga, read more pages of my books and take more time to meditate. However, at this point in time, being able to use strategies such as mini habits and habit bunching has really made my morning routine more effective.

These two strategies work hand-in-hand. A mini habit is basically the idea that to begin a habit, you need to set out an extremely easy goal for yourself to accomplish every day. For example, if you’re someone who doesn’t read, but wants to, start by reading one page a day. If you’re someone who wants to begin to meditate, then start by taking one deep breath and closing your eyes. You may think that reading one page a day or taking one breath is almost a ridiculous goal to have, however, once you read one page or take one break, you’re more likely to continue reading or continue breathing. This is because of newton’s first law, objects that are in motion tend to stay in motion.

The other strategy incorporated into my routine is habit bunching. Since I have set out all of these small little goals that I want to accomplish in the morning, I make sure that I bunch these goals and potential habits into the same time frame. I do this so that I can accomplish my goals right when I start my day, which gives me a great boost of confidence. In addition, once I realize that these goals have turned into solidified habits, I am grateful and proud of myself for putting in the work to change my life for the better.

I want to make clear that this routine is in no way perfect and is currently working for me because of where I am now. My routine is going to change as I move into the future, and I am always looking for more tips and ideas to improve.

For more content like this, please check our blog at https://www.mindhive.online/blog.