Stanescu-Bellu: A Break in Routine

Sometimes we need to take our lives off autopilot and embrace change.

by Sofia Stanescu-Bellu | 5/3/18 2:00am

Students wake up at around the same time, go to class, attend meetings, eat several structured meals, go out, go to bed and do it all again the following day. Then again the following week. Then the following term. Barring exceptions and unexpected circumstances, these terms of routine turn into years. In fact, a survey by OnePoll found that 67 percent of Americans feel like their lives barely stray from their routines. This routine extends far beyond the way people partition the time they have and permeate their mindsets and habits as well — all integral parts that represent individual identity.

There are plenty of articles that might claim to know the ideal, fine-tuned routine for academic and personal success — “The Perfect Routine for A Successful Student,” “Ideal Routine,” “Best Daily Routine for College Students” — and there are numerous studies advertising the health benefits of maintaining a strict routine. For one, routines lower stress levels and lead to a better sleep schedule. Having a strict routine, it seems, will make people well-oiled cogs in the machine of life, who will march along as the epitome of disciplined perfection.

Routines are easy, painless and might even make someone healthier, but they’re mind-numbingly boring. People get so used to same motions, the same steps, the same repetitive process and the same way of thinking that they lose their personality and intellectual curiosity — things they might not even realize they need. Everyone needs challenges, as counterintuitive as it might sound. Humans are genetically engineered to shy away from danger and find comfort in what they know, but how can people break barriers if they remain within their self-imposed confines? Life on autopilot can only get one so far before change is needed, and change isn’t always bad.

Routines are an inherent part of life, and it might be impossible to forgo routines entirely — spontaneity can be difficult when juggling three classes and extracurriculars. There are beneficial parts of routines, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising and getting enough sleep, but perhaps other parts of students’ routines could undergo a shift. Changing pace every now and then can break students out of their stupor and reinvigorate them with a new energy.

It might be time to take that course you’ve been eyeing but were hesitant to take because it’s outside of your major. That dance P.E. class that you’ve been meaning to take but never got around to because you’re afraid that you’ll be horrible at it could be a good way to step out of your comfort zone and learn something new. Invite that one person you know from your first-year seminar and see on the Green every day out to lunch and expand your social circle. These actions may seem small and potentially irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, but they could do wonders for people’s moods, outlook on life and creativity.

When everyone spends so much time acting out the same scenes of their lives over and over again, they become afraid to fix what might not be broken. It’s time to face that fear and make the leap toward the unknown. Your future self will thank you for it.

At the end of the day, routines make each of us just another voyager on this planet. But breaking out of routines makes us present. Sure, after a deviation from our routines, we’ll most likely end up crafting a new routine or returning to our own habits — humans are creatures of habit, I suppose — but as long as we remain aware of our surroundings and don’t become complacent and comfortable in what we know, we will create opportunities to learn and grow. And after all, isn’t that what college is all about?