Healthy Mind

How to avoid the routine vacuum

When I thought about what routine actually meant for this piece, the first things that came to my head were thoughts like ‘boredom’, ‘having an unexciting life’, even ‘trapped’. But when you go deeper than that, routine isn’t just about having a boring, unchanging existence – routine pretty much shapes everything to do with our lives; what we do, where we live, even how we look.

Humans, like all animals, are creatures of habit – we do the same familiar things all the time because they make us feel safe and in control of our lives, which is pretty important. People are different, and some value routine and control in their lives more than others, but everyone has some sort of habit in their lives in one way or another. I myself will readily admit I’m a stickler for routine – when I set out what I have to do and when, if something makes me stray off that plan I find myself getting uneasy. I know that comes off as kind of uptight, but that type of thinking isn’t that uncommon at all.

Since we’re students and all, let’s take the example of the transition from school to college. All through growing up, we all did the same thing day in day out and our routine was really decided for us. And then one day, you suddenly become an adult and have to decide yourself what kind of routine you want next; you can pick what you want to study, where you want to study it, if you want to study anything at all, where you’ll live, how you’ll live – everything gets picked up and moved around, and for any kid that’s scary stuff. But it’s also really exciting and although change is scary, it almost always has a great side to it.

When it comes down to it, routine is a comfort zone, and that’s why it’s so hard for us as humans to get out of it. We like to stick to what’s easy and familiar but as the saying goes: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. Life is really about taking chances and learning and growing from new experiences. It’s completely grand to be scared about taking a new direction or starting over but it’s also good to realise that your current routine is not permanent and doesn’t define you.

Now I’m not saying that you should drop routine completely from your life because it is really important. You still have to eat, sleep, shower, go to college or work etc., but it’s good to find a balance between routine and spontaneity, and college is the perfect place to start. If you’re feeling a bit stuck in your habits and want to branch out a bit, here’s some tips to make the routine less constricting:

1) Start small – do your everyday things differently. Walk a different route to college, try something new with your clothes or even your makeup, cook something out of the ordinary for dinner; there’s loads of little ways to shake off your routine and each time you do it it’ll make your day a bit more lively and interesting.

2) Try saying yes to new things more often. Stuff like nights out, dates and events are always presenting them in college and if it’s new and helps break you out of the everyday, then give it a go. Go for the things that make you a bit scared or excited, it’ll be worth it!

3) Join a club or society in college that you might never have thought you’d like. There’s something for everyone out there and you could end up finding something you really love, with new friends too.

4) Travel. It might terrify you but you definitely won’t regret it and there are plenty of options tailor-made for students to get travelling. Look into J1 Visas, inter-railing tickets and Erasmus placements at your college. Even if it’s just a weekend away, it’s a break from the routine here at home and a great way to broaden your horizons and have some fun.