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Forming Habits: How To Find Stability Amid College Chaos

Most of the time, mornings consist of simple tasks such as brushing your teeth, washing your face, and getting ready for the day. But they can soon start to spiral into the most complex and difficult tasks of your life. For example, you may find that you have to get ready in the dark because your roommate is still sleeping, leading to you putting on all your clothes backward. And though you try to be as quiet as possible, you might still manage to knock down everything in your path, making enough noise to wake the entire hall. 

As the day goes on, you’re greeted by another set of challenges. Whether it’s going to the dining hall just to find out they don’t have the food you like or wandering around for what seems like forever to find the perfect study spot, these little hurdles never seem to stop racing toward us. 

By the time the day is over and you have successfully survived all your classes and obstacles, you can finally get ready for bed and sleep—or at least that’s what you think. Because the fire alarm that randomly goes off or the flood that suddenly seeps out of your shower drain have other ideas.

Is this really what it means to be in college? Did the dorm tour videos we watched on YouTube for years really lie? Because they don’t mention the part of college where you wait an hour for your laundry to be done in the dryer, only to find it just as soaked as before. Nor do they mention the fact that your room will either be hotter than a sauna or colder than the frigid weather outside, with only a rare in-between. 

College is unpredictable, and we can’t always count on things that should be considered easy. It’s difficult to feel like you’re in control of your day when there’s so many variables to account for, and no amount of planning seems to solve them.

So this is where the importance of habits comes in. And by habits, I mean patterns that aren’t constricted to a specific time of day and are flexible enough to endure whatever obstacles come your way. These can be as simple as making a point to stay off social media when you’re studying, or having a daily goal to read one page of that book you’ve been meaning to read. But no matter what, they should be relatively simple—not so overwhelming that they add to your pile of homework. And they should be adaptable—things that one fire alarm setback won’t deter you from completing. 

Keep in mind that these habits have to be repeated. They are not tasks that you only do when you have a sudden burst of motivation or inspiration. In order for all of our little tasks—like making our bed or going to the gym—to become habits, you have to be consistent. Habits are behaviors ingrained in your day, not ordinary points on your to-do list that you never look at again. 

When you are grounded in these daily repetitions, there is less of a chance that curve balls will throw off your day. Habits help you control your own narrative—and the best way to do this is to write them down. This may sound obvious but writing your habits down is what makes them real and not a figment of your imagination. It’s what keeps you motivated to complete them.

In this way, your habits start as mini-goals to hold yourself to, and they can accumulate into regular habits as the weeks go by. They can act as a measure of success where you are getting slightly closer to the bigger goal, from decreasing your screen time to completing a book. But most importantly, they can bring a sense of control over the unpredictability of college, so you no longer feel adrift but confident.

February 20, 2023