By: Netani Shields  | 

Maintaining A Healthy Attitude Towards Routines This Semester

Being a student of Yeshiva University during a typical year is tough. The schedule is demanding, oftentimes arduous, and balancing the different academic and social demands can seem like a herculean task. I remember how adjusting to the different aspects of university life —Jewish, social and academic — took a few weeks upon my arrival to YU, last semester. I was able to sail the ocean of my days by mapping out when to work, when to socialize, when to exercise and when to sleep. This transition, I believe, probably happened in some way or another for most of the student body. Despite the (hopefully) successful acclimations, an event occurred which rendered all of our previous conceptions of how to best navigate our time at school specifically, but also very much of our lives generally, more or less useless. What had come to make sense at the Wilf and Beren campuses was thrown out the proverbial window; we were struck with the unfortunate luck of a once in a lifetime pandemic. The way we will succeed this semester is through routines, yet we must understand that failing to adhere to those routines is not the end of the world.

There are two primary reasons why maintaining a routine during these times is absolutely necessary. The first relates to our immediate future. Although the aura of emblematic heaviness during trying times is inevitable, the effect upon us can still be scaled back to a certain extent according to how we approach it. Few things feel worse than the feeling of lethargy and hopelessness produced by inactivity. To illustrate this point, when I was a counselor at Camp HASC — a camp for individuals with special needs — the days were exhausting. There was always something to be taken care of, and the unpredictability of the campers was stressful, to say the least. Nevertheless, the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a day of grit made the whole experience not only worthwhile, but actually enjoyable. Conversely, on my days off, where I would mostly do nothing, I not only felt more tired than I did on an action-packed day, I felt unhappy. The problem of my days off were only made possible by my not having a plan for those days. I should have had a schedule. Designing a system where our everyday activities are mapped out, and generally sticking to that script, is the blueprint for potential success which will likely help mitigate feasible feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. 

Sticking to a plan is not only beneficial for curbing unwanted distress while the pandemic is still raging around us, it is also a vital step we need to take for the benefit of our future selves. A level of near ubiquitous uncertainty has certainly produced more anxiety among members of society. “Uncertainty,” says Christie Aschwanden in an article written for the Washington Post, “can leave us exhausted, as even the simple tasks of everyday life these days require more thought and cause more anxiety.” Yet, despite the anxiety, and despite the exhaustion caused by that anxiety, we must trudge forward, one foot at a time, in our routines. 

All of us are at this institution for a reason. We are here to be presented with the resources provided by YU, and to subsequently internalize those resources in our own lives. This goal is made exponentially more difficult by COVID-19, but that does not mean that the goal of improving ourselves, and using YU as the apparatus with which to do that, falls away. Again, referring back to my original argument, navigating this university is only possible through adherence to a strict routine. We owe it to ourselves to put in the effort now; after all, the only people who are hurt if we don’t are our future selves. Our future selves will thank us for our determination and firmness.

There is nevertheless a real danger in sticking to routines too much this semester. Routines are a practical way of slowly and steadily getting closer to our goals. Focusing too much on committing to a regimen, and not spending enough mental energy reminding ourselves what the objective of that regimen actually is, is risky business. It can lead to obsessiveness over making use of every minute within our day. And when we invariably have a bad day, and do not accomplish everything on our to-do list, our perception is that of failure. Rather, when we fail to do something, we should remember that it is merely a setback, and not fatal to what we ultimately hope to accomplish. 

As legendary Chinese thinker and general Sun Tzu so famously said, “Every battle is won before it is fought,” demonstrating the value of manufacturing a plan of action. And also as Sun Tzu said, “Sometimes we need to lose the small battles in order to win the war,” which signifies the way we need to approach our setbacks.

Photo Caption: Organization is key to a successful semester
Photo Credit: Pixabay