Routine-ing through quarantine

Healthy habits, structured routines can create sense of normalcy for students

WEB EXCLUSIVE Wakeup, brush teeth, get dressed, coffee. Many students’ daily routine begins with some variation of this chorus of activities, however, the shelter-in-place order has left students without a fixed routine and mixed feelings. 

“My routine is all things that make me happy while staying productive,” junior Lily Peta said. “At the end of the day, I still feel like I’m living a version of normal.”

Some students say they feel as though trying to produce a structured schedule for the new school year is creating anything but a sense of normal. 

“Last year, I didn’t have any free periods, and this year I have mine right at the beginning of the school year and my first block,” sophomore Isabella Infosino said. “I don’t know how I’ll be able to start the year on a tight schedule.” 

Too much unstructured time can be harmful, according to psychologist Dr. Amy Busch. 

“Downtime is really important, especially as you go back to long online school days,” Busch said, “but activity and a sense of accomplishment outside of school are important too, to boost our mood and to protect against depression. Like most things in life, it’s about balance.”

With a lack of organized activities to occupy their time, students are finding ways to fill up the days with more personal endeavors that they otherwise would not have had time for like sewing and skateboarding.  

“I’ve had more time to live my life outside of school and spend time cooking, baking, exercising and spending time with my family,” senior Emily Ternynck said. “In general, I have more free time, and I’m not rushing from one activity to the next as I used to.”

Although the start of the new year may allow students to transition back into a more organized daily routine, many sports and extracurriculars have been cancelled or are functioning in limited capacity leaving them with the challenge to balance their expanded personal interests with other obligations. 

“You can remind yourself, when there are temptations to do unhealthy things like staying up too late on screens, lying in bed all day on the weekends, and avoiding schoolwork, that those habits are getting in the way of taking care of yourself,” Busch said. “It helps to remember that you’re saying ‘yes’ to your health and well-being when you are trying to move away from unhealthy habits and temptations.”  

Individuals who want to seek support in maintaining healthy habits and routines can look to resources like personal therapists and online support groups such as the Pacific Anxiety Group,  which runs a free online teen support group. 

“If you feel stuck in an unhealthy routine, are uninterested in things you used to enjoy, feel sad or irritable most of the time, or even feel hopeless, then you might be experiencing depression,” said Busch. “Lots of teens are experiencing these symptoms during the pandemic, but you don’t have to suffer on your own.”

It takes a few weeks for people to learn new habits, and setbacks should be expected, according to Busch. Reaching out to friends and trusted adults is a way to stay connected and separate yourself from unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.

“I’m in a daily routine that is very sustainable which is important because it helps me stay grounded and know there is only a certain amount of things I can accomplish in a day,” Peta said. “It’s what feels best for me because I’m not forcing myself to do things I don’t want to do.”