Habits are something that all of us have in our lives. Some are good, and some are bad. In respect to the upcoming school year approaching, I think it is important to have an understanding of how habits are formed, how they can be changed, and how you can prepare yourself or your children in transitioning from summertime to school. Myself being an older college student, I have experienced the difficulties that are related to trying to adjust properly for school. Whether it be my own experience, or being around my peers who have the same problems with their own children, whatever the case may be for you, I hope this article gives you a little better insight on how to prepare for the upcoming school year in a healthy manner.
Habit-building is something that we both consciously and subconsciously do. While most people believe it takes only 21 days to truly break a habit, it is more closely related to 66 days that an actual new habit begins to take over. The 21-day mark is simply one that replaces the imagery your brain creates when thinking about the habit or the action. While we typically aren’t going to waste half of our summer recreating a new habit, we can use the last three weeks or so as a way to get our brains picturing things differently and ultimately helping us get into a much healthier lifestyle. Picturing things differently how? Well, for older students and college-aged kids, the obvious would be not staying out or up until 2 or 3 in the morning, drinking or partying on multiple nights of the week, and eating un-healthy. I think the biggest challenge, however, that kids of that age experience is adjusting from not having any real school work or assignments, to suddenly having 12+ hours a week of school work. Making that transition is very difficult, and by the time you really get into the swing of things 21 days later, 1/3 of the semester is gone. If you came into slacking early, then it can be difficult to swing things back in a good direction. For those of you reading who have kids of your own, there isn’t as much of a dramatic change other than the school work. You still have large control over your kids and their eating habits, bedtimes, etc., but getting them into a mode of doing work can be the tricky part of starting off the semester.
What are some things, or ideas that we can think about that will help us move our habits into a healthier more positive place in preparation for school time? According to an article from the National Institute of Health (NIH), there are five steps that we can take to improve and even change some of these unhealthy habits. One of the most important steps is knowing your habits, or know what unhealthy school related habits you have that would be beneficial to change when the semester starts. I mentioned a good portion of them already as far as getting reasonable sleep and eating healthy foods. I think the biggest thing for all students is the work portion. Having an understanding or at least awareness that you need to start a good habit it the first step in doing just that. Another important step is making a plan and staying on track with that plan. For college students, I think that would consist of relatively small things like saying, “Ok I am only going to go out on the weekends starting in August,” or “I am not going to eat snack foods after 11:00.” These are two easy examples of how to change some of the habits into healthier ones. Along with the second portion, which is staying on track of the plan you created, or not cutting out after a week. As mentioned earlier, the biggest problem is getting back into the routine of doing school work. For those reading who are parents, possibly having like household chores or “assignments” that are due from the child is one method of getting them back into doing work and meeting deadlines as they would in a school setting. For college aged students, there is so much going on in the summer that this option doesn’t seem very reliable. Go back to step one and understanding how habits work. When you approach the semester, already knowing the challenges you will be facing such as getting back into the flow of school. Make a plan such as forcing yourself to do homework so that you may do something else, or some type of rewards system. “If I finish all my math homework, I can play Xbox, but if I don’t finish, then I don’t get to play.” The final phase is to be patient. I think that can apply to anything that is worthwhile in our lives, but patience is the key to success and happiness, in my opinion. So, after you get to week 3, and you have a really busy week ahead of you as far as socializing, don’t cut out and go against what you have been doing as far as not trying to go out. Have a support system that will hold you accountable. Make the responsible choice and start your school semester off the right way.
In closing, I hope that this give some quick insight as too some of the challenges that are brought about in going from the summer to the school year. I hope that this may give you some insight or at least spark some ideas that may help you in the transition and ultimately make you or your children better prepared for the upcoming semester. Cheers.