Change is Hard!


Starting is easy; continuing is much more difficult. 

Late afternoon scene at the Old Well on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Change does get easier as you keep going. Remember there are no magic pills for change and that the science of habits shows that change is possible:

Reflect on your routine. Reflect on tasks you need to accomplish, your feelings towards them, what you need to accomplish them, and how you feel when you’re done. Consider how your routine is working so far and what habits have begun. Write out hurdles and find ways to overcome them.

Adjust as needed. Be thoughtful, analytic and strategic in adjusting your routine. Consider the results you seek. Structure healthy habits like meals, sleep, exercise, showers, nutrition and study times into your daily schedule.

Turn routines into habits.  Routines can eventually becomes habits, tasks that you’ve done so often, that you brain finds them rewarding in themselves. Habits are set into motion by triggers, context clues that signal your brain to start. Outsourcing repeated tasks to habits allows you brain to more easily manage your daily life and more complex challenges. 

Create a habit. Start by convincing yourself that the change isn’t a big deal. Break down big tasks (get through the semester, for example) into smaller and specific actions (a daily study time). Create triggers – like visual cues or certain times of day. Then stick with it! Remember most behaviors you want to turn into habits aren’t as gratifying as activities like mindless scrolling, so try to make the behavior more pleasurable. Not through rewards afterwards, but while doing the thing. Studying with friends, perhaps? Moving your body while listening to your favorite music or podcast? Find what’s going to motivate you.

Ask for help. Everyone needs help sometimes. Start a conversation now with classmates, your TA or professors, a tutor, learning center advisor, or writing coach to help you with your classroom success.Share your goals with someone in your life and ask them to help you be accountable. Check in with them regularly. 

Make time for self-care. Take time each day to relax and care for yourself. Do something every day for something you enjoy. Take a day off when your body or mind needs it. Use your weekends to recharge!

Even if you only end up doing a few more healthy behaviors, or making your academics a bit easier for yourself this semester – that’s still success. Being a little bit more healthy or knowledgeable is a million times better than being frustrated and changing nothing. Change is a direction – not a destination! 

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