How to Make the Most of Your Summer

Maybe it’s just Lana Del Rey and me, but summertime sadness has been a source of anxiety and negativity in my life for a long time. While having a healthy break from school can be relaxing, it can also start to feel cumbersome after the initial relief from tests and deadlines. All of the unstructured time and endless possibilities promised by the warm weather start to feel like more of a challenge and less of a gift. If you aren’t interning in a cool city, going back to camp, posting bikini pictures from a beach or working a minimum wage job, you might believe that you haven’t taken full advantage of all the extra time you so desperately wanted during the school year. This past summer, I felt this more acutely than ever before as I was jobless and living in a small town that my family had only recently moved to, meaning that I had no friends to stay up ridiculously late with, chatting and watching Futurama. Luckily, I got to spend a lot of time with my family, who I had missed while at Kenyon, but it didn’t stop the feelings of restlessness, insecurity and deep sadness that stemmed from my lack of direction and a longing to return to school. After just a month, I was counting down the days until I could return to the tree-lined paths and late nights in friends’ dorms that defined my life at Kenyon. I realized pretty quickly that this fixation was only making me unhappier, and I decided to try everything I could to take my mind off of these upsetting feelings. Eventually, I found some strategies that helped me to not only feel better about myself, but actively enjoy my summer. I’ve decided to share those strategies here for anyone else who wants to avoid the summertime blues, or just wants to make the most out of their time off.

 

1.  Make a small bucket list

When you first get home from school, you may feel overwhelmed with all of the things you can do in your free time. You can learn photography, catch up on TV you missed, finally finish A Song of Ice and Fire, see old friends, or hell, fly a kite! Most often, though, it’s easy just to curl up in bed and watch reruns of The Office. While that’s a perfectly legitimate way to spend your time, it could become boring after a while. A good way to change up your routine is to write a bucket list of the things you’ve always wanted to do, but were too busy to actually get done, and then see how many you can accomplish. Some of the things from my bucket list this summer included write for two hours each day, learn to draw a fox, clean out my closet, read the New York Times every morning and watch three movies in one day.

2. Pick up a new skill or hobby

Even though I live in a small, Ohio town, I managed to find plenty of opportunities to learn new skills over the summer. One such skill was fighting. After hearing that my sister was taking up mixed martial arts, I decided to tag along to one of her classes and see what it was like. I loved it immediately. I took as many classes per week as I could, and when I wasn’t at the studio, I was practicing roundhouse kicks in my backyard. The sessions were fast-paced, engaging and geared towards practical self-defense, meaning that I learned a lot of valuable life skills in the few months that I was able to train. If you’re interested in finding different activities, talking to family members about what’s going on in your community or perusing the message boards in coffee shops are both great ways of discovering new passions.

 

3. Keep in touch with friends

I missed my friends at Kenyon. A lot. It was hard to go from seeing my favorite people at every meal and every class to suddenly not having any contact with them at all. I was so relieved than when the first FaceTime calls started coming in. I made it a point to call the friends that lived far away from me, and when possible, I drove to visit those that lived closer. I also found ways to connect with people in a more engaging way. My boyfriend and I found a website that allows you to watch movies with another person, and although it only works for Youtube videos, it was a lot of fun.

4. If you can’t go on a big trip, try to take little ones

This advice works especially well if you have access to a car or large public transportation. Whenever I felt especially restless, I would plan to take a small trip into Cleveland or Columbus to somewhere I had never been before. While in Cleveland, I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art and saw some really incredible pieces. In Columbus, I visited a rolled ice cream shop which was slightly gimmicky, but also insanely delicious. I also got to attend some really interesting and fun events in these cities such as Columbus’ Pride Parade and the Community Festival. Taking these trips allowed me to have new experiences and take advantage of my endless free time.

 

5. Meditate

This doesn’t mean that you have to chant “ohm” while sitting cross-legged in the middle of the woods (although I have also done this and it is very cleansing). Mainly I mean that it is so easy to get caught up in work during the school year that you forget how to sit still and really check in with yourself. Meditation can help with that tremendously and summer is the perfect time to sit in your favorite armchair, close your eyes and allow your worries to slip from your mind. If you need help meditating, there are many great books and articles available to aid you in the practice. Calming music without vocals is also very helpful.

 

I hope that these tips will help you prepare for your next block of unstructured time and that your summer is relaxing yet stimulating, the way it should be. Have other tips for beating the summertime blues? Let us know in the comments!

 

Image Credit: Feature, 1, Writer’s Own