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Mental Health

How to Make the Most of Your Summer

Edited by Carol Eugene Park

After the high energy, high commitment, and high stakes of the academic year, the summer is a much needed break. Being a first-year student, I am equally excited and nervous about the idea of having four months away from school–I haven’t had that much time off since I was a toddler! 

I’m excited to meet up with old friends, spend time outside, and schedule my life as I please but that’s the part I’m worried about. I’ve had my days scheduled almost completely by the university. I wake up to make it to my first class in time. I come home when my last class is done. I study, eat, and relax during the breaks in between. I haven’t had to plan my own life for a while!

Transitional times (especially breaks from school) have always been tricky for me. I either feel way too energized and try to do too much, or I lose motivation to do anything at all and waste my break away. Finding the middle ground is what I feel would be best for me, and that’s what my goal is going to be for this summer. 

You might be thinking: “But what if I’m working over the summer? What if I’m travelling? What if I’m volunteering, taking summer courses, or doing an internship?” A couple of those questions have crossed my mind as well. As an adult, I’ve come to the somewhat tragic realization that summer is becoming less about doing nothing and more about doing something. There’s still room to find that middle ground! These ideas might not work for everybody and their schedule, but I hope they inspire you to set up your summer break to be a productive and enjoyable one. 

(Remember! These are things that help me, my mental health, and that fit my personal preferences.)

1. Wake Up at a (Somewhat) Set Time

One of the biggest temptations during the summertime is to sleep the entire day away. While there’s nothing wrong with doing that on occasion, I find that for me, it’s way too easy to fall into the habit of sleeping more than I’m awake if I let my sleeping schedule get out of hand. Something that I’ll be doing this summer is choosing a set time to wake up in the morning. This time can vary depending on who you are, what your daily summer schedule looks like, and how much sleep you want to get. It might be 6am for some people, and 10am for others. Whatever time it is, try your best to stick to it. I’ve found that my body works best on a somewhat regulated sleeping schedule. Routine is key to having a productive summer!

2. Set Small Daily Goals for Yourself

It’s tempting for somebody like me to make grandiose plans for what I want to have accomplished by the end of August, and I’m prone to making huge, sometimes unrealistic goals for myself. An easy way to avoid the stress and disappointment that come with large goals, set small daily goals for yourself that are achievable. Instead of planning to have a book written by the end of the summer, challenge yourself to complete 300 words a day. This is a much more manageable goal that you’re more likely to actually complete. These goals can be work related, fitness related, health related…it doesn’t matter, as long as they are relatively achievable for you.

3. Create a Summer Reading List

Reading is one of the most beneficial things you can do with your time off. Are there any books that were recommended to you during the academic year? Any books that you’ve heard about time and time again? Now’s the time to pick one up and give it a try. When reading something you really enjoy, it’s a double-win: you’re learning something new, and you’re participating in a leisurely activity. Leisure is without a doubt one of the most important aspects of the summer break. You can choose to read at a library, in bed, or on the beach. No matter where your summer takes you, take a book along!

4. Spend Some Time Outside

This might seem a bit unnecessary to mention, but it’s easy to forget that Toronto only gets summer weather once a year. Make the most of it! Whether it’s cracking open your window to get some fresh air, or going for a full-on hike, let the outside into your life for at least a few minutes of each day. I’m not a scientist or a doctor, but I’d be willing to bet that there are proven benefits to spending a few moments outside every day. Use it as another leisure activity. To me, going outside is like productive relaxation. It’s enjoyable, and I’m also refreshed and ready to be productive afterwards. Visit a park you’ve never been to! Go down a trail you’ve never been down before! Enjoy the city while it’s nice out!

5. Eat Well

Checking out what foods are in season at your local grocery store, or even better, at a farmer’s market, gives you an excuse to get out and enjoy the weather and improve upon eating habits which have probably become less than ideal during the school year. While fresh, seasonal food might be expensive, it’s worth it! Your body needs proper nutrition to work to the best of its abilities, and you can’t go wrong with having more fresh foods in your diet. Cooking can be a leisure activity as well, and one I’d highly recommend! It’s rewarding to cook a meal that tastes good and is good for you as well.

These tips are flexible and simple enough to be implemented into my daily summer routine with ease, and hopefully, you can benefit from some of them as well. Summer is a time to relax, have fun, and refresh your brain. By finding that beautiful middle ground between work and play, you’re bound to have an enjoyable and rewarding summer!

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