How To Practice Self Care While Working a Summer Internship, Because You Need This TLC

Summer internships are hard. Long gone are the beautiful summer vacations of your childhood where you would go to camp or spend hours every day watching TV. Now you’ve entered the real world and you have to work a job during your summer break. In a lot of ways, summer internships can be even more demanding than a college schedule, because as students, we get built-in breaks between classes and over the holidays. Now, you work 40-hour weeks and your only break is the weekend. Adulting, man. It’s a grind. 

With all the time that summer internships often take up, it is more important than ever that you practice self-care! Self-care looks different for everyone, but at the most basic level all it really means is that you are taking time to care for your mental and physical health, even if you’re stressed with work or other factors. This summer, be sure to follow these steps so that you not only crush your internship, but you stay well and have fun all summer long.

  1. 1. Define what self-care means to you

    In order to be sure you are practicing self-care, it’s important to define what that looks like in action for you. For me, self-care means getting into pajamas and watching Glee in bed. Maybe for you it means something different! 

    Cassie Jain, a sophomore at New York University, reflects on how important it was for her to set up a self-care routine when she was living and interning in San Francisco last summer. “My first week in San Francisco was so hectic,” says Cassie. “Between starting a new job and moving to a new city, I was so stressed out all the time. Finding a self-care routine that worked for me really helped! Every day during my lunch break I would go outside and read; the sunshine and a good book always really calmed me down in the middle of a crazy work day.” 

    Whether it’s reading, journaling or eating some of your favorite foods, it’s important to define what activities bring you a sense of peace and wellness, so you can know how to be intentional about your relaxation when you need it. 

    Related: Why Breaks For Self-Care Are So Important In College

  2. 2. Keep moving

    Aside from infusing fun and relaxing activities throughout your day, self-care also means taking care of your physical health. One of the ways to do this is to be sure that you move and exercise every day. 

    Many internships require you to sit down for several hours straight, which can be really hard on your body! Be sure to stand up and stretch at least once every hour to keep your blood flowing and be kind to your back. Since you won’t be moving much for most of the work day, try to walk or bike to work in the morning! You’ll start your day off with a great burst of energy and get the movement your body needs before you even sit down at your desk. 

    Miranda Bailes, a rising junior at UCLA, speaks to how exercising every day improved her time at her internship in Los Angeles last summer. "Sitting down at a desk for eight hours a day can be really hard on your body," she recalls. "I made sure to stand up and stretch every hour, and to take walks around the neighborhood during my lunch breaks. I remember feeling weird about it because a lot of other people at the office would never leave their desk, but it honestly helped me concentrate on my work more and made my body feel great!"

    Miranda is totally right –– studies show that sitting down for hours on end can be really hard on your back, neck, and overall mood! Be sure to move around as much as you can during your internship to avoid damage to your physical and even emotional health.

  3. 3. Bring healthy lunches to work with you

    Caring for your physical wellbeing also means eating to energize and support your body. While it may be tempting to snack on the break room donuts all day, your body definitely won’t thank you later. Instead, try to bring balanced lunches to work to avoid the tasty temptation! Lunches like salads and grain bowls are easy to make the night before and will keep well in an office fridge until lunch time. Fruits and granola bars are also classic snacks that will keep you full and energized throughout the work day! 

  4. 4. Make the most of your lunch and break times

    You’ll probably be working hard at your internship, so take breaks as often as you can! Most companies provide an hour for lunch, which is more than enough time to eat a filling lunch and still have time to do something fun.

    “During my last internship, me and the other interns would always have so much fun during our lunch hour,” Sarah, a junior at Vassar College, reflects. “I was interning in New York City, and my office was in Midtown close to a lot of really cool restaurants and museums. We would go to cool restaurants all the time, and then hit up exhibits after! A lot of museums also have huge discounts for students, which was really nice.”

    Whether it’s museum trips, fun restaurants, or just having a good conversation with your fellow employees, make sure that your lunch hour is a time for you to focus on fun and not work.

  5. 5. Remember that nights and weekends are your time

    Monday through Friday, you’re on that intern grind. Other than that, time is yours so use it as you want! Be sure to make the most out of your nights and weekends by exploring the city where you live and going out with your new friends from work. Also, try to take on some hobbies! In our culture of working, grinding, and go, go, go, hobbies are so important –– it can be awesome to devote time to something that is not about money or advancing your career, it's just something you love!

    Try to make time to do the things you love each week, whether that be taking art classes at a local museum, taking lessons to learn how to make an instrument, going to the gym for some cathartic runs, or even listening to your favorite music! Be sure to spend your time outside of work doing things that you enjoy and are passionate about, aside from your internship.

Working an internship can be stressful, as you’re on a totally different schedule than you’re used to at school and away from most of the comforts that you know at home. But remember that work can also be fun, and even a time for self-care!