Like many students – including myself – school has left you burnt out, exhausted, and feeling like you should just sleep for 6 weeks! Yet, we can use the time in summer to rebuild, develop as a person and return to school with a positive mindset and stable mental wellbeing. Various ways of rebuilding your mental wellbeing will be covered, being the importance of relaxation, being productive, socialising and helping others, and staying healthy…
First of all, let’s point out the obvious – it’s the summer holidays – a time of relaxation, fun and ultimately a time to rebuild the foundations of a stable mental state (thank you school). Therefore, YOUR hobbies and sources of enjoyment are vital to contributing to rebuilding your mental wellbeing. Whether it be something active, like football or swimming, or something inactive, like gaming or binge-watching Brooklyn-99 for the 4th time this year. Of course, both are equally important if they allow you to switch off and give time for YOU to relax and enjoy your summer. Yet, let’s say you get the most enjoyment out of an inactive hobby such as gaming, you may fall into a trap of staying inside too much and reducing the amount of enjoyment you receive out of the said hobby. Trust me, I’ve been there, it is a waste of everyone’s time. Try to switch up your time to yourself, summer is a great time to develop new hobbies, such as meditation or yoga, tennis or something completely random, like sign language. Overall, the point is, RELAX. Give time to yourself, but don’t just stay inside all day – go out with your friends, swim in a river. Do not keep your options so narrow – having a variety of things to do is much more fun than just one thing to do!
Following on from the previous point, while you should spend the majority of your summer holidays relaxing and having fun, be productive. Instead of doing all your summer homework or extracurricular work in the last weekend of the summer on the brink of a mental breakdown, spread it out across the summer. You could plan anything you want to get done in a week, which I recommend averaging no more than 1 or 2 hours of work per day. However, it is also easy to be too ‘productive’ meaning that you return to school burnt out and exhausted, which is how many are left going into the summer. Don’t get me wrong, having dedicated days to unwind is equally important as being productive. I’m all for taking a day to chill, watch TV, sit in your pyjamas, or even stay in bed – as long as it isn’t a regular occurrence! Above all, whilst you should try to be proactive and productive during the summer, you should try to switch off and allow yourself to relax, which can be done as shown prior. Being moderately productive throughout the summer allows for you to rebuild your mental wellbeing, as it avoids the panic and stress of last-minute work before school.
Try not to stay inside all summer… unless it’s the classic British weather having its way. Go out with your friends and family wherever possible, even if you are the one encouraging and organising a day out! Now that COVID-19 measures have been limited (as of July 2021), you can go to the cinema, go for a meal, etc. Conversely, these plans do not always have to be money-oriented; you could go for a walk with a friend to stay in touch, invite people to your house or go to a friend’s house, or, my personal favourite, go swimming in a river.
Going out and socialising has been proven to make you feel much better, as it may be very easy to drift away from your friends over the summer as you may not see them as much as you would at school or work. Helping others, whether it be a stranger, your friends, or a family member would have a similar beneficial effect. By helping others, for example, something as small as unloading the dishwasher (when only being asked ten out of the usual thirty times) not only helps others but will have a positive impact on yourself.
Another very effective way to help others and should be done more frequently – check in on those around you. Despite the fact your friends may appear mentally stable and content, checking up on them and asking how they are can go a very long way! I started doing this a few months ago. It appeared a bit odd at first, especially with the stigma around men’s mental health and wellbeing. Yet, as I incorporated this task into my day, it got much easier, and I was told numerous times that being asked how they were meant a lot to them. On that account, going out and socialising, and helping others is a crucial factor to rebuilding your mental health over summer, which may be helping others also – not just yourself. It keeps you from feeling lonely and out of touch and clears your head to be surrounded by people that support and care for you.
Finally, eating well, exercising and sleeping well all contributes to a better mental state. Eating junk and takeaways too often will make you feel sluggish, drowsy and unmotivated. If you ever find yourself feeling clouded, miserable or unmotivated, going to the gym or even going for a walk can clear your mind, release endorphins and make you feel energised. Now, I know getting up out of bed when you feel unmotivated to exercise is the last thing you would do – I am the same. To combat this, you could change your mindset to exercising. Instead of thinking of a huge workout in the gym, build it up in steps, start on Monday with a jog, Tuesday with a relaxed gym session, etc. Allowing yourself to slowly build up a routine is a lot easier than plunging into the deep end straight away.
Regarding sleep, this is one that I and many others my age may struggle with. While it is easy for me to sit here and say that having a consistent sleep schedule is important, this does not help anyone who may be stuck in a cycle of fixing their sleep schedule and destroying it over and over again. The way that you fix your sleep schedule depends on you as a person, you could do it over time, setting an alarm earlier and earlier than usual. Alternatively, you can just set an alarm for a normal time and ride the day out, going to bed at a normal time despite how many hours you got the night before. To keep this schedule you have established, set an alarm for what time you should be in bed, and stick to it – even if you aren’t going to sleep straight away, having a set time to be in bed ensures a good amount of sleep. All in all, sleeping and eating well, along with exercise establishes a much more stable mental state, which places the foundations for you to rebuild your mental health and make the process much smoother.
All in all, while it is important to relax and find enjoyment in your hobbies, always try to socialise throughout summer, which may include the helping of others. Don’t let your relaxation completely get in the way of being productive, however, don’t allow all of your summer work to build up into one weekend! Being over-productive may be more harmful, however, to de-stress, remaining healthy through sleeping, eating well and exercise will put you in a positive mental mindset to rebuild your mental wellbeing over the summer.
Need more advice, help with your or another’s mental wellbeing?
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Written by Edward Hodson
A Level Student