How to have a happy and healthy summer

| May 11, 2023

Congratulations! We made it through another year! We are so excited for those of you who are graduating. We support your journey and wish you the best in your future endeavors.

This summer glimmers with hope and opportunities. Although so much has changed in the past couple of years, it feels as though this will be the first “close-to-normal” summer we have had since 2019.

We here at Student Disability Services want to provide tips on how to destress this summer. Whether taking summer classes, working an internship, working a regular job, vacationing, or job hunting, these five strategies will provide you the tools to recharge and take charge of your mental and physical health.

1. Set boundaries.
In this world of instant connections, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the requests thrown your way and it can get worse during breaks from school. If you were busy during the school year, your loved ones may use guilt to pressure you into commitments that take away time from your rest and relaxation opportunities. If that occurs, set your boundaries with your loved ones and hold to them. It is easier said than done, but necessary for your mental health.

Create spaces and times throughout your week to dedicate to yourself and the activities you enjoy. That way, you can truthfully state that you have something planned if someone reaches out. You can always ask that person if they want to do something else at a time when you are free and looking to connect.

2. Enjoy nature.
Many studies have discovered a link between nature and improved mental and physical health. For example, Marc Berman, Ph.D., and his student Kathryn Schertz found that green spaces near schools promote cognitive development in children and self-control behaviors. Their experiments indicate that increased exposure to natural environments improves working memory, cognitive flexibility, and attentional control. In contrast, exposure to urban environments is linked to attention deficits. Intriguingly, changes in mood did not change cognitive ability. The study’s data indicates that “nature exposure may have separable benefits for cognition and affect.”

Additionally, Ethan McMahan and David Estes conducted a meta-analysis that proved that exposure to nature had a positive impact on practical well-being, even citing that exposure to real nature had higher levels of effective well-being than the simulation of virtual nature.

This summer, interact with nature as often as you can. Curl up with an enthralling book on the beach, follow accessible trails, or visit a historical site. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

3. Unplug and focus on relationships.
During the school year, students are always “on,” checking emails, working late in front of a screen, studying digital readings, pouring over PowerPoints, researching, and taking breaks with social media, messaging, and streaming services. These multiple stimuli adversely affect short-term memory. The distraction affects the hippocampus, the brain region used to recall information. Spending too much time in front of screens can adversely impact interpersonal communication skills and mental health.

Blue light affects your circadian rhythm, which decreases melatonin production. Too much blue light exposure can lead to insomnia and symptoms of depression. Your brain and eyes deserve a break from constant information and blue light. Schedule regular times throughout the week to unplug and give your brain and eyes some recovery time.

4. Organize your space and get rid of what you don’t need.
Decluttering and purging material items that have not grown with you has been proven to reduce anxiety, increase confidence, and provide a surge of energy and self-reflection.

On the other hand, don’t go full Marie Kondo, because a little mess can provide sparks of creativity. According to cognitive behavior therapist Alice Boyes, Ph.D., studies have shown evidence that working among some mess can also provide energy and can increase creativity. This fact brings me to my last tip:

5. Lean into your creativity.
Capture your ideas and thoughts via various media. Be open to new opportunities. Try a new perspective, or a new hobby. Leaning into your creative side can help to manage moods and relationships, while increasing problem-solving and divergent thinking skills. Exploring your creative nature can help improve mental health by providing an outlet to cope with past experiences. When you translate your lived experience onto another medium, you give a small part of yourself to the world. Who knows? You could end up being the next Lin Manuel Miranda. (Fun fact: Miranda was inspired to write Hamilton while on vacation doing some beach reading. In the musical, Hamilton’s downfall begins when he refuses to stop working and go on a vacation with his family, leading to a marital affair and subsequent scandal.)

We hope these suggestions will assist you with maximizing your summer experience. Have fun!