As the school year soon begins to wind down (or you may have very recently finished), you may find yourself thinking about how much free time you have coming up. Of course, this can be a great thing: you have some time where you’re not burdened by homework and assignments and for possibly the first time in a while, you aren’t restricted to a Monday-Friday schedule. It can also be stressful, and a lack of structure and schedule can actually increase symptoms of anxiety, especially for students on summer vacation.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you have to book summer classes or stay in an academic headspace year-round (that can be anxiety-inducing too!). Studies have found that leisurely activities increase mental health benefits, and the results are stronger when they provide some sort of daily structure during long breaks or stretches of time. These may even have greater effects if these leisure activities help put you in a positive mood and are meant to increase happiness.
Not everyone’s summer is the same, and with a lack of structure, things can change everyday. Here are a couple of suggestions to add some sort of schedule depending on how much time you have to yourself on a regular basis to help ease any anxiety that may occur from feeling like you have nothing yet everything to do. These shouldn’t be treated as set schedules, since summer is unpredictable, but even doing the same sort of activity around the same time a couple of times of week can help give you a sense of a routine.
If you have 5 minutes a day…
You can fill out a gratitude prompt or take the time to do some brief meditation and deep breathing. We’ve talked about both before if you need an app or any other references.
If you have an hour a day…
You can take the time to do some sort of physical activity. It could be something like going to a class at the gym or your local rec center (if it’s safe enough to do so indoors), or even putting up a cycle of Youtube videos about yoga, lifting dumbbells, or whatever you have on hand. If you can’t or don’t want to be super active, you can also use this time to go for a walk outside.
If you have the whole day…
You can do everything listed above! If you’re able to, however, you can block out the same time every day to read a book, block out another chunk of time later that to explore a new, relaxing hobby (think knitting or baking), and you can even schedule time to dedicate to watching videos online. If you live in a city or an area with a lot of places to explore, you can dedicate a couple of hours a day by exploring a new neighborhood or trying a new coffee shop.
Do you have any plans for the summer? How do you feel about giving yourself some sort of schedule over the summer? Do you notice your mood or mental health changing during long breaks?