Having said that, switching off is easier said than done. Personally, I have found my first two, three weeks free of work a little unsettling. Having been liberated from the pressures of university finals, I found that having no daily focus or motivation left me somewhat restless and itchy. The urge to be productive was still very much present after an intense end to the year, and I was finding it difficult to relax and relearn that it is okay not to be productive all the time: healthy even. A few weeks after my final submission, I am now beginning to decompress and let go of this taxing mindset.
But I, like many others, do not want to spend my summer slouching around and slobbing out. Of course, I want to see friends and enjoy myself, but I also want to do something useful with all the free time I have. I am sure some of you reading this have internships or summer work lined up - if that is you, great! But if you're like me and have more spare hours than you know what to do with, here are some suggestions for keeping a healthy happy balance this summer.
The best thing I can recommend is to get regular exercise. In a period where you may well be going out a lot, making less-than-healthy eating and drinking choices, exercise is a great way to stay on top of your health. You deserve to have a drink and eat the things you enjoy, but too much can take a toll on your mental and physical health. Exercising during the day when the sun is shining will kickstart your endorphins, drop you some vitamin D, increase serotonin production, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Read more about the benefits of sunlight here.
What's more, exercise is one of the best treatments for a hangover. If you're someone who likes to party a lot, perhaps on consecutive days/nights, exercise is a great way of breaking up that relentless cycle of hedonism. Exercise does not have to be a chore either; rather than going for a solo workout, why not have a kick about with your mates, or grab a couple of racquets and knock some tennis balls around? In my experience, this is a much more rewarding way to spend your summer days than nonstop drinking in the park.
Hone your skills
Is there something you find rewarding but struggle to find time for during heavy work periods, such as writing or photography? Summer is a great time to practice such crafts which can improve not only your creativity and wellbeing, but also your employability. More and more industries are relying on visual and written communication to sell things and transmit ideas, so having these tools at your disposal is a huge asset. With more and more young people adopting entrepreneurial mindsets in the digital age, the ability to communicate ideas in a variety of multimedia formats is becoming an increasingly valuable skill. And besides that, it's a lot of fun!
Perhaps you're someone who really enjoys education and wants to expand your knowledge. Why not buy a couple of books to read this summer? I don't necessarily mean go out and buy a load of textbooks, but how about picking up some stuff which evolves your academic curiosity in a way that really engages you? These days, there are so many books with varying degrees of technicality and academic register, so there is something on anything for everyone.
Think about your future
Have you got to the end of the academic year and found yourself at a bit of a loose end with what to do next? Luckily, the summer provides a great opportunity to map out the next part of the story. This goes for pupils finishing A levels, as well as students of all ages who want to get a head start on life after university. But this period is especially valuable to second/third year students who need to start thinking about their future. The options are vast, which can be scary, but a Japanese principle called the Ikigai Concept may be useful in guiding your thinking. It states that you should ask yourself the following:
1. What do you love (your passion)?
2. What are you good at (your vocation)?
3. What can you get paid for (your profession)?
4. What does the world need (your mission)?
Finding an answer which reconciles each of these questions is a good way of helping you draw up a roadmap for your future. It is okay if the answer you land on is not something you can immediately do - instead, think of it as an end goal and map out the steps you need to take to get there. This might be obtaining work experience, furthering your education, or taking a junior position and working your way up; whatever the case, developing a sense of personal stability and direction is a great thing to acquire this summer.