If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: College is the best four years of your life! Embrace it! So, we do – we embrace college with open arms and eyes bigger than our stomachs. We’re starving for opportunity and we find ourselves signing up for something left and right: eighteen credit hours, clubs on campus, internships, Greek life, ambassador programs, part-time jobs – I could go on forever. We are so excited to make the most of our four years that we end up taking on more than we can handle.
How many times have you written down everything you have to do for the week and felt yourself drowning under the pressure? How many times have you told yourself there is no way you have time for all of your responsibilities and dropping out wouldn’t be the worst thing ever? If you can recall even one time when you felt like you were in over your head, then you’re just like the rest of us: stressed, depressed, and probably only halfway dressed (yes, we are the ones who go to sleep in a sweatshirt and leave our apartments the next morning in said sweatshirt).
We stress out over deadlines and duties and responsibilities. We have mental breakdowns and cry our eyes out and vent to anyone who will listen. We sacrifice home cooked meals and clean laundry and a workout because we don’t have time. How many times have you told yourself that you don’t have time?
College is great, don’t get me wrong, but college is stressful for those who try to make the most of their time there. We put our mental health on the back burner because we want to be successful. It comes as no surprise, then, that once April hits, our minds aren’t even on spring – they’re on summer.
Oh, the sweet, sweet bliss of summer. You can stay up until three in the morning every night just to wake up in the afternoon the next day and ask, Wait a second, is today Tuesday? Friday? Wow.
You can put your brain on pause.
This summer, I encourage you to do just that – put your brain on pause. Don’t stress out about the fall semester or an internship you think you need. This summer is about you and getting your mental health in balance. No breakdowns, no tears, no feeling like you’re actually wallowing in a pool of sadness and tangible stress.
You know how to have a summer packed full of fun times with friends and you know how to make memories that will last a lifetime. What you need to know now, though, is how to get your mental health in tip-top shape. This is our mental health checklist. Accomplish what you can and look back on your summer feeling content, well rested, carefree, and happy.
Do something by yourself.
Being able to walk away from everyone and everything is so freeing. You don’t get to be alone a whole lot in college, so now is your chance. Go for a walk or a run alone. Go to the grocery store or see a movie by yourself. Get in the car until you see a town you like and explore all by your lonesome. Let yourself be completely and totally alone while you do something completely and totally for yourself. You’ll be able to breathe and think about whatever it is that’s on your mind. This is your time, so do what makes you happy.
You heard me – sleep. I encourage going to bed early, sleeping in late, napping in the middle of the day, sleeping for a solid twenty-four hours – all of it. Get as much sleep whenever and wherever you can. You’ve probably been dealing with a lot of noises all semester that may have been screwing up your sleep schedule. Now is your chance to catch up on all the sleep you could possibly want. Sleeping is great for mental health because you feel like you can actually take on anything when you’re well rested. Snuggle up, girl. You deserve it.
Broaden your horizons.
Try something new! Maybe you’ve been thinking about a pottery class or going fishing for the first time. Maybe you want to do yoga or learn how to cook something that doesn’t come out of a box. Trying something new for the first time is a feeling you will never forget. You’ve probably been feeling on edge for months, so now is a good time to feel alive and empowered. Tell yourself you can climb that rock wall and tell yourself you can hike that mountain. Tell yourself you can do something new and will do it. Let yourself feel excited over a new prospect – it will make your heart sing.
I know – all you’ve been doing is reading. Reading for fun, though, and reading for school… Not even sort of comparable. Grab that book off your shelf that you got for Christmas – no, not this past Christmas, I’m talking Christmas of 2009 (How dare you leave a book unread that long! Okay, I do it too.) – and get to reading. There is something about plopping down in the grass or in that huge chair in the living room with a book that just makes the stars align. All has been wrong up until that moment you crack open a book and turn page after page. Find a book that sounds good to you and don’t get up until you’re done. Reading words that mean something to you – whether that’s a self-help book, a romance novel, or a classic – will make your life infinitely better.
This is our last item on the mental health checklist. I’m sure you’ve laughed a lot this past semester, but have you really laughed? You know, that laughter that literally makes no noise because you are laughing so hard and you’re crying and telling yourself to not pee your pants? Then you catch your breath for one second and gulp in as much air as humanly possible and then the whole thing starts all over again? That is the kind of laughter than needs to happen so much more than it really does. Laughing is good for the soul and it’s good for your mental health. Spend time with the funniest person you know or watch a comedy on Netflix. Do whatever it takes to get a few of those hearty laughs in every once in a while.
This summer is about you. This summer is about your mental health. More often than not, we sacrifice our mental health to get ahead in college. We want to work hard and that sometimes comes with a price. Summer is your time to take that IOU from life and cash it in. Get your mental health right this summer – your mind, body, and soul will thank you.