The famed Penn news source “Unofficial Official Penn Squirrel Catching Club” features some heavily circulated memes about Penn’s concerning lack of mental health infrastructure. Though funny, the memes are getting at something important. And our mental health concerns can't disappear over the summer. With the stress of moving, new routines and transitions to work or back home, summer can seriously suck. Street is here to give you some tips on how to take care of yourself this summer, no matter what you're up to.
Structure, Structure, Structure: You need a schedule. It doesn’t have to be jam–packed or filled with academic study. But you need one all the same. The beauty of our childhood summers often sprang from the lack of direction. But college students going home for the summer often struggle with reframing their minds to the different schedule. Working at an internship or summer job may help, but for students with less–than–full–time responsibilities, it’s important not to lie in bed all day, everyday (that’s what Sundays are for). Even the APA (American Psychological Association) advises building a schedule and adhering to it, within reason, for people with personality disorders or struggling from depression. Even if you’re not working full–time or taking summer classes, something as simple as cooking a meal or going for a quick hike will help—the key is to feel like you’ve accomplished something.
Parents Just Don’t Understand: Returning home (if that’s what you’re up to this summer), presents some significant challenges. Every family is different, but chances are, your parents are going to impose some structure on you that didn’t exist at school. Change sucks, especially when the change is that you have to be home by midnight on weekdays. The best way to address this is to sit down and have a frank and adult conversation about your role as an “adult child” (Ed. note: we know it sounds weird, but this is apparently the technical term). It’s just for the summer, and your parents are most likely just trying to protect you in their own smothering way. Also, remember that it’s okay to need some distance from your family. You live on your own with your own habits. But making an effort to participate in your home life, if that’s something that’s possible, can provide a sense of community and support that will further bolster your mental health—both for the summer and when school starts up again.
Only Boring People Get Bored: It’s so annoying when people say this. But maybe that’s because some of it rings true. People often engage in self–destructive mental and physical behavior patterns when they’re bored or operating without a goal. Going back to the schedule, it’s important to make sure that even your downtime isn’t spent entirely aimlessly. Whether you find a creative outlet like writing or painting or you focus your efforts on volunteering, the beauty (and curse) of life is that there’s always more shit to do. Maybe pick up a book this summer—try out some of street’s picks.
Shore Up Support Systems: Jay–Z rapped about his therapist.That’s definitive proof that therapy is cool now, right? If you have a therapist in Philly or use CAPS, work with them to get a recommendation for someone to see during the summer, wherever you are, or ask if they do phone/Skype sessions. Even if you’re not actively in therapy, it’s important that being out of school for the summer doesn’t leave you without someone to talk to.
And, please, go outside, drink water and if you have meds, take them. You’ve got this.