10 tips for looking after your wellbeing

Posted 2 months ago

How to look after yourself during the summer holidays

(All information in this article is from personal experience and should not be taken as professional advice. Student Life have a range of resources available to you on this topic. These are evidence-based resources that include tips from practitioners with students in mind. Find more information here)

With the weather getting progressively less gloomy and end-of-year deadlines fast approaching, many of us are daydreaming about what we will be getting up to once summer is in full-swing. Whether you'll be spending time catching up with family & friends, travelling, working, and/or everything else in between, it’s important to remember to still make space to take care of yourself.

While the summer holidays are a time of freedom, relaxation, and new opportunities, without the regular routines of university, we can sometimes start to feel a little uncertain and overwhelmed. The key is to let yourself have the time to process this past year - to rest & recover from any academic burn-out - whilst staying grounded and maintaining a little structure, so that you're not burning yourself out in other ways. 

And so, here are some tips for doing just that: looking after your wellbeing this summer, being kind to yourself, and truly enjoying some well-deserved time off! Whilst these tips are useful all year round, they can be particularly helpful during this long stretch of holidays, as we may begin to feel a little directionless. The summer holidays can look very different for different people, so no matter your circumstances, I hope you find at least one thing useful from this list!

- Maintain your habits

Creating healthy routines for your mind  and body gives you something to be consistently proud of yourself for without relying on academic validation, and when changing to a different environment - particularly when going back to an old one, such as your family home - it is extremely easy to find yourself regressing to old routines. If you've found that over this first year of university, you have developed new habits that are more effective for you, try to bring them back home with you over the summer! Whilst getting enough sleep, daily movement, staying hydrated, and eating a balanced diet are the foundations of wellbeing, it’s the smallest things that can really make the biggest difference in your day, such as making your bed, brushing your teeth, or having a quick stretch when you get up!

- Stay connected with your loved ones

Without the responsibilities of university life, some of us prefer to be more sociable, and some of us less so. If you're on the more extroverted side, try to make some time for yourself to rest as well, and if you're the latter, make sure you're still spending quality time with others on the days when you're prioritising having time to yourself - even if it's just 15 minutes! Aside from catching up and spending time with those we haven't had much chance to see throughout the academic year, it's also important to stay in touch with your university friends when you go back home so you don't feel disconnected when you come back in the autumn (if you don't see them over the summer, that is). Although it can be difficult when you can't see each other face-to-face, regular video-calling is a good alternative, and if you're feeling extra fancy, try writing them a letter!

- Give yourself something to look forward to

This can be a small thing every day and/or something slightly bigger less often! Having a bit of excitement is extremely important for our wellbeing, so whether you make this a part of your routine and have a sweet treat after lunch every day and a relaxing bath every week, or you plan a big one-time getaway over the summer, this can really increase your motivation!

- Make a habit out of trying new things

As I've mentioned, having some excitement is extremely important for our wellbeing, and this is another way to do so when you might be feeling a little bored or stagnant: as we often might when we don't have the structure of university life to keep us on our toes! Aside from huge things such as skydiving, hiking a mountain, travelling to a new place, etc..., this could be something much smaller, like trying a new snack, taking a different route to work/whilst walking the dog, or even starting a new book or TV show. The possibilities are endless, anything counts, and we often do this unintentionally anyways, so might as well make the effort to make it a regular - even daily - activity!

- Do (or say) at least one kind thing for someone every day

Whilst being nice to others is predominantly motivated by wanting to help make their lives better, as famously discussed in that one episode of Friends (in which they debate whether a selfless good deed exists), seeing the positive impact we've had on someone can simultaneously help us to feel fulfilled within ourselves as well. So go and help your parents with cooking dinner, compliment the cashier at the shop, or buy your friend their favourite chocolate on your way to see them - without expecting anything in return - and I guarantee you will feel good about yourself!

- Enjoy some time outdoors

It's recommended to get at least 15 minutes outside a day for healthy physical and mental wellbeing, but it's also just fun - especially in the summer! Whether it's going for a walk alone and listening to the sounds of the surrounding environment, spending some wholesome time with your loved ones in the garden, or sitting on a bench in the park and doing some people-watching, being in nature can be really good for getting you out of your head when you're a little too stuck in the cycles of your own thoughts.

- Do a little detox from technology

Our screen-time can get really intense with all the different academic responsibilities throughout the year, so (unless, of course, you need it for other commitments), try and see if you can stay away from technology as much as possible! Instead, use this time of freedom to unplug, relax, enjoy the (hopefully) lovely weather, or simply do some of the other things on this list! 

- Set yourself a goal for before you head back to university

As with everything, it can very much be big or small, but no matter what you choose, there’s an intentionality & dedication to working towards this that will make you feel really proud of yourself. Whether it's learning to cook one new dish, getting to the next level learning a language on Duolingo, or, for example, running a marathon, it all counts! As I mentioned, the summer holidays can look very different for different people, so setting yourself something manageable (and, most importantly, enjoyable) that suits your own lifestyle will help you feel accomplished and content! 

- Practice regular gratitude

This doesn’t even have to be written down if that doesn't feel right for you! You can simply think of, let's say, a minimum of 3 things - big or small, as personal or as broad as you like - that you're grateful for when you wake up in the morning and/or go to sleep at night (or throughout the day if you catch yourself feeling extra appreciative!), and I guarantee you will feel more positive and present!

- If all else fails, do anything productive 

The main goal with this is to feel a little sense of achievement in your day, so it definitely doesn't have to be something huge! It can be as small as washing the dishes, doing your laundry, or taking out the rubbish, as long as it's something ticked off the to-do list that'll eliminate some stress and therefore make more mental space for things you really care about! It is, however, extremely important that you don't get swept up into toxicproductivity, as everyone needs a good amount of rest whether it's summer or not: so make sure to set a limit on the time you spend being 'productive' if it's something you find yourself often getting carried away with!

Most importantly, listen to what your own mind and body are telling you! As I’ve repeated many times, any of these actions can be done on various scales depending on your own needs and feelings, so don't be afraid to try out different things to see what works for you, but ultimately don't pressure yourself to do anything that definitely doesn't work! As with anything, the key is to have balance!

Good luck with your exams/assignments, and hope you have a restful and enjoyable summer!

(If you would like find out more information on looking after your own wellbeing then make sure to visit the Student Intranet to find a wealth of resources to help you manage your emotional, mental and physical health. If you’re not sure where to start, email studentconnect@cardiff.ac.uk and they can refer you to the service that is right for you)