School’s out for summer

30th July 2018

Hannah, 17, is a member of the Youth Commission for Mental Health Services, which is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by Young Scot in partnership with SAMH. Here she blogs about the impact summer holidays can have on mental health.

Summer is such a hyped-up concept in today’s culture. From workouts promising you a ‘beach body’ to the endless Instagram pictures of heat, holidays and hotdog legs: the pressure to have a ‘perfect’ summer can feel overwhelming, and frankly detrimental to our mental wellbeing.

Goblins made of intrusive thoughts will egg us on as we scroll through social media, fixating on how many likes our profile picture has, or whether our latest Insta post captured the right aesthetic. These unrealistic expectations can cause dissatisfaction and misery; however, we don’t have to let these feelings dominate our holidays.

As a self-professed nerd, I’m used to putting a lot of energy into school. While this does help my grades, it has the side effect of leaving me feeling purposeless once school is over. Without an exam to study for or an essay to write I feel as if I’m wasting time when I have a lie in or binge watch Netflix. But this is exactly what I should be doing.

I think students really underestimate the amount of physical energy that academia under pressure requires. Exam season is intense, and we need to take time to care for ourselves, so that we don’t burn out. However, for many like myself, the goblin of intrusive thoughts will rear her ugly head soon enough and with it the fear that I am merely wasting my time.

I often find that once school finishes, all routine goes out the window. While this is liberating for a few days, the lack of sleep and regular meals end up being detrimental to my mental health.

Routines in the summer don’t have to be ridiculously rigid, something as simple as going to bed, getting up, and eating lunch at the same time can really help you to feel more grounded. Making plans can also be a great way to cope with the summer, it’s a lot easier to get out of bed if you know that you’re going for a coffee with your mum at 12 than if all you have planned for the day is sitting on the couch in your pyjamas!

Going away is obviously a big part of many people’s summers, however this can often be the source of loneliness for those who are still at home. When all we see are pictures of parties, beaches, and fun, it’s absolutely rubbish when all our own friends are away.

Summer does however present the opportunity to get involved in all the interesting things we have had to put off in the rush of exams. Starting a job, volunteering, or new hobby can be a great way to feel productive while still enjoying and occupying yourself. It can also be a great way to meet new people!

I think that the most important thing to remember is that while the summer holidays can be a super exciting and busy time, they should really be what you want them to be. Once you move past the pressure to have the ‘perfect’ summer, you can begin to realise how great it is to have so much free time to fill with things that you’re genuinely excited and interested in. 

Remember that if you’re really struggling with your mental health during the summer there are loads of resources and people you can speak to for help and advice.