There’s an old song from the late 1950’s that goes, “‘Cause there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.” With the Spring Term coming to an end, I’ve found myself thinking about this song a lot recently. It is that time of the year when many of my therapy clients begin to express concerns about the upcoming summer break. It’s in these moments that I am reminded of the fact that summer break can mean very different things to different people.
For many people, summer break is a time of relaxation, hanging out with old friends, enjoying the familiar comforts of home (e.g., being in your old room, eating some home cooked meals, etc). But for others, summer break has less of an appeal. In fact, summer break can be something that students dread.
For some folks, going home might mean returning to tense family situations. For others, it can mean a lack of the freedom they have gotten used to at college. Several of my clients have told me that they often fall into a depression during the summer due to the lack of routine, structure, or social engagement. For my LGBTQQ clients from more conservative backgrounds, going home might mean being separated from their community here at UO and maybe even going back into the closet. The stark contrast between the freedom and autonomy of college life versus the return to old dynamics, patterns, and restrictions can leave many people wishing they didn’t have to go home at all.
Some students look for alternative options to going home, such as a summer internship in a different city, finding a local sublet, or staying with friends here in Eugene. But the reality is, most students don’t have much of a choice. They simply have to go back home and they worry about how they will cope. They worry they will backslide into old patterns and behaviors despite all their hard work in therapy. They worry that their depression and/or anxiety will come back or worsen.
As the summer approaches, I work with these clients to brainstorm and develop a list of options and strategies to cope with the potential difficulties that may lie ahead. I want to offer a few of these strategies to you in case you find the thought of summer break a bit more daunting than exciting:
- If going back home means facing difficult family dynamics or triggers for mental health concerns, see if there are any alternative options. Consider enrolling in summer classes here at UO or Lane Community College and using financial aid to pay for summer housing, if that is an option. Look for a summer sublet or see if you can stay with friends. Are there any other family members with whom you can stay who might offer a more supportive environment? Access resources at the Career Center to help you find a summer job.
- For those who do have to go home, here are some helpful tips:
- Try to communicate your concerns and needs to friends and family as directly and early as possible. Let them know what they might be able to do to support you. For example, if you are someone who has been working on increasing your assertiveness, give your friends/family a heads up that you will be asserting your own needs more and would appreciate their understanding and encouragement.
- Try to stay busy (e.g., get a summer job, internship, spend time with friends, etc.)
- Look for podcasts, books and blogs that can offer some healthy distraction and inspiration.
- Find a local park, café, library, community centers, etc. where you can go if you need a break from home
- If you are struggling with more than typical ups and downs, see if you can find local supports such as a therapist or counselor. (If you do not have access to health insurance, many cities have low-fee therapy agency options).
Whatever your circumstance back home, try to find ways to find enjoyment and make the best of your summer. For those who are not looking forward to going home, keep in mind that adversity can also be a forge in which our strength is fashioned.
Chandra Mundon, Psy.D.