Teaching is ranked as one of the most stressful jobs in the world, which is why summer vacation is a well-deserved, hard-earned break. You don’t have to visit an expensive spa or travel to Europe to get rejuvenated before returning to school in the fall. With summer just around the corner, here are ten inexpensive ways to recharge so you can be energized, de-stressed, and ready for a great year ahead when school starts again.
1. Try something new.
Immersing yourself in learning something you’re interested in is a great way to reduce stress, increase creativity, and build confidence in yourself. You might try learning a new language, taking up cooking or gardening, learning an instrument, attending a dance class, or you could even try something as simple as a new restaurant or board game with friends. The website schoolofeverything.com is a site where people who want to learn things can get connected with people who want to teach things in their area.
One of the most rewarding ways to rejuvenate and feel good about yourself is by improving your community or world as a volunteer. Not sure where to get started? The mission of idealist.org is to “connect people, organizations, and resources to help build a world where all people can live free and dignified lives.” Simply enter your zip code and specific skills to access opportunities that fit your interests and location.
3. Get outside.
Summertime offers an abundance of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the sun. Active outside activities include swimming, hiking, biking, or walking in the park. For the more lazy days, grab a good book and a picnic blanket and find a patch of lawn. Still thinking about volunteering? You can see some of America’s outdoor wonders while doing some good at www.nps.gov, the official website for the U.S. National Park Service. Once again, you simply enter your zip code or the park name to see National Park volunteer opportunities. The website cdtrail.org is another organization that sets you up with outdoor volunteer opportunities worldwide.
Summer is also a great time to work on the fitness goals you put off during the busy school year. Start out by building a daily routine of physical activity, even if it’s walking for 15 minutes a day. If you’re having trouble getting motivated, use sites like America On the Move, which challenges you and your family to make “small changes to a healthier way of life.” Cool Running is a site that gives running tips and advice, helps you keep a log, and offers community forums to keep you motivated. Similarly, the running plan on c25k.com gets you from the couch and ready for a 5k in only nine weeks. It’s a “gentle introduction to getting the body moving, starting off alternating between walking and running small distances, and slowly building up…” If running isn’t your style, try the gym, a local sports league, a yoga class, jump roping, or playing outside with pets or children.
5. Catch up on your reading list.
Ah, the joy of summer reading. During the school year, it’s a great idea to make an actual list so you always know the next thing you’re going to check out from the local library. There are several sites that can help you build a list perfectly suited to your interests and tastes. Type in the titles of books and names of authors you know you love, and get a list of related suggestions. These sites include whatshouldireadnext.com, yournextread.com, openingthebook.com, and goodreads.com.
6. Journal or blog.
There is something fulfilling and therapeutic about documenting the events in your life in a journal or blog. Sites like Blogger or WordPress are user-friendly ways to start establishing a presence online, but curling up with a diary and pen can also be a great outlet to get your ideas flowing. If you’re not sure what to write about, check out this list of 119 journal prompts to get you started.
7. Practice the art of savoring.
Your life doesn’t have to change drastically for you to feel rejuvenated. A cup of tea, a moment with your child or spouse, a delicious dinner, or a good workout are small things that, when savored and enjoyed, can lead to lasting life satisfaction. In his blog “Zen Habits,” Leo Babauta describes savoring as an art that helps make life more meaningful. “Savoring can teach you to be mindful, to stop procrastinating, to finally exercise, to eat less and more healthfully, to live in the present, and much more.” His tips for getting there include slowing down, eating mindfully, and living in the present.
It’s been said that, besides lifting your spirits, the practice of meditation can also boost your immune system, reduce blood pressure, and increase your attention span. In her New York Times article “How Meditation May Change the Brain,” Sindya N. Bhanoo cites a study showing that “those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.” Start by committing to just a few minutes a day at a specific time. Pick a quiet spot, sit comfortably, and focus on steady, slow breathing for those few minutes. In this five-minute video on One-Moment Meditation, you can get some beginner’s ideas for fitting meditation into your busy lifestyle.
9. Take advantage of your city’s free events.
Check our your city’s calendar. Without spending money or going too far, you should be able to find a number of local events and activities to enjoy with friends or family. These might include concerts in the park, outdoor art exhibits or gallery strolls, classic movie screenings, or fairs. On the chance that your city’s calendar is empty this summer, you can always visit a museum or go window-shopping.
While it may be cliché to say it, sometimes laughter truly is the best medicine. If you’re still not feeling as rejuvenated and refreshed as you’d like, it may be time to “laugh it off.” Attend a local comedy show, rent a funny movie, or go out for a night with close friends and keep it light. Laugh and smile your way through the summer, and you’ll be a new person when school starts in the fall.
What have you done to get re-energized during the summer months (or at any time in the year)? Leave your comments below.