By Erika Pobee-Mensah, M.S., Outreach Coordinator, Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS)
In wrapping up this topsy-turvy semester, there is a long three month stretch on the horizon. Being mindful that ordinary summer plans might look different this summer, we want to offer some ideas on how to beat boredom and cope with the difficulties that might arise from being at home more frequently. While some students live independently or with friends, many students have preemptively moved back to their family homes. Even those with great family/roommate relationships can run into conflict after spending too much time together. Here are some tips for coping with spending more time at home and ideas for how to keep yourself engaged in activities while social distancing.
Find a space of your own. Having an area for yourself can help to create some distance from others when you need it. Perhaps your space is your bedroom. If you do not have your own bedroom, perhaps your bed, desk, a comfy bean bag chair, or a cozy corner of a shared bedroom will suffice. Wherever your space is, make it your own by adding a few “feel good” items or decorations, such as inspirational quotes, a journal for jotting down your feelings, a soft blanket or pillow, a scented candle, books/magazines that you enjoy reading, printed pictures of friends/family members, and/or posters/pictures of celebrities, characters, or TV shows you like. This will help give you a special space in which to unwind.
Practice healthy communication. Try using “I” statements when expressing yourself. For instance, “I am worried about my upcoming exams. I’m wondering if we can brainstorm ways to keep the house quiet while I’m studying” or “I feel frustrated when we argue about cleaning. I want to do my part in keeping the house clean—can we create a plan that works for everyone?” Also practice active listening by taking a moment to remain quiet and allow other people to express themselves. Show you are listening by nodding, a simple “mm hm” and making eye contact. Avoid trying to make someone feel differently–accept how they feel, while also acknowledging your emotions.
Compromise. Focus on facts and simple adjustments that can be made that are realistic to your situation. Maybe you have young siblings who cannot stay quiet during the daytime. You could use headphones to block out noise, spend time outside on a patio or take a walk, or even crack the windows of a car and sit inside to take a phone call to get some privacy. Additionally, offering to help around the house might be worthwhile in maintaining peace. Doing chores, caring for the family pet, or playing with your siblings to give your parents a break can help other house members decrease their stress. Less stress equals more harmony.
Stay engaged. If you are looking for ways to beat boredom, consider creative ways to stay busy. Perhaps you could take a summer job in an essential field, such as food delivery or grocery stores. Try looking into volunteer opportunities that might still be available, such as through food drives with local community centers or churches. This could also be a great time to explore a new hobby or business pursuit (perhaps practicing code or working on a Youtube channel). Additionally, spending quality time by yourself and engaging in self-care can also be important.
Stay connected. Set up virtual hang outs with friends/family until you can spend time together in person again. Take a moment to check in with old friends with a text, phone, or email. While social media can be a great way to connect, avoid it if you find yourself feeling worse due to self-comparisons or becoming upset by other peoples’ posts. Now can be a great time to get creative with socializing—perhaps try a drive-in meet up with a friend while social distancing in your cars. Or, break up the monotony of homelife by engaging in a family activity or a fun game with your roommates.
However your summer looks, we hope these tips are helpful in navigating changes while still enjoying some summer fun! On behalf of CAPS, we wish you a successful exam week and a happy summer break.