You’ve taken your finals, the school year is over and summer is finally here—woohoo! But you've spent so many late nights cramming and early study sessions in the library that you forgot what it's like to relax. All you want to do is book an appointment for a full body massage and facial at the spa, but your bank account won't allow it. Here we have 10 affordable ways to decompress—something your body and mind deserve after a long, hard school year!
1. Read for pleasure
After months of sticking your nose in academic texts, you might have sworn you’d never read again. But reading for pleasure can be a great way to relax. Light fictional reads can help you escape the daily grind. Curl up on the couch with a good chick-lit (try A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable), get lost in a mystery novel (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series or Dan Brown novels), or even erotic novel (Fifty Shades of Grey, anyone?). Whatever the genre, some good fiction reads can transport you to another world.
2. Turn up the tunes
A McGill University study found that music can improve your mood, according to Best Health Blog. Not only that, but it also has the ability to improve your immune system and reduce pain and anxiety at the same time! So whether your musician of choice is Beethoven or Britney Spears or Drake, listen to music that you can enjoy.
There are many fun free music apps that you can download. There are apps like Slacker and Pandora, where you can stream music playlists by typing in a song by title or artist. Another cool one is Songza, which generates playlists for you based on your mood (some examples: sweaty dance party, bedtime, an afternoon stroll).
3. Cuddle with your pet
If you’re a pet owner, you’re in luck. Pets (particularly furry ones) lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety, according to WebMD.
Briana Morgan from Georgia College & State University relaxes with her two cats and two dogs after finals. “I run outside with the dogs and get [to] pretty much hang out with the cats; they’re not very playful.”
If you’re not a pet owner, you can still get your pet-related relaxation. Play with your friends’ pets, or offer to walk your neighbor’s dog. You could even volunteer at an animal shelter.
4. Take a bath
Forget the expensive spa—relax in the comfort of your own home! Sometimes a warm bath is all you need. Add in some bubbles or a bath balm and you’re good to go. You can even get them in yummy scents, or relaxing scents for some aromatherapy. If you’re of drinking age, bring a glass of wine to the bath and you’ll be in heaven (or close to it).
Why not make a party of it? Invite a couple of friends for an at-home spa, with DIY facial masks. Get out your nail polish collections and take turns giving mani-pedis. Make it a day of relaxation (and catch up on some gossip, too!).
5. Burn candles or incense
There’s something soothing about watching a flickering candle flame in a dimly lit room. If you want some aromatherapy, scented candles can be better. There are many candles out there in aromatherapeutic scents, but there are also candles that come in fun scents (such as cupcake frosting, honeysuckle or vanilla) that you may be more in the mood for.
Jocelyn Gollner, a collegiette at Douglas College, burns incense as a way to relax. “Incense, I find, is really relaxing, partly because it’s a strong scent so you are really aware of your breathing,” says Jocelyn.
6. Get out your yoga mat
There’s no doubt that yoga has many benefits for the body and mind. According to WebMD, one of its many benefits, besides relaxation and calming effects, is that it can improve your mood.
“I would definitely recommend yoga to others. It completely changes the physique of your body and is truly relaxing. When I'm stressed, anxious, angry, or just want alone time, yoga is my go-to,” says Erin Appenzoller from Emerson College. “The great thing about yoga, aside from the physical and mental benefits, is you can really tailor it to fit what you and your body needs. I'll never give it up!”
7. Write your way to relaxation
One thing Stacey Oswald, a student at Vanderbilt University, is excited about doing this summer is catching up on activities that the busy school year did not allow her to do, such as blogging. “My blog is [called] Simply Stace and it’s turning into an online magazine sort of thing. I love writing and during the summer and I always have withdrawals from HC writing, so this is kind of my outlet.”
Writing for pleasure, much like reading for pleasure, can be relaxing because you’re not stressing about due dates or grades; you’re just writing to express yourself. If you’re not comfortable writing for the online world, sharpen your pencils and keep a personal journal to record your thoughts. You might find that writing poems and stories is just what you need to unwind.
8. Get friendly with the kitchen
Put your Martha Stewart apron on! Cooking or baking can be comforting if you enjoy working in the kitchen. By cooking or baking for yourself, it takes the pressure (of coming up with a perfect result) off you, and instead puts the focus on enjoying the process.
Amanda Punshon, a recent Kwantlen Polytechnic University alum, cooks as a way to relax. “I guess it’s the order of everything that’s soothing. It’s a process. You know the outcome. I get really focused and forget everything; everything but what I’m doing [in the moment].”
9. Enjoy and appreciate nature
Sometimes we take nature for granted and don’t realize how soothing it can be to breathe in fresh air.
Hannah Orenstein from NYU is heading to Israel for a two-week trip.
“I can't wait to go sightseeing, swim, hike, and more. I'm not typically outdoorsy at all, which is one of the reasons I'm excited for the trip! I go to school in Manhattan and will be working in the city for the rest of the summer, so visiting a totally new culture and spending tons of time in nature will be a fun break from city life.”
But you don’t need to travel far. Wherever you live, you can still enjoy the outdoors. Visit a local park, a beach, or a forest. Take advantage of any places where you can go for a stroll, go hiking, go biking or go swimming (in a lake or ocean). Take pictures of plants or the clear sky. Now that it’s summer, you have no excuse to stay indoors!
10. Bring yourself to a familiar place
Sometimes coming back home after months of being away can be relaxing in itself. Just being in the presence of family and close friends can put you right at ease. Even familiar places that you frequent when in a calm mood can have the same effect on you when you return.
When Alexa Harrison from UMass Amherst came home after the school year ended, she put aside a few days to spend time with friends doing the things they love at familiar local spots (including beaches, restaurants and shopping centers).
“They helped me relax because I was having fun indulging myself in my favorite things,” says Alexa.
This is just a taste of all the fun ways to spend your well-deserved relaxing summer break. Got more suggestions? Let us know in the comments below!