Getting outside and getting some endorphins pumping can be one of the simplest ways to avoid feeling lonely over breaks. (Illustration by Jaila Desper, University of California, Berkeley)
College /// Thoughts x

There are 104 days of summer vacation, and the aching void of loneliness can be real on each of them.

Everyone says that you’ll make the best friends you’ve ever had (and ever will have) in college, and for many people, that’s very true. You’re with those people often 24/7, and though you may not always like them at first, you grow to love them. This can cause summer loneliness, however, when you have to leave campus, and them.

You might live close to your campus, but chances are, your friends don’t, or vice versa. Seeing each other over the summer requires a lot of work amidst busy schedules, so it often doesn’t happen.

Some people might have also drifted away from friends back home, which significantly dims the sunny possibilities that summer brings. If school’s out for you, and you’re feeling summer loneliness creeping in, don’t let it scare you! And don’t drown your problems by laying in your bed watching Netflix, either.

Check out these six healthy ways to help combat the feeling of summer loneliness before it takes control over your summer.

1) Find a Job You Enjoy

The stereotype of the broke college student is a true one, so if you’re like most college students, you’re going to need a summer job, and lots of hours at said summer job. Make sure you pick a job that you can enjoy, even if only a little bit. If you pick a job that you hate, it will make your summer gloomier. You don’t want to wake up every morning to go somewhere that you dread.

If you find a job that you like, even a little, not only will that occupy a significant portion of your day, but you’ll be making friends among your coworkers. You don’t have to be best friends with the people you work with, but sharing a few laughs with them during your shift can help ease the inner ache of summer loneliness.

2) Hit Up Some People You Haven’t Seen in a While

Are there any people from high school, old coworkers, neighbors, old teammates or church family that you don’t hate? Message them. Ask how they’re doing, how life is going and maybe if they’d want to hang out.

Even if it’s just a one-time thing, it’ll still give you something to look forward to and contribute to a fun day. And who knows? Maybe that will renew the friendship, and you’ll have a someone to invest in and spend time with all summer.

3) Spend More Time with Family, If Possible

Family can be a sticky issue for some, whose family might be toxic or absent for various reasons. If this is the case for you, then consider tracking down some of your more extended family members, if your situation allows. Look for a cousin, aunt, uncle or grandparent whom you haven’t talked to in a while, and see if they’d like to grab coffee or lunch. The family you have is precious, and if you can contact them (even just once!), you should consider that.

If you don’t have any significant family issues, then be intentional with your familial relationships. If you have siblings, be purposeful in spending time with them, doing activities that you both enjoy. Grandparents, if you still have them, won’t be around forever, and they likely adore you to tears, so take them out for breakfast. Hang out with your parents, not just at home, but go out to a movie with them, play games or participate in a hobby you both enjoy. And on that note …

4) Find a Hobby You Enjoy, Particularly One Outdoors

It can be super easy to stay cooped up inside for the entire summer, between Netflix, social media, video games, and other screen-connected activities. However, spending your summer transfixed by a screen is not only bad for your eyes and physical health, but it’s bad for your mental health as well. Especially if you’re feeling lonely, staying constantly connected to your screen will leave you feeling trapped, empty and lonelier than before.

While it’s not bad to indulge every so often, supplement your days with another, screen-free hobby. Consider taking up biking, swimming, gardening, jogging or running, geocaching, hunting, birdwatching, reading (reading outside is one of life’s greatest luxuries, but I’m biased), writing, woodworking, pottery, painting or drawing — to name a few. The options are endless, and I’m sure if you did a quick Google search, you’d find an even more exhaustive list.

5) Find a Project to Tackle, or a Goal to Accomplish

Having a set goal or project can not only make the summer fly by, but it also helps give you a reason to wake up excited every day rather than dreading it and wishing the future would arrive sooner. Plus, by the end of the summer, you’ll look back and not feel guilty for wasting that summer away, but rather, if you’re successful, you’ll have the completed project to look at as proof that you did something with your time.

It’s important to not set too many goals for yourself, as summer is also a time to relax, and you don’t need to work at the same breakneck pace as you do during the semester. To start, pick one goal that’s easily within your means to achieve and then once you do achieve it, you can move on to another one.

Some examples might be to bench a certain weight, run a certain number of miles, read a certain number of books, learn a different language, learn how to dance or complete that creative project you’ve been ruminating over for a while. And whatever you choose, make sure you devote time to it every day, within reason. Even just a little bit of time dedicated to your project or goal is better than nothing, and it makes a difference.

6) Set Up Regular Dates to Facetime Your College Friends

I put this last for a reason. It’s important not to spend your entire summer thinking of your college friends, wishing you were with them and wishing the summer was just over already so you can be back together again. Doing that, you’ll just make yourself more miserable, and unable to take opportunities for enjoyment that are right in front of you.

However, of course it’s important to maintain relationships with your college friends, especially if they’re very close to you. So, if it works for you and your friend group, try setting up a monthly or biweekly FaceTime date. Then, you’re able to see each other face to face, connect as a group, and hear firsthand how each other’s summers are going. If possible, try and set one date where you can travel somewhere and meet up, even if it’s only for a weekend.

Whatever you do, remember that summer only lasts around three months, and summer loneliness can only last that long, too. Above all else, remember to take care of yourself, and to find the opportunities for joy in every day of summer.

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