College Students and Families: Things to Do in the Summer to Maintain Wellness

by Anna Cayot ’20

During the summer and while college students remain away from campus, it can be even more important to create healthy practices to make the most of your time and stay well. This applies to students and to parents and families seeking to support them while they are home.

Lori Lacy, Psy.D., director of the University Counseling Center at Azusa Pacific University explains that summer poses unique challenges, since students are not physically close to classmates and friends and the routine and schedule of school have also been disrupted. You may find yourself with more down time, but this can be an opportunity to “discover a new rhythm in a season of change,” Lacy says.

If you are a college student or the parent, guardian, or family member of a student, read on for recommendations for things to do in the summer that can support overall wellness.

Tips for Students

Lacy advises students to examine all the dimensions of wellness—emotional, social, physical, and spiritual—and make small commitments by finding things to do in the summer that support each dimension. “We find that individuals who engage in routine and active self-care practices navigate distress in healthier ways and feel more in control of their emotions,” she says.

Here’s what this might look like for you in practice:

1. Manage Your Emotional Wellness

Keep a daily routine. Consider limiting your news intake to one hour per day and taking time to watch good news. Set aside time for your preferred form of self-care or journaling, and be sure to give yourself grace and compassion.

2. Build Intentional Social Connections

Stay connected to others. Share a Zoom meal, have a virtual game night, watch a movie with a friend over FaceTime, and engage with other APU students over the summer to get excited for the fall.

3. Take Care Physically

Get sun and fresh air. Exercise for 30 minutes each day, if possible, and choose an activity that you enjoy. Practice healthy eating, wash your hands frequently, and get adequate sleep.

4. Maintain a Spiritual Practice

Pause to pray. As much as possible, breathe deeply and notice the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Get in the habit of naming three things you are grateful for each day.

As you do these things, you can also begin to feel excitement for the fall semester at APU! Start making plans for things you know you’ll need, such as emotional support and accessibility services. Attend a virtual campus event, and download APU’s mobile apps to stay connected during the summer.

Tips for Parents and Families

A recent survey of college students by Active Minds found that the number one way parents and families can support their college student is by spending time with them. “Finding shared activities or hobbies can build connection—cooking together, walking the dog, taking time to do a puzzle,” says Lacy. “These small but consistent moments help students feel supported, seen, valued, and cared for.”

Use these ideas for things to do in the summer that can help support your student:

1. Create a Routine

Routines bring comfort in the midst of change and allow for connection. Create your own family rituals—you might read or garden together, or have movie Mondays and board game Fridays.

2. Communicate Often and Well

“A true desire to get to know each other often results in meaningful dialogue,” says Lacy. Sit down together, make eye contact, and engage. Listen to your student’s needs, and let them know you are available. Ask open-ended questions about what they are feeling and their hopes for going to college.

3. Make Meaning Together

Pause to pray with your student, have space to name any feelings they may be experiencing (good or bad), and space for gratitude for the present moment and for the future. “Finding a meaning and purpose for each day can be comforting,” says Lacy.

4. Care for Yourself

Have realistic expectations for yourself. Engage in activities that bring you joy (walking, cooking, reading, etc.). As you care well for yourself, you also care well for those around you.