How to Spend Your Summer Break

Congrats, you did it! Another school year in the books. Seriously, you deserve this break and a pat on the back. Although school can be exciting, emotionally stimulating, and mentally energizing, it can also be challenging, emotionally taxing, and physically draining at times.

As you slide into the warm summer months, you might be tempted to completely disconnect from school. Although you have every opportunity to do that, if you struggled with anxiety, fear, classes, socialization, or anything else this past school-year, you can utilize the summer break to work on ways to make returning to class in the fall less daunting and recharge your batteries.

Let’s discuss some of the things you can do to maximize your break and prepare yourself for the upcoming school year.

How to Maximize Your Summer Break

Getting the most out of your time off can seem ironically overwhelming. How do you spend your time? Should you relax? Veg out? Exercise? Take up a new hobby? Study? Go to camp? Get a job? There are tons of options for how you can spend this time. To help you figure out some options, let’s break it down by goal.

First, as you enter into the summer break, consider thinking about what you want to get out of this time. Remember, it is only about 10 weeks, which is a fairly short amount of time. Here are some ideas for goals you could have in mind:

  • Reset, recharge, and get into a positive mental space
  • Prepare academically for the following school year
    • Maybe you get into an advanced course or prepare for a test like an ACT or SAT
  • Buff up your resume with volunteer work or a job
  • Make some money
  • Enjoy the company of your friends and family
  • Travel
  • Self-exploration and self-improvement for mental health
  • Tackling past trauma 
  • Get through the entire Office series 3 times
  • Start your own business
    • Like nannying, lawn mowing, crafting, or dog sitting
  • Learn a new hobby
  • Learn how to make bread 
  • Take a summer class

You get the idea. A summer goal can be as lofty as starting your own business or as simple as finishing a TV show. You do not have to pick one goal, either. You can have multiple. But remember to have SMART goals. What are SMART goals, you ask? SMART is an acronym for:

S: Specific 
M: Measureable
A: Attainable
R: Relevant
T: Time-based

The idea of setting a SMART goal is that is is easier to succeed when you have clearly defined objectives that are based in reality.

For example:

Instead of
     My goal for the summer is to make money
     My goal is to make $1,000 by pet-sitting over the next eight weeks

The second goal has a specific number amount that is realistically attainable within the time period of the summer.

Ok, now that we know what summer goals may be and how to create them effectively, let’s go through a few examples.

Goal 1: Focus On Mental Health

It can be tempting to focus on your mental health by avoiding everything during the summer break, but the nasty side-effect of this is when it all comes crashing down at once come August. It’s like the Sunday Scaries times a million. One goal you may set if you struggle with anxiety, especially anxiety related to school, might be to take some actionable steps to reduce your anxiety and find strategies to identify and mitigate your triggers.

Goal: Spend 4 weeks focusing on reducing my anxiety and stress related to going to school by identifying what parts of school give me the most anxiety and trying to develop some methods to help reduce my anxiety.

Action Items:

  1. Work with a Positive Presence Mentor Coach. Mentor-Coaches are trained to help teenagers identify triggers and points of anxiety so you can work together to better identify these triggers and find strategies to handle them. 
  2. Read some self-help books about anxiety. There are honestly dozens of books available to read or listen to on dealing with anxiety that can provide some much needed perspective. Maybe commit to reading one book in this genre. Here are some examples: 
    1. Less by Andrew Sean Greer
    2. Don’t Believe Everything You Think: Why Your Thinking Is The Beginning & End Of Suffering by Joseph Nguyen
    3. The Mountain Is You: Transforming Self-Sabotage into Self-Mastery by Brianna Wiest
    4. Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident, and Productive When the Pressure’s On by Sharon Melnick
    5. Stop Overthinking: 23 Techniques to Relieve Stress, Stop Negative Spirals, Declutter Your Mind, and Focus on the Present by Nick Trenton
    6. Anxiety Relief for Teens: Essential CBT Skills and Mindfulness Practices to Overcome Anxiety and Stress by Regine Galanti
    7. Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind by Judson Brewer
  3. Try a relaxation method. This could be downloading a meditation app, joining a yoga studio, painting, running, going on a walk with your dog, etc. Whatever it is that helps you escape your overthinking, embrace it and focus on it as a strategy.

Goal 2: Make Some Money

Summer is a great time to make some cash. Without the regimented structure of school, many students are able to dedicate a significant amount of time to working. Let’s set an example goal for someone who wants to make money over the summer.  Goal: I want to make $1,500 working as a waiter for a restaurant in ____. I will do this by working ___ hours per week and spending less than ___ per month.  Now, if you’ve never had a job before, it’s ok. Let’s talk through where to start.  The first step is to determine your limitations. Ask yourself these questions: 
  1. Do you have access to transportation? If so, how available is it to you? How much does it cost? How much time are you willing to spend commuting?
    1. Understanding your transportation limitations will help you put a radius on where you can look for a job as well as what type of job you can look for. 
    2. Ex: If you have access to a car and don’t mind driving, you could consider a meal delivery service, or a nannying job. 
  2. What sounds enjoyable to do for the next 8-12 weeks?
    1. Think about applying for a job that aligns with your interests and goals. 
    2. If you are determined to be a doctor and go to medical school, look into jobs in a hospital or medical office – even if it is just scheduling appointments and taking out the trash
    3. If you are passionate about cooking, look into getting a job at a local restaurant as a soux chef, busser, or waiter. 
After you’ve thought through what type of job you want, you can start the process of finding a job and applying for it. This is where networking comes into play. Do you know anyone in the industry you’re interested in getting a job in? Can you reach out to them to see if there are any openings or to get a referral?  If you do not know anyone in the industry, start by hopping on a computer and search for some specific companies you are interested in working for. For example, if you want to work with animals, search for local veterinary clinics in your area.  Most websites will have a Careers page where you can apply for a job. Even massive corporations like McDonalds have a careers page where you can apply for a restaurant job at the McDonald’s closest to you. Most entry-level jobs will not require a formal resume, but it never hurts to start building one. Look for some templates online and put information in there about yourself such as what your interests are, what subjects you enjoy the most at school, what sports you play, etc.  Positive Presence mentor-coaches can help you strengthen your resume, strategize job hunting, and gain the self-confidence and motivation to tackle your goals. Consider meeting with a Positive Presence mentor-coach for a free 1:1 session today.

Goal 3: Learn a New Hobby

Another goal may be to try something new. Maybe you want to step outside your comfort zone and learn how to dance. Maybe you want to stay in your comfort zone and expand an existing skill, like if you are a musician who plays piano, maybe you try to learn violin or guitar. Here is an example of a SMART goal you may set if you want to learn a new hobby: 

Goal: I want to spend 3 hours a week practicing the violin over the summer. By August, I want to know how to play [insert piece of music]. 

So, how would you go about accomplishing this goal? 

If you are going to learn a new hobby, it should probably be something that interests and excites you. It’s a recipe for disaster to try to learn something you know you do not like. (Although we always encourage you to keep an open mind!) In short, here are the steps:

  • Determine what you want to learn
  • Gather any materials your may need to learn the hobby/trait/skill
  • Find a class, resource, teacher, etc. to start learning
  • Set a SMART goal about what specifically you would like to learn, and create milestones along the way to measure your progress and hold yourself accountable (like learning the specific piece of music by August in our example above).

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Whatever your goals are for the summer, remember to keep the upcoming school year in your side-view mirror (eg: don’t completely avoid preparing for the school year all summer). Start the upcoming year on the right foot by using the summer as a time to both relax and recharge and prepare and grow.  Spend a little time reflecting on the previous school year. Think about what went well and what didn’t. Then, think of ways you can set yourself up for success for the next year. For example, if last year you did great in all your classes, had a good group and friends, and a good handle on extra-curriculars, but always dreaded going to science class – talk with your teacher, advisor, friends, or parents to come up with a plan to help provide the support you need in that area.  The end all be all here: don’t make your life any harder than it needs to be. One option is to work with a dedicated mentor-coach to help you identify areas of weakness and to come up with a realistic plan to conquer those weaknesses as well as accepting them. We can’t be amazing at everything!  Summertime is a magical, special, wonderful, fleeting time in every young person’s life. Yes, you should spend some time planning and preparing yourself, but you should also spend time doing the things you love. Embrace the slow lazy mornings and the days where all you eat is carbs. Afterall, you only get to be a kid once.

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Jessica Waugh

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Jessica has roughly 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, curating premier wine programs in Las Vegas and developing educational programs for the largest beverage distribution company in North America. In 2022, Jessica altered her focus and is now utilizing her educational, management, and organizational skills to positively impact others on a grander scale. She is now developing multiple modalities focused in emotional intelligence, executive functioning, meta-learning, and positive psychology for struggling teens and young adults.

Favorite Mindfulness Techniques:

Meditating with sound bowls!

A Fun Fact:

I was the architect for my grandmother’s house

State: Nevada

Positive Presence Corporate Team

Missy Vandenheuvel

Sales Manager


Missy is a revitalized mother of two teenagers who understands the resilience it takes to raise children in the midst of a global pandemic. She is a passionate mentor because she recognizes there isn’t nearly enough support for the overwhelming number of people silently struggling. Her sincere and compassionate personality is what makes her thrive as a coach and a leading member of our company. As our Sales manager she recognized that her role is to listen and learn as much about your child (or yourself) as possible. While listening, I am identifying a mentor coach that I believe your child will not only like based on their personality, but also one who has experienced and overcome similar pain points, and areas of opportunity, optimizing relatability. Ultimately, setting your child up for growth and fulfillment socially, mentally, and physically. 

Favorite Mindfulness Techniques:

My Favorite Mindful technique is to Shifting Thought Patterns by focusing on the Grounding Technique. Starts with a big belly breath in. Then, you tap into your 5 senses, to quickly and effortlessly shift your current focus. Choose a sense- any sense, and count down from 5 (order or senses can be altered): 5 things you see, 4 things you smell, 3 things you feel, 2 things you hear, 1 thing you taste.

A Fun Fact:

 I travel to Florida from Wisconsin 3-4 times a year, and we plan to relocate somewhere with the state in 1.5 years. I’ve been dreaming about this since I first saw the ocean at the age of 14 years old. 

State: Wyoming

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