While summer vacation provides an opportunity to kick back, unplug, and enjoy the big slow down, it’s also an ideal time to contemplate your life, reevaluate the upcoming year, plan, and do some goal setting. No, I don’t mean to harsh your buzz, but upgrading your time off before the more pressure-filled days of high-stakes test taking and application season means you’ll improve efficiency while engaging in self-care and emotional prep that supports going for your dreams, and all the days in between.
Whether you’re taking the SATs, ACTs, GMATs, or another admissions or certification test later this summer or fall, consider these ten adjustments to destress, revive, and prime yourself before the deadline mad rush begins.
- Increase Curiosity. Whether whisked away to a far-off land or in staycation mode, plan to explore some nooks and crannies where you’re living or visiting right now. Whether home or away, local museums, parks, galleries, university lectures, restaurants, pop-ups, dance workshops, or a community center class you’ve thought about but never enrolled in, will fit the bill. New experiences provide pattern interrupt, which, in neuro-linguistic terms, means you get out of your habitual flight pattern, and see things in new light. This gives a positive jolt to your energetic, intellectual, and emotional self. Enjoy new mind candy and see how it impacts you beyond the activity itself.
- Hack a Habit. For many, our mind craves both experiencing new things and having patterns and structure. Imposing behavioral or attitudinal shifts can be dynamic and refreshing to add within our usual day-to-day. For example:
- Change the route that you walk or drive to a store, work, or home.
- Alternate from whatever hand you typically use to brush your teeth, or eat with your other hand. Switch it up.
- Send a card to your friends or family, especially if you often only text or call.
- Do you always feel triggered by something your partner, friend, or family member does? Check out Non-Violent Communication or work with someone to learn better methods to work though things differently. Stretch that growth edge!
Changing behavioral patterns can introduce novel experiences of ourselves, our environment, friends, family, and community. In turn, the act of shifting keeps us fresh and invites multiple views into our world and increases self-awareness, which in turn, improves our lives. As you deepen self knowledge, you may likely introduce these fresh ideas in your essays, and develop novel ways to “present” in your next chapter. Further, neuroscience supports this: small simple changes rewire the brain’s neural pathways, which is beneficial for optimal mental health!
- Daily Self Care. Do just ONE nice thing each day for yourself. It’s no denying that we do our best when we “do” ourselves best. Here’s a short list of suggestions you can do for yourself each day.
- Buy yourself flowers
- Nature bound! Go someplace where you can smell the flowers
- Visit a pet shop or volunteer at a pound
- Massage, golfing, reflexology, get a check up, etc.
- Call a friend
- Clear your space with a feng shui consultant and/or organizer
- Spend 10-minutes listening to, dancing to, or making your favorite music
- Nourish yourself with nutritional delicious food!
- Spend time communing in nature
Want more ideas? Post a question on your Facebook and/or LinkedIn pages to learn what your colleagues’ and friends’ best self care actions are! I always enjoy seeing who responds and how.
- Make time for structured planned activities and being spontaneous. Live life like a traveler regardless of where you are!
PLANNING – Aniticipate your next day – at night. What will you do? Who will you do it with? When you anticipate your enjoyment, you greatly increase the entire experience – not only during, but before the experience itself, making it last a lot longer. Revel in thinking about your following day’s bliss.
SPONTANEITY – keep open slots in your schedule with a broad idea of what you want to do. This is usually where I’ve found the magic of travel transposed into daily living makes me happy. Serendipity happens. As John Lennon says, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
- Sweet Dreams. Simply put, sleep at least 7-8 hours a night and consider using a Fitbit, another device, or app to register the quality and duration of your sleep in order for you to regulate and adapt it so it can be your best. Sleep becomes extremely valuable when you’ve got more responsibility and are hitting the grindstone, especially when applying to schools/programs or taking certification exams while a student or working.
Bonus Adventure – – If you live near a campground or have a balcony or backyard and it’s safe to sleep outside, spend a night snoozing there. There is nothing like a new sleeping locale, fresh air, and stars to ignite your dreams. Many people even say they sleep better outside.
- Purge, organize, and consider only inviting quality over quantity. Too much of a good thing, often isn’t really the best thing. Consider how to uplevel the things in your life, from relationships, possessions, food, and schedule, to other things. I’m a big fan of removing drama, whether that’s cleaning up your space or reengaging in communication that hasn’t been as effective as you’d like. Take accountability and think about how you can simplify. The stress will melt away. I typically start with with my wallet and purse, then move outward. Get rid of business cards, receipts, and other items bulking things up…then revamp your study/work space and home. In fact, you can adopt Marie Kondo’s Sparking Joy model – – if it doesn’t inspire joy when you pick it up, get rid of it. A space that contains things that make you happy with the least amount of distraction becomes fertile ground to relax AND get stuff done.
- Engage in a daily visual and/or written practice. Evidence from Sion Beilock’s Choke, structure from Julia Cameron’s morning pages in The Artist Way, or activities/questions in many SARK books, encourage how expression destresses. Reflect, then write, collage, draw, or doodle. Writing a gratitude list before you go to bed each night and when you awake each morning can become addictive! Only rule: Keep the pen/pencil/keyboarding busy!
- Identify time to socialize and time to be alone. Whether home or elsewhere, introvert or extrovert, make plans with friends or go to where you might meet interesting people. Meet up groups are popular in a number of locales, and so are social events through spiritual, recreational, and cultural centers. Hug more, even. This releases oxytocin which elevates happy-inducing feelings. Make time to be alone too. It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or extrovert; everyone benefits from at least a little bit of me-time. If you find this challenging, working with a coach or therapist might be hugely beneficial!
- Consider and document what you gain from, and at the other side of, the testing and admissions hoops you’ll be jumping through. In Judaism, the word/concept madrega means to elevate to the next level. Consider the madrega potential from the effort and investment you’re making in testing, applying, interviewing, and going through school. Yes, the journey is often as important as the destination; however, anticipating and intentionalizing the journey can whittle down the edge off these high-stakes and potentially vulnerable shares and “performances.” The end goal isn’t to get the top test score or even go to the best school. It’s what lies within these experiences, and how they lay the groundwork beyond, that holds the most promise in meeting your ultimate goals.
- Set up benchmarks for your successes along the way. If you earn a great score on your test, how will you celebrate? Get into your dream school? What prize will you award yourself? Think about it now so you don’t spend too much time on your rewards system, when your responsibilities are heavier than usual in the Fall.
Take these suggestions in stride. You might just want to Internet or wind surf. The benefits of igniting your whole self – intellectual, creative, analytical, contemplative, etc.– provide the possibility for better scores, and benefits beyond the test. Just think about it as our way to encourage efficiency and effectiveness. Do let us know how you implement these practices!
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