From staying hydrated and exercising, to keeping in contact with college friends, An Focal's Aisling O’Connor gives us her top tips to ensure that you mind your mental health over the summer months.
Many people find their mental health suffers over summer. This may be due to feeling a lack of focus in one’s life, due to strained relationships at home, or feeling isolated in a locality. 
 
To be honest, there are an array of reasons as to why some people find the holidays difficult, and as everyone has their own issues, it would be impossible to know all of them. Regardless, we want to make sure you mind yourself over summer and also enjoy it.
 
Keep in contact 
When the realising that your friends are moving back to the other side of the country hits you, it’s a painful thought, but the wonder of social media means that we can stay in contact all the time. 
 
When feeling low, you might not necessarily feel like talking, but it’s important to maintain relationships. If you notice you haven’t been in contact with anyone for a while, drop them a message. 
 
I’m sure your friends will be missing you. Plus, there’s no better summer adventure than a good old road trip.
 
Stay hydrated 
We might not have a warm climate or lovely sunny weather that actively makes you want to drink water, but drinking water wards off headaches and migraines, as well as giving you energy. As the Deep River Rock ads says, “If you can’t think straight, hydrate”.
 
Avoid toxic places and people 
These are situations and people who don’t bring out the best in you, don’t treat you well, or simply make you uncomfortable or unhappy. 
 
Sometimes you have to be a bit selfish in the name of your sanity and remove some people from your life. I understand that it’s not always possible to do so, as unfortunately for some, these places and people may very well be home and family. 
 
You may feel a little guilty telling somebody that you don’t want to be around them anymore, but ask yourself if your mental health is really worth suffering for people you may not even like very much? 
 
If anything, try to limit interaction and surround yourself with better people and places. Keep in mind that real friends are supposed to build you up, not knock you down. 
 
Monitor alcohol intake 
Summer isn’t a protracted rag week, of course going out for a few drinks and having nights out are a huge part of summer activities, but excess alcohol is bad for more than just your liver. 
 
If you go out a lot and find your mood has shifted, cut the drink for a bit and see if it picks up. Space out the sessions and be sensible with how much you have.
 
Avoiding alcohol in our society is sadly a difficult task, because the majority of social outings entail drinking; suggest going to a café to catch up with friends instead or even have a cinema night.
 
Eat well 
Going home means having mam’s home cooked dinners with nutritional value once more, but if your diet consists of a lot of processed foods, sugar, and fast foods, your mood suffers. 
 
Try to have your 5 a day, and include more natural whole foods in your diet. Having said that, chocolate releases endorphins, so technically, chocolate makes you happy. It’s all about a balance.
 
Exercise 
Exercise also releases endorphins. There are also a lot of other benefits like having more energy, increased concentration, and overall health. 
 
With the longer and brighter evenings, even a walk will make you feel better and clear your head.
 
Set goals 
Some people struggle over holidays because they don’t know what to focus on. Set yourself goals to achieve over summer. 
 
Be ambitious: write a novel, run a marathon, learn a new skill; as long as it’s something you love it’s worth aiming for.
 
Be mindful 
Body scans and meditations, while initially difficult to get into, are hugely calming. Mindfulness requires practice, but the benefits are worth persevering for. 
 
However, being mindful isn’t just about meditating; it’s about living in the present moment. This doesn’t mean completely disregarding the future and past, but when overthinking about what’s to come and what has been, remind yourself that right now you’re in the present and are in the position to make the most of it.
 
Breathe 
If you feel stressed or tense, take a moment to check your breathing. If your breaths are short, sharp and come from your throat, you’re going to feel anxious. 
 
Stop for a moment, close your eyes, and inhale deeply. If you feel your abdomen expand with each breath, then you’re doing it right.
 
Sleep 
Sleeping patters tend to go out the window over summer: you’re watching Netflix until 2am, fall out of bed at noon etc. 
 
Aim for a good 8 hours, because without enough sleep your mood suffers and you’re left feeling tired and drained. 
 
Have that lie in, once the September hits and it’s back to 9am starts they’ll be a luxury once more.
 
Doll up 
There are days when you don’t feel like having a shower or changing out of your pajamas, but you feel better after prepping and dressing yourself. 
 
Have a shower, shave, get dressed, put some make-up on etc. You’ll find yourself feeling more refreshed and confident.