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Your Tips for Surviving Summer Break

Summer is a time to enjoy a change of pace from the school year. It's an opportunity to focus on different interests or activities that you don't have as much time for during the rest of the year.

We asked our readers what they would doing over the summer — and if they thought it would be too busy, kind of boring, or somewhere in between. About half (52%) of the people who took our survey said their summer vacation would be just the right amount of busy. In other words they'd have plenty going on but still have time to relax. And that's exactly how it should be.

Summer is also a time to kick back and unwind. Kacey said, "It's a break from homework and projects — and worrying about due dates for something."

Alexis said, "During school it can seem like you're really tired, so since it's summer vacation you can relax and read books and go outside and swim."

Ashlyn, who is in high school, told us, "It's a chance to relax after a hard school year, sleep more, see my friends more." Ashlyn has balance down right: She's working at a job from 10–2 Monday through Friday and then plans to hang out with friends and family at nights and on weekends.

But not everyone who took our survey said their summers would be the right balance of busy and relaxing. Many were worried that they'd be overscheduled or too bored.

Summer Blahs or Summer Stress?

Amy's Summer Ideas

How bored or busy people feel during the summer depends on how old they are. Survey-takers in their early teens were more likely to be bored — with 40% saying they'll be bored compared with only 10% who thought they'd be overscheduled. For high school juniors and seniors, this number was split more evenly. A quarter of survey-takers 16 and older said they'd probably be bored and a quarter said they'd be too busy.

Older teens don't worry as much about boredom for several reasons. In a practical sense, they have more freedom.

Rosa told us one of the things she's looking forward to is "being able to drive myself wherever I want." Older teens are also more likely to have paid jobs to take up some of their time.

In addition to more freedom, older teens have had several summers of figuring stuff out on their own, without their parents planning everything for them. They've had a chance to learn what they like to do and make the transition to planning their own lives.

You don't have to be older to have this figured out, though. Mara, 13, told us, "Summer vacation is my time to unwind and exercise my independence."

Family Ties and Other Worries

Of course, becoming more independent means that it can sometimes be challenging to spend more time with the family. Kacy told us she will be "going on family trips that I dread" and that she's not looking forward to "sibling rivalry around the house."

Katie told us she is spending most of her summer with family, but that she'd prefer a little "friend" time. "I want to spend it with my buds and my family. But I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings."

For some people, this will be their last summer at home — and they're feeling a little nostalgic. Rebecca offered this advice, "Find time for your parents. For me this may be my last summer hanging with my folks. They might embarrass you, but they're the only parents you got."

Sarah said she looks forward to taking a trip down memory lane and indulging in some water fights with younger siblings. "Sprinklers are the best!"

Unfortunately, for some people, nostalgia can stretch into stress. They may feel like things are happening too quickly and they worry about what the future will hold.

Courtney told us, "The fact that next year is my last year of high school scares me."

Dani said, "I'm not looking forward to summer because I will be needing to work more. Also, I'm sort of nervous about being a senior next year."

Douglas told us he is stressed out by "looking for a job, and getting worried that I'm not good enough. I have been to so many places already!"

Summer is a time for chilling out, not stressing out. If you're feeling stressed out, summer is a great time to take part in one stress-busting activity: exercise.

Beat the Blahs By Staying Fit

Exercise is a great mood lifter. It's also a fantastic way to stay busy if you have time on your hands. This may be one reason why our 13- and 14-year-old survey-takers were more likely than older teens to mention they'll get lots of exercise this summer.

Priyanka is just one of many examples. "I'm planning to spend a couple of hours in a nearby swimming pool every day. The summer is a chance for me to get fit and trim, and start daily exercise so I get used to it and can continue even when school starts," she told us.

Jayne-Leanne says, "If you get bored, EXERCISE. Don't eat when you are bored!"

"I would just say, sign up for something like a tennis, volleyball, baseball, etc., class," advises Kia. "Or just work toward something like getting a better mile time."

Overcome Boredom

Most of our readers recommend getting together with friends as the No. 1 way to beat boredom. John said, "Spend as much time as possible being social. Leave alone time for yourself, but not too much."

One reader told us she has been ill and missed almost the whole school year. "I've felt really isolated," she said. So she's looking forward to a couple of camps that she's been going to for years — along with a camp for teens with brain tumors. "I can't wait to meet up with my old friends," she told us. "Nothing is better than hanging out with friends or making some new ones!"

But what if you're like Sara? She told us, "I want to do something but have no one to do anything with because my friends are leaving the country." In cases like these, it may be worth giving Kia's advice a try and signing up for lessons in something you enjoy because "You may make new friends."

Coline said, "A lot of my friends go away over the summer, so I try and volunteer or work on personal projects when I'm by myself."

Many of you mentioned that pets make great summer companions. Elizabeth said, "I spend most of my time with my horses, they've now become my best friends!" Horses and dogs are a great way to get active and outdoors too.

If you'll be spending time alone this summer, here are some ideas from our survey-takers:

Brittany: "When you get bored, read a book or write one!"

Heba: "Make an album with all your childhood pictures."

Melissa: "Have a small project or something to do in between bigger things you're doing, like maybe building something, sewing, drawing, etc."

Jake: "If you run out of fun things to do, grab your iPod, turn it to your faves, then wash the car, mow the lawn, do the laundry, dust things, organize your closet…Seriously, you may think I'm dumb, but I bet the more you do for your parents, the more likely they are to say, 'Go see a movie,' 'Go fishing with your friends,' that sorta thing. Plus the chores fill in the 'blah' time. To escape the boredom of these chores, music is the key!"

It's not likely that Jake will have much downtime this summer — he's busy running his own lawn service. But we like his idea, and it may help you maintain a good relationship with your parents. Almost everyone has chores over the summer, and it can feel a lot better to volunteer on your own than be nagged or pestered into doing them.

Natty: "Start making Christmas gifts. You might not have time later and you'll just have to buy…as usual."

Mara: "Start a dog-walking business."

Sakura: "Work on your health. Don't just sit on the couch and watch TV."

Plan Ahead

You'd think summer should be freewheeling and easy. But that doesn't always work out in the real world. Many of our readers said that planning is the key to a good summer.

Stephanie told us, "I have had my share of summertime blahs, especially being an only child. All I have to say is arrange your week. Don't always play it day by day; it doesn't work. You will get bored easily."

Krista said, "Try doing something new every day, instead of doing the same old thing every single day."

Claire will travel to France to see her family, and there's a lot she'd like to accomplish: "Make a list of all the things you want to do, pin it up on your door, then each day do one of those things!"

And what if your plans fall through? Alecia doesn't leave room for feeling disappointed. "Make sure you have some fun activities planned, and some backup plans," she says.

Create Your Own Reality

Finally, it's important to keep a healthy perspective on things. You may think something will be boring, but keep an open mind and it might not be.

Esther said, "The place we go to every summer holiday is not very exciting. I'm a bit bored of it." Lots of you felt this way — it's normal as you get older to feel constrained by family vacations.

But Rebecca offers a different perspective: "I am looking forward to vacation because it gives me a chance to leave town and be adventurous."

Take some advice from Amy, who suggested this boredom buster: "Go and get your portrait drawn, find a nice street artist!" So whether your family's seeing the sights in Venice, California, or Venice, Italy, ask your sibs and parents to join you in a family portrait.

In fact, why not make this comment from Hannah into your new summer motto: "The coolest moments and memories are made when you least expect it."

Have a fun summer!

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: July 2013