It’s summertime, and while you might not be totally free of graduate school or dissertation stress, you might have a bit more free time on your hands. At the very least, the great weather and ample sunshine often make us want to step away from the desk or computer, at least for a little while. Taking a break can be good for you. It allows you to recharge, fill your cup, and return to the work rested, possibly inspired, and refreshed. It’s essential to help prevent burnout, and as discussed in previous blog posts, we all need to practice self-care and continue to connect with others.

We know that as a graduate student, you may not have a ton of spare cash to drop on a bunch of big excursions – but that doesn’t mean you have to spend every day at home! Here are 15 free or low-cost suggestions for some fun summer activities, both with and without kids (we know there are many of you juggling family, school, and work!).

  1. Go to a museum or an aquarium! Look online at local websites or the museum websites; especially during the summer, they often have reduced fare days or free nights where they have events. Whether it’s an art museum, history museum, aquarium, or something else, not only will you get out of the heat, but you’ll find plenty to explore and lots to learn. If you’re bringing your kids, a kids’ museum is a great place to experience sensory activities, learn new things, and make memories.
  2. Movie night! Get a movie from Redbox, Netflix, or Amazon Prime; pick up some microwave popcorn, snacks, and drinks; change into your comfiest pajamas and load up the couch (or floor!) with blankets and pillows, and you’re all set. If movie binging is more your thing, make it a movie marathon day and order in your favorite take-out.
  3. Explore your local library and load up on goodies. Did you know libraries offer more than just books? They also have movies, computer and internet access, and often have a variety of programs for the community, including storytimes, teen activities, and summer fun for kids. When it’s too hot or rainy to take the kids outside (or for the days when you just don’t want to leave the house), make sure you have a stack of books from which to choose!
  4. Check out parks and playgrounds. The park is a great place for kids to let off some steam and have fun – and some even have fitness equipment or a track for adults. If you’re in the mood, why not mix it up and try something different and head to the next town over from you to explore their parks? Even if you don’t have kids, a change of scenery with a great walking path or track can be a nice respite and allow you to get your body moving and release stress.
  5. Splash it up! Find out where your local splash pads are and use them liberally on hot days. Most are free, and adults can join in on the fun, too! Check out your town’s webpage for information about local pools, if that’s more your speed.
  6. Go on a picnic. You don’t even have to go to a park – if you have a backyard or front yard, you’re set. Grab a book or your headphones, pack a basket or bag with your favorite meal – and don’t forget blankets and sunscreen!
  7. If you weren’t able to relax much during the day, all hope is not lost for stress relief! Lie down in the grass and look at the stars. If you have kids, inflate an air mattress or pool floaties for them to sit or lay on, or even better – take a plastic kiddie pool and fill it with pillows and blankets, bring some snacks, and spend some time outside looking at the stars, telling stories, and enjoying the summer evening.
  8. Author readings. Find out the author schedule at your local bookstore. Many times, authors of both adult and children’s books will do readings at various bookstores. It’s a great way to meet your (or your kids’) favorite author, or good way to discover a new one.
  9. Farmer’s Markets! Find out when your community hosts a farmer’s market. They’re free to go to, and while you’ll spend money if you buy produce or food, they’re often fun to walk around, talk to the vendors, and if you’re lucky, there are free samples!
  10. Keep a gratitude journal. Every day, write down three things that you’re grateful for in your journal. Even if they’re happy memories or something neat you saw that day, it matters. On bad days, or later on, when you might be struggling with motivation, you can take out your journal for some inspiration.
  11. Move it! The New York Times put together a 7-minute workout designed so that you can do it at home, without spending money. If you have a FitBit or Apple watch, set those step counters or activity ring goals and get moving! Walk around the block, meet a friend for an evening stroll, take your kids on an early morning jaunt, or park far away from the store. Every bit counts.
  12. Join a book club. Not only will it give you an opportunity to be social, but it will also give you an excuse to do some non-research reading! You might even be pushed outside of your comfort zone and read something you normally wouldn’t pick up, which is always a good thing. No book club near you? Join an online book club, or better yet, start one yourself! (Hint: if your kids are old enough, why not start a family book club?)
  13. Not a book club person? No problem. Check out Meetup.com to find a group that does interest you. Many of the meetups are free or low-cost, and it’s a great way to expand your social circle, which in turn, reduces stress and builds support.
  14. Skype with a friend or family members you haven’t seen in a while. Sure, you could call them, but why not Skype, so you guys can see each other?
  15. Find a cause that you support, and see if they need assistance.

What free or low-cost activities do you find help you relax and recharge over the summer?

Once you’re nice and rested and you come back to your thesis or dissertation, we’re here if you need us! Contact us today to see how we can help you with editing, formatting, consultation services, statistics, and research assistance.