Summer in Chicago and Mental Health

By: John Lingner, LCSW

The weather is glorious (most of the time), there’s suddenly a million things to do around the city, and it feels like the population has doubled now that everyone can finally come outside from under the thumb of Old Man Winter. And, undoubtedly, the warmer weather induces you to start thinking about something else: vacation. Sure, the work must go on – deadlines still loom, chores still need completing, and the to-do list doesn’t seem to get any shorter. Nevertheless, you need a break – better yet, you deserve one.  And summer is the perfect time for it!

However, if you’re anything like me, planning and enjoying a vacation can be daunting. And sometimes, it can bring more stress than relaxation.  In the worst-case scenario, after just a few hours of propping your feet up, you start dreading the return – a flooded inbox, piles of junk mail you need to sort through ‘just in case’, the empty refrigerator, and the handful of other things you didn’t even consider.

Perhaps you start to wonder why you went in the first place. (Ever thought about needing a vacation from vacation?)

Really allowing ourselves to wholly and deeply relax is extremely difficult, especially in this age of constant connectivity and productivity. We all struggle with it. Still, we want to be the best worker, partner, and friend that we can, and taking a vacation from those roles is a part of that.

If we deprive ourselves relaxation and the opportunity to rejuvenate our minds and bodies, we tend to become less effective at doing all the things that are important to us.

So, in order to truly relax during your vacation this summer, use this checklist from the second you start planning until the day you return. With these tips, you’ll hopefully be able to enjoy that well-deserved break and come back feeling refreshed and ready to be the best you can be!


As paradoxical as it sounds, relaxing can take energy. If you wait until the last possible moment to take a break (i.e. that minute before you dramatically quit your job, run away from home, and hide somewhere far, far away), then you’ve waited too long.

Try to anticipate when you’re going to be burnt out and take your vacation before that happens. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself too exhausted and too mentally wound up to achieve vacation nirvana.


Perhaps this sounds counterintuitive – but if you incorporate your vacation planning into your to-do list with an ample amount of time (see #1) before departure, you won’t have to do the vacation planning while you are actually vacationing. At the very least, make the logistics (travel and sleeping arrangements) a top priority.


Let’s be honest: sometimes, having absolutely nothing to do isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. All of that free time can incite some anxiety. So, give yourself some structure. Make a few restaurant reservations. Schedule a sightseeing day.

Perhaps even create a routine for how each day will flow (Breakfast each day at the corner cafe, afternoon nap, etc). Setting just a few of these markers will help keep you present in the abundance of free time.


Speaking of being present, practicing mindfulness is a great way to ensure that you can really indulge in your vacation (or any other leisure activity, actually!) A few daily mindfulness activities can help accomplish exactly that!


So, how did you do? Check in with yourself and see how you’re feeling. Are you refreshed? Why or why not? Take a few notes for yourself and make those adjustments the next time around. Vacationing–and relaxing in general–can be practiced and improved over time!