Written by Rosie Neill

Product Marketing Manager

It’s been another long year! Once again, university staff have had to deal with a huge amount of change and have worked so hard to support students in the face of yet more uncertainty and upheaval. We really appreciate all the work that you have done – and we know students do too.

We hope that you’re able to take some time to rest, unwind and look after yourself during this summer period, especially as it’s hard to keep supporting others when you yourself are feeling low or burnt out.

We asked the Blackbullion Team for their favourite pastimes to give you a few suggestions to get you started – whether you have a spare 5 minutes or 5 days!

Everyone has their own unique ways to take some time for themself, but whatever you do, we hope you have a good time and are able to take a break this summer after what has been a long, difficult 18 months.

Read: 6 bestselling books of 2021 so far

Reading is one of the best ways to relax while immersing yourself in another world. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep up with reading and it’s often one of the first things that fall by the wayside for many of us when work gets busy.

Check out some of the bestselling books of this year:

The Four Winds – Kristin Hannah

An epic novel of love, heroism and hope, set against the backdrop of one of America’s most defining eras—the Great Depression.

The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country – Amanda Gorman

The poem read at Joe Biden’s inauguration in January, with a foreword from Oprah Winfrey.

The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well-lived.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – James Clear

This book will reshape the way you think about progress and success, and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits.

The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman

The co-host of ‘Pointless’ wrote this novel about four friends, all nearing the age of 80, that set out to solve a murder case.

Crying in H Mart – Michelle Zauner

This is a memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.

6 bestselling books of 2021 so far

Listen: Tune into these popular podcasts

Podcasts are an easy way to learn lots while also being entertained, especially when you don’t feel like listening to music and want something a bit different. There’s a podcast out there for pretty much every topic, so there’s sure to be something you’re interested in. 

Here are some of Team Blackbullion’s favourites:

Table Manners with Jessie Ware

Jessie Ware hosts a podcast about food, family, and the beautiful art of having a chat, direct from her very own dinner table. With a little bit of help from her chef extraordinaire mum Lennie, each week guests from the worlds of music, culture and politics drop by for a bite and a bit of a natter. Oversharing guaranteed.

You’re Wrong About

Mike and Sarah are journalists obsessed with the past. Every week they reconsider a person or event that’s been miscast in the public imagination.

Grounded with Louis Theroux

Stuck at home, Louis used lockdown to track down some high-profile people he’s been longing to talk to – from all walks of life and on both sides of the Atlantic.

Explore: Still looking for a staycation? Start here!

With two more lockdowns under our belt since last August, many of us could do with a change of scenery this summer! But with the destinations you can fly to limited and the added stress of Covid requirements, staycations are preferred by a lot of people right now. 

Although we might not have the beaches of Jamaica, there are still so many beautiful places to visit in the UK –  perhaps this could be the perfect opportunity to make the most of them!

These resources could be a good place to start if you’re trying to decide where to visit:

In case you are looking for a staycation

Connect: Feeling isolated? You’re not alone

Everyone’s comfort levels are different when it comes to things ‘opening up’ again – you’re absolutely not alone if you don’t feel ready to venture out into public spaces yet. Human interaction is a vital part of life though and naturally, we all crave personal connection. 

Here are some ways to connect with others, from home and further afield:


Meetup can help you find thousands of online & in-person events with people that have similar interests to you. These include language groups, book clubs, tea and knitting events, as well as meetups simply to make new friends. Joining a meetup is a fantastic way to meet new people and make connections, whether you choose to take part in person or online.

Join a support group

As we said earlier, you’re definitely not alone if you’re feeling anxious about going out and socialising. This is why online support groups can be a great way to share your experiences and worries with others while meeting new people, all from the comfort of your own home. AnxietyUK is one organisation running its own weekly groups that are free to join.

Ready to venture out? Go for a walk or a picnic

If you are willing to go outside to socialise, rather than sitting inside somebody’s house or going to a restaurant, why not go for a long walk with friends or make up a picnic and sit in your local park? Not only will these things get you outside (hopefully on a less rainy day!) but they can also provide a much more personal experience. If you’re walking, you’ll also get in your steps for the day!

Take part in a fitness class!

Keeping fit is something that got a lot of people through the various lockdowns and there’s no reason to stop just because restrictions have been lifted! Both home workouts, as well as in-person gym classes, are fantastic ways to relax and also feel connected to other people.

Juggle: Relaxing when you’ve got kids at home

Of course, it can be hard to unwind during the summer holidays if you’ve got children at home and near impossible to find a moment to yourself with little people demanding your attention and needing to be entertained!

We asked the parents on our team how they find ways to relax while also ensuring their children have the best summer holiday possible. Here’s what they said:

Get creative

Why not encourage your children to get creative, giving them something fun to do and keeping them occupied for a while? Or if you fancy getting involved, there will be benefits for you too – since getting creative has been proven to boost our mental state and slow the heart rate down.

Lots of activities fall under the ‘creative’ umbrella, including drawing, painting or even building structures from recycled materials. They don’t need to be expensive or complicated – anything imaginative will do!

Take part in the Summer Reading Challenge

Use the Summer Reading Challenge to get your children reading and having fun at the same time. The challenge encourages children to keep up their reading over the holidays by giving them rewards and badges for reading and reviewing books. There are tons of book recommendations provided too, ensuring that there’s something for everyone.

Not only will the challenge promote their reading, but your children will also learn about important themes too. The Reading Agency has partnered with WWF for a nature-themed challenge that will inspire children to engage with environmental issues.

You can sign up to take part at your local library or join online. And while your children are reading, perhaps you can get stuck into some of our book suggestions from the first section too!

Go on discounted days out

There are also lots of options available for you to get out of the house with your children without having to spend an arm and a leg.

Day Out With The Kids is a site where you can find lots of attractions that will provide a great day out for the family. If you sign up for their membership (£1 for the first month and cancel anytime), you’ll get access to loads of discounts and offers for days out across the UK. Over 7,500 attractions are currently listed on the website.

Find a private dog-walking field

Never mind the two-legged children – lots of you also have four-legged ones running around the house and demanding your attention!

You can keep your pets entertained for a while by going to a local dog-walking field. This can get you out of the house and, more importantly, tire your furry friend(s) out so that once you’re home, you might be able to find 5 minutes of peace! You could even socialise with some fellow owners while you’re at it.

Team Blackbullion Pets
Team Blackbullion’s pets!

Only got 5 minutes? Bite-sized suggestions

It’s so easy to want to resort to your phone & scrolling on social media when you only have a few minutes of free time. There’s nothing wrong with this on occasion and phones allow us an incredible way to stay connected with the world, but it’s good to try to get away from the social media vacuum when you can.

Here are some ways to do that, even if you just have 5 minutes spare:

Short meditations

Meditation has grown immensely in popularity over the last few years, with a large and increasing base of fans attesting to its benefits. One of the best things about meditation is that, no matter how much time you have available, it can be a useful tool for relaxing and improving your mood.

Not sure how to meditate by yourself? There are plenty of apps that can help you with guided meditation practices, which can take as little as five minutes. Three of the most popular ones are:

Puzzle books

You’d be forgiven for thinking that puzzle books are a thing of the past or something reserved for filling the time in an airport, but they can actually be a great way of keeping your mind ticking over when you have a few minutes free.

Whether you prefer a crossword or you’re more of a sudoku fan, there are tons of options available. Have a look online and you’ll find books from large brands mixed in with more niche offerings. A few that our team thought looked interesting are:

Jigsaw puzzles

Like quizzes, jigsaw puzzles made quite an impressive comeback during the pandemic!

Why not use your spare 5-minute gaps to work on a puzzle in small bursts? Can you set up a corner in your house for the puzzle and then put a few more pieces together when you have a minute or two? Over time, this could lead to a really satisfying achievement as the whole puzzle comes together!

Sit outside and listen to nature

We can often be so busy we don’t notice the beauty of the simple things around us. We make our morning coffee (or drink of choice!) but then distract ourselves with something else, whether that be a newspaper, our phone or the TV.

Next time you go to do this, why not make the effort to sit outside and listen to the sounds of nature instead? Sitting and doing nothing but listening for a few minutes can be really relaxing – and it’s something we tend to do less and less nowadays.

Close your eyes!

Our eyes work hard – in fact, they’re capable of absorbing and instantly processing more than ten million pieces of information per second! 

So if you have 5 minutes to spare, why not simply close your eyes and give them a rest? Just to break the information processing loop for a short amount of time. It might sound cheesy (you know we love a bit of cheese at BB!) but sometimes the most productive thing we can do is nothing at all.

We hope you find these suggestions from Team BB helpful and are able to take some time this summer for yourself, so you can enter the new academic year refreshed and able to provide another year of impactful support for your students.

Of course, it’s been an uncertain and challenging academic year for students, too, so we wanted to check in with our student community to see how they’re doing and feeling about their financial wellbeing. Look out for part 1 of three insights and trends reports sharing students’ responses – coming very soon!

Don’t forget to sign up for our staff email newsletter to be first to find out about all our latest blogs, reports and resources to share with students.

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