31 days, 31 ways

I can’t get enough of summer. Not only is it my favorite season, but it is the time when I relish the break in the school year routine and the “found moments” that emerge from that shift. I also consider sun, sand, and water to be the perfect combination of elements and those beach days are a real antidote to the stress that can build up over the course of the school year.

Every year at this time, when the month of July is drawing to a close, I feel a little lump forming in my throat. Sadness starts to creep in as I sense September edging closer. I breathe and tell myself that I still have another month of summer. Another month before schedules get busy again, demands increase exponentially, and the weather starts changing. I want to embrace these moments in time, the fleeting hours and days when life feels simpler, and frankly, more “beachy.”

I imagine there are a lot of people out there who experience a similar sense of loss as summer begins to fade. How do we meaningfully take hold of these last few weeks of summer make use of this time to enhance our well-being and prepare us for the shifts that lie ahead?

I propose that we usher in the month of August with a commitment to self-care. Self-care means engaging in behaviors that make us feel good, whole, and healthy. Can we spend a bit of time every day integrating healthy habits and mindful practices that will feed mind, body, and spirit? Why not join me for the next 31 days and commit yourself to doing one thing every day to care for yourself in a loving way? By doing this, you are setting the stage for continuing this self-care program when September hits and life gets busier and more stressful; a time when we tend to neglect our self-care needs and can easily slip into depression. Remember that the more we practice self-care, the more energetic, balanced, and healthy we feel, and the more emotionally available we are to our spouses, partners, children, loved ones, and friends!

So let’s do this! Here is my list of 31 ways to engage in self-care for each of the 31 days in August. Feel free to try whatever speaks to you, and do your best to commit to at least one activity a day. I invite you to add to this list if you’d like, as everyone has unique ways of taking care of themselves, and I also welcome any feedback on how your 31 day self-care journey is going! Feel free to email me at caryn@emilycooktherapy.com

  1. Get a good night’s sleep (at least 8 hours).
  2. Meditate. Download one of these apps for meditation to help you feel calmer and more centered (e.g., Insight Timer, Headspace, Calm).
  3. Book a massage. Touch is important.
  4. Create or decorate something with your hands, like a painting, collage, bird house, pottery, scrapbook, journal, cake.
  5. Move your body. Dance, do yoga, run, stretch, swim.
  6. Unplug. Take time off from technology for a specified period of time- an hour, an afternoon, a day.
  7. Come to therapy. Give yourself the time and space to release your emotions and enhance your well-being.
  8. Spend time with friends or family members who make you feel good.
  9. Be in nature.
  10. Take a nap. Even for 20 minutes, rest is rejuvenating.
  11. Write in your journal. About anything. Just let the words pour out of you without judgement.
  12. Surround yourself with art. Visit a museum or attend a show or concert.
  13. Create a quiet sanctuary space in your home with candles, pillows, soothing music.
  14. Eat well. Avoid processed foods and an over abundance of salt or sugar. Be mindful of portion size.
  15. Try something for the first time.
  16. Set limits with others so you don’t overextend yourself. Say no when it feels appropriate.
  17. Write a list of positive affirmations about yourself, like “I am a great listener” or “I am open to new challenges in my life.”
  18. Give yourself a small gift, like flowers, a candle, a book, a homemade card.
  19. Play a game you loved as a child.
  20. Listen to your favorite music.
  21. Close your eyes, take a few deep, cleansing breaths, and notice what you are feeling.
  22. Immerse your body in water. Take a long bath, swim in a pool or the ocean, or soak in a jacuzzi.
  23. Call or visit an old friend.
  24. Visit a place you’ve never been before.
  25. Sing. Loudly.
  26. Volunteer. Help someone who needs it.
  27. Cuddle with a loved one or pet.
  28. Make a list of what you are grateful for in the moment.
  29. Create a new ritual, like taking a short evening walk after dinner.
  30. Step into the sunlight. Give yourself that Vitamin D dose (don’t forget sunscreen!).
  31. Laugh. Go to a comedy show, watch your favorite sitcom, read the comics.

This post was written by Caryn Malkus, an experienced individual counselor and marriage and family therapist at Emily Cook Therapy in Bethesda, MD.

Here’s to 31 ways of self-care in 31 days! Bring it on!