It was supposed to be Hot Girl Summer. I was supposed to be celebrating myself, enjoying lighter COVID restrictions, and generally living my best life. That was the plan, and I was happy with it. Hot girl summer was on!

We all needed a light and fun summer after a full year of pandemic life. I was hopeful. I was ready.

I was disappointed.

It wasn’t just the Delta variant that derailed my plans either. I didn’t expect to still be grieving the end of a relationship. I didn’t expect the hormonal rollercoaster that is PMDD. I certainly didn’t expect to be revisited by another wave of depression. Hot girl summer was canceled, and I made it my summer of self-care instead.

It sounds less glamorous, but it’s exactly what I needed. I didn’t need to live large. I needed to live small and to pay attention to the details. I didn’t get the light and happy summer I expected. Instead, I got to work on my healing.

Hot Girl Summer plans shelved, I dove into Healing Summer, Recovery Summer, and the summer that just might change the rest of my life.

Begin With Therapy

Therapy is a great place to start when we’re healing. I would spend 45 minutes crying in weekly sessions while feeling all the emotions that had been simmering under the surface. I made it the summer of my trauma recovery, the summer of unpacking decades of baggage and leaving it behind.

Therapy isn’t always accessible or affordable, but online options can help make it more so. I opted for an in-person option, but my insurance wouldn’t cover it. I had to shift around finances to accommodate those sessions. I’m grateful that I could, but I’m aware that it’s a privilege to have been able to afford it. I absolutely believe every single person should experience the benefits of therapy whether they’re going through a crisis or not. It is worth every penny.

Address Underlying Medical Issues

I squared away my therapy appointment before I even had the energy or emotional resources to address the underlying medical issues. Sometimes, we have to do one thing before we can even think of handling the other. I scheduled a doctor’s appointment to address the symptoms of PMDD I was experiencing. Nearly half of every month was spent dealing with mood swings, severe headaches, and debilitating cramps. I found a doctor who diagnosed the problem and talked me through my treatment options.

I’ll be honest: the treatment options for PMDD aren’t great. Birth control and antidepressants feature in the plan, but what they’re really saying is enjoy the rollercoaster until menopause. It’s not exactly reassuring. Welcome to healthcare for women.

Addressing underlying medical issues can help get to the root of why we feel the way we do. Our bodies and minds are inextricably intertwined, and we can’t neglect one without feeling the impact in the other. Well checks are important, but it’s also essential that we take the time to address medical concerns as they present.

Consider Holistic Options

There are numerous holistic options out there that can help with self-care. I booked a Thai massage for stress management, workout recovery, and to address the ongoing PMDD symptoms. I also scheduled a session with a chiropractor to help manage PMDD and talked to a wellness center about utilizing the services of a nutritionist. None of which my insurance will cover. I made this my self-care summer, and I’m making healing a priority.

Be Gentle With Yourself

There was so much pressure this year to have fun and enjoy the season, but so many of us are still experiencing pandemic fatigue. It’s not over, and with the Delta variant spreading, there’s no end in sight. I crave normal, too. I want life to feel fun and carefree again. That’s what I signed up for this year, but it’s not the reality.

I’ve spent the summer learning to be gentle with myself. Healing is hard work, and it takes so much of our time and energy. It can help to lower our expectations of what we can do outside of that. I had full weekends where all I did was rest because I needed rest more than I needed anything else. I’m an active person, and it wasn’t easy for me to make that choice at first. Learning to listen to our bodies and honor what they need often means overcoming the mental narrative that we’re supposed to be doing something else.

Self-compassion is an ongoing practice. My self-care varied from day-to-day. I was addressing my mental and physical health with professionals, but I also developed daily routines to support my well-being. I bought the most ridiculously large water bottle online as a reminder to stay hydrated. I modified my exercise plan to allow for more rest but also worked in shorter but more intense workouts in the time that I allotted for fitness. I focused some effort at better managing my time to have better work-life balance, and I began practicing mindfulness with more consistency.

My summer of self-care didn’t involve parties or lavish vacations. It wasn’t light and carefree. But every week, I got lighter as I unpacked more of that baggage. Every week, I learned how to love myself better. It’s not glamorous or exciting, but it’s real and important.

I think I would have enjoyed that hot girl summer if I’d had it. It would have been amazing, and I would have looked back on it with fondness. My summer of self-care was bittersweet. I handled hard things — but I did handle them. It may have been the less exciting option, but I know that the healing I’ve done — the healing I’m still doing — is changing my life.

Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned author. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elephant Journal, Elite Daily, and The Good Men Project. She’s also the author of Left on Main, the first book in the Heart of Madison series. When she’s not writing for Medium and working on her next book, you can find Crystal traveling, paddle boarding, running, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, doing yoga, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with her two wild and wonderful children.


Image courtesy of Puwadon Sang-ngern.