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SUMMER RULES is a series where we ask people to share with us how they’re staying safe and sane during this very different summer season; from mask suggestions to soundtrack selections, we’ll take a peek into how others are making these challenging times work.

We’re super excited to have Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Esther Boykin, CEO of Group Therapy Associates + Therapy Is Not A Dirty Word, taking over our Instagram Live tomorrow at 10am ET as part of our month-long celebration of Black-owned businesses! She’ll be delving into how we can cope with loneliness and boredom spurred by pandemic isolation, so definitely tune in for some ultra-useful insight. In the meantime, find out how Esther has been handling Summer 2020:

How do you usually feel about summer, as a season overall, and how do you feel about THIS summer, by comparison?

Summer is like the fun but flaky friend…  It’s not my favorite season but every time it comes around I love to see it.  For me summer makes me want to play and party and put responsibilities on the back burner which is a welcome if not unsustainable change of pace for someone as work focused as I am.

This summer in particular has made me reflect on how much I need to have the fun-loving energy in my life more consistently.  Like much of 2020, this summer feels like an invitation to get really clear on what makes my life most enjoyable and meaningful.

What is your summer shaping up to look like?

 With no travel, festivals, or big parties to go to I’m getting back to savoring the smaller joys of long summer days. I spend a lot of time in my hammock or having socials-distanced happy hour on my front porch with friends. Books and plants and lazy weekends on the couch watching tv have become a welcome summer activity these days.  

I signed up for weekly shares from 2 different local farm groups and am enjoying cooking more than I go out or order in.  It’s nice to experiment with fresh veggies and helps balance out all the ice cream and cocktails I enjoy in between.

Is there anything in particular you’re actually looking forward to this summer?

Not really.  After months of unpredictable global events I’m really focused on the here and now.  I try o ask myself “What are you looking forward to today or this week?” 

What are some of your tips for staying safe and sane right now?

Honor your personal rules for safety and get information from reputable health sources.  Summer has opened up so many opportunities to “get back to normal” and also many high risk situations.  I think it’s hard for some people to set and maintain boundaries around where they feel comfortable going, rules for masks and distance for people who are around them, etc. But we all have to practice holding these rules even in the face of FOMO if we are going to be safe as a collective and also for our own peace of mind.  

Go-to summer wellness practice advice? Any spots in particular that have been helping you on that front?

It’s a bit ironic that even though I’m a therapist who is always talking about the importance of self care and prioritizing wellness I’ve struggled to settle into a wellness routine this summer.  It’s getting much better and I credit that to a lot of self compassion instead of trying to be more disciplined about it.  My advice for anyone who may be having a hard time figuring out their wellness practice is baby steps and lots of gentleness with yourself.  Too often we beat ourselves up for not doing better which is counterproductive.

Right now my go to activities are morning silence (usually with my coffee), time in nature/sunshine every day, music, and in-person time with friends at least 3 times a week.  I have a small pandemic posse that I see regularly even when I don’t want to be social I know seeing their faces is good for my wellness.

Where did you get your mask from? And what, aside from that, has been your more or less go-to summer uniform?

My favorite masks were made my by mom!  She used to sew all the time when I was a kid, clothes, dolls, decorative stuff, anything really.  So masks from her remind me of that time in my life and her creative talents.  Locally I bought some great masks from my friend Topaz of Bicycle Trash.  They’re cute and very functional.

Jumpsuits have become a wardrobe staple this summer for me.  Even more comfortable that my usual sundresses of summer, I’m enjoying putting on one item of clothing most days. 

What (if anything) are you reading right now, and why do you recommend it? (Alternatively, just share a favorite book.)

I always have at least 2 or 3 books in progress!  I’m currently reading Brag Better which I highly recommend for anyone who’s wondering how to speak up and let their work shine in a bigger way – at work, online, wherever.  I’m also reading Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler which is riveting and terrifyingly prophetic in 2020.  And because it’s not summer if I’m not reading a romance novel, I just finished Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai.  It’s a great summer read.

Do you have a go-to summer hang-out recipe that still works for a socially distanced gathering? And/or just a favorite general summer recipe that’s still a go-to, even now?

I’m an excellent cook (thanks to my mom) and rarely use a recipe.  I like to open the fridge, see what’s there and play it by ear.  The slower pace of summer is great for experimenting in the kitchen and trying new things on the grill.  I can make dinner at 9pm and no one cares about the time.  As for making it socially distanced, I love to plate meals like they do at restaurants which is cool because it eliminates reaching over each other for big serving dishes.  

What about a great summer cocktail or mocktail recipe?

I love a good margarita or mojito, they taste like summer to me.  My friend Mike Ross is a DC bartender who started making batched cocktails for friends.  His Bee Sting is fantastic.  It’s his take on Bee’s Knees with fresh ginger and other magical things.  

What’s on your summer playlist this year, or are there three songs that are permanent summer favorites for you?

I have a great playlist of reggae and r & b from my daughter that is on constant repeat right now.  That’s my summer vibe. Summertime Magic from Childish Gambino, everything from Snoh Aalegra and SiR are also in heavy rotation.  

Where do you wish you COULD GO this summer, if there were no restrictions or safety risks?

Tulum, Maldives, Kentucky (to visit my mom).

And is there anywhere you’ve been safely going that you could recommend for people who live nearby? Any day trips or local spots worth mentioning, for example?

Patio and rooftop dining are my favorite things about summer even when we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic so I enjoy visiting the less crowded patios in town like OKu, The Royal, CopyCat, and Primrose. I’m sad to see a few of my usual summer favorites have closed permanently so as long as local restaurants are diligent in implementing safety precautions and have outdoor seating, I try to make a point to stop by and support them when I can.

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