Winter is the season of rest and reflection but also a time when we are expected to gather with our loved ones to celebrate. These two ideas do not need to be mutually exclusive but rather they serve as a counter-balance to each other. The Winter Solstice marks the space between the ending and the beginning. The darkest night of the year holds the spark of conception and rebirth within it. This is why we feel the need to come together and celebrate. While 2020 has thrown us all a curve ball when it comes to us gathering indoors, there are still ways to stay connected and be together either virtually or with a heartfelt phone call. It is more important than ever to also take care of your own sacred Self throughout this long winter season.
What is seasonal self-care?
Simply put, seasonal self-care is the practice of aligning your energy to the ebb and flow of the solar cycle and its seasonal effects. During the winter months, the earth is stripped bare as her life force retreats inward to rest and reflect. Energy is no longer bursting forth with life in the bright sunshine, as the longer nights and short days demand that growth is halted and energy is conserved.
So, too, do we feel the instinct to rest and reflect. It is perfectly natural to want to shut out the world and retreat into the comforts of home. Rather than fighting any kind of slow down or shift, find ways to respect, embrace and use it. By aligning ourselves with this seasonal cycle we are tapping into deep traditions of living in harmony with the earth, rather than against it. You are under no obligation to keep up with the frantic pace of “the holidays” or conform to the commercial and capitalist expectations of this season.
Self-Care Inspiration for Winter
- Schedule in some alone time. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes at a time, taking a moment to step away from all of the demands, energy and expectations of others to clear your mind with help recharge your energy.
- Stick to your routine. The pandemic has disrupted the sense of time for most of us. Even though it might be difficult your best to maintain a regular schedule. Protect your sleep – make sure you are getting at least 7-9 hours every night.
- The practice of daily gratitude is a small and simple action that has a huge impact on your life. Name one thing you are grateful for every day. You may choose to write it down or simply say it out loud (before dinner, in the mirror, at the end of the night). The cumulative effect of this powerful habit will elevate your consciousness.
- Start or maintain a journal. This can be a dumping ground for thoughts you need to get out of your head, a list of your daily gratitude or just doodles and notes about the day.
- Keep hydrated! This is included on every self-care list because it really should be top priority in your day. Mild dehydration can mimic many of the same bodily sensations that anxiety can cause: dizziness, muscle fatigue, headache, feeling faint, increased heart rate, and nausea. Make sure you are drinking enough water today.
- Get moving and take a walk in the brisk weather. As much as we love to curl up inside during winter, staying active each day is vital to our mental health. If the weather outside is too punishing, use this as an opportunity to get creative with your indoor routine or explore a local class (hot yoga, anyone?)
- Nourish yourself from the inside out to help your immune system fight off the colds and flu that abound at this time of year. Limit the rich, heavy comfort foods of the season and focus on seasonal, plant-based whole foods. This is an ideal time to try new recipes for squash or root vegetable dishes. Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas and vegan dishes are guaranteed to be flavorful and light on your digestive system.
- Moisturize your dry winter skin! Our skin takes a beating in the winter so invest in a luxurious lotion and use it daily. Your body will thank you!
- Get creative. The long, dark nights of winter are a wonderful time to try something new, start a new hobby or enjoy uninterrupted time on an activity you love. Think of creative activities you’ve enjoyed in the past and re-introduce some of those into your days. Instead of sitting in front of the TV or aimlessly browsing online, start reading the good old-fashioned way. Or plan your spring garden or home improvements you’d like to make once the weather warms up.
- Embrace the power of saying no. We all have holiday expectations of what we “should” be doing and make ambitious plans that can be impossible to live up to. There is the relentless exposure to what a “perfect holiday” looks like – from Hallmark movies to Instagram marketing, we get a picture in our mind of what we need to do this time of year. I call bullshit. You can and should say NO – no to the party invite (better to miss this one holiday than a lifetime of holidays because of a pandemic) , no to gift-giving or even sending cards, no to interactions with toxic family members, even no to the holidays altogether. You do not have to explain yourself either. Protecting our mental health means taking a stand and setting boundaries. Make yourself the priority.