Musings and Insights for Surviving an Approaching Winter
Yep, winter is approaching and so have the holidays. This season brings a range of emotions, memories, and reactions for many of us. What do the holidays and winter months bring up for you? This post will share a possibly different perspective on approaching these wintry months - focusing on ancestral roots, animal nature, and your innate wisdom.
It is nearly impossible to not be bombarded with the holiday season and all that it brings or triggers. All around us - from TV commericals to store decorations to awkward work conversations to the constant social media stream - we are reminded of societal and cultural expectations of celebrating the holidays with family. Additionly, in our capitalist society where "producitvity" is shoved down our throats, it can understandably become overwhelming around this time of year. We are expected to go-go-go in a fast-paced world. Rest and slowing down are far from the norm, and this can have a detrimental impact on mental and physical health. It is easy to forget how to nourish ourselves when we feel the pressures and reminders of the holiday season.
So, this article serves to be a different reminder: a much-needed reminder that we, like other animals and life forms (trees, for example), are seasonal organisms. Look around us; do you see the brilliant wisdom of the natural world, of which we actually belong to and are apart of? Trees shed their leaves in the fall and go dormant in winter, bears hibernate (although not all), turtles and snakes go under brumation (slowing down). Us humans, however, propelled and pressured to productivity, have seemed to miss this key memo - that we are connected to nature, and undergoing a winter slow down is not only normal, but beneficial.
Slow Down, It's Ok
Taking a cue from other life forms, we can see how natural it is to slow down to recharge, replenish, and renew. The pace of the natural world decreases at this time of year, and for good reason. We need rest to allow our bodies to grow, heal, and recover from the effects of life stressors.
You might have been taught from early on that slowing down is unacceptable, a sign of laziness (false!), or even dangerous. There might be a loud internal voice yelling, "Work harder, you're not doing enough, you should keep going!" Our sociocultural values reinforce such berrating messages, and it is no wonder so many of us in industrialized nations have become disconnected from nature's seasonal rythmns.
Slowing down, as other animals and plants do, will require you to take a step away from the narrative, voices, and parts of you that push you. It is ok to slow down, focus on your needs, and ask yourself, "What do I want?"
If you would rather cuddle up on the couch watching a movie while sipping hot cocoa by yourself, rather than go to a group event on Friday night, trust your gut and then see what happens. Mindfully reflect the next day on how you feel - do you have regrets, are you less irritable, do you have more energy, are you recharged, happier?
While "hibernating" and slowing down is healthy and normal, it is also important to keep up with maintaining your body, mind, and spirit. Read below to learn about balancing hibernation with self-care to avoid justifying complete self-isolation, which can actually exacerbate depressive symptoms.
Take Care of Yourself with How You Know Best
So, you've given yourself permission to s l o w down a bit, but might worry about falling
into the slippery slope of isolating yourself from people and the world.
Remembering to tend to your self in the ways that have historically helped you is monumental. Hibernation does not mean giving up on life, people, and self-care. It is still necessary to tap into and access all those things that have kept you here.
Whether it a midday jog, talking with a friend on Sundays, going to the farmers market, listening to your favorite songs, stretching in the sunny spot of your house, baking, creating art, journaling, communicating your feelings, watching funny videos, eating nourshing meals (especially warm/hot foods during winter), or limiting screen time to not overdo it...please remember to upkeep the time-tested rituals that have worked for you.
In Taiwanese culture, we prepare for the cold and gloomy winter months (called Lidong) by nourishing our bodies with warm foods and liquids. This practice is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which speaks to the importance of balancing cold (Yin) winters with warmth (Yang). Guidance and information on warming foods for YinYang harmony is beyond the scope of this post (and my credentials), but you can read more here.
Slowing down is ok, saying no is ok, setting boundaries around the holidays and winter months is ok, and maintaining self-care is more than ok. Your desires and needs matter, your inner wisdom matters, and recharing youself will not only benefit you, but others, too.
Despite the natural rythmn of slowing down, I must acknowledge the privilege of this intentional "action" especially in conjunction with the insidious effects of existing in a capitalist society. Not everyone can afford to slow down due to survival needs. Whether due to economic reasons, war, an unsafe situation, or trauma responses, hibernating is not always possible. In these circumstances, I encourage people to do their best to focus on what is within their control to feel ok (whether it's a deeper breath, permission to not be ok, a self-hug, prayer, or something creative). However, if your situation allows and it is safe, wintering can have a casecade of nurturing effects on you and your/our communities.
What will you give yourself permission to do as winter/holidays approach? How will you tend to yourself using reliable self-care rituals or routines? Leave a comment below if you feel brave and inspired (and inspiring)! ☯︎