So the goal of last week's blog was to normalize the lower energy and mood that comes along with the darker months of the year, but to be clear ... that doesn't mean it's always easy. As I noted last week we live in a time when (for most of us) it's not acceptable to slow down even though instinctually we're being called by the natural world to do so. So then ... what are the options?
Well, for starters we tweak our self-care practices and kick them into high gear. Self-care in winter often looks different than other times of the year. The strategies that I list below are just a few of my go-to's and all have one theme - acceptance of the shift in season. We've got to work with what's in front of us, and lean in.
At the end of this post I'm also including a complimentary Radical Self-Care template that I use with clients. Please feel free to download and use to help you identify self-care practices unique to you.
Next week is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, after which time the sunlight starts staking its claim a little more each day. Hang in there, or lean in, as the case may be. There's plenty to be learned in a time of slowing down and patience with what is, is often the first step.
Till next time,
Self-Care Practices for the Dark Months
1.Nature as teacher
I am a strong advocate of spending solitary time in nature, feeling your feet on the earth, and taking note. What colors are soothing and how can you bring them into your home or office? What animals and plants do you notice as you take your walk? What lessons can they bring? For most of this year I’ve been noticing banana slugs – talk about slowing down! If wooded trails aren’t your thing, a walk in a local park or even your neighborhood can be grounding. The key though is to focus your attention on your feet touching the earth as you walk. Breathe in and out, remember you are both supported and connected.
2. Tending the body
In my opinion, there is no one-way to support our bodies, but our bodies must be supported for a healthy mind and spirit. I encourage my clients to regularly check in with their own needs and plan accordingly. Do I need more rest or more activity? If I do need activity, will an active run help settle me or do I need a calming walk through the hills? Do I need raw food or cooked? If you’re not sure, you can experiment with different routines, and track your response. The goal here is not to add another task to our day, but to approach self-care with a sense of curiosity and exploration.
And lastly, but certainly not least …
3. Reflect, Create, Express
Late fall, early winter practically begs us to turn within and reflect on the year that is now coming to a close - what we've learned and how we've grown. As an expressive arts therapist, I often support clients at this point in the year in taking a visual inventory of their year either via collage or by creating a road map with different landmarks along the way. If neither of these directives are stirring your inspirational pot, make up your own - write, make a playlist ... the options are really unlimited.
The light is fading, the temperature is dropping and for many so is mood and energy. This time of year it's common to hear folks contemplating the reasons for lower mood and energy, and wondering if they have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
If you don't know, SAD is a medical diagnosis that accounts for depressive symptoms including decline in mood and energy correlating with a change in season - usually fall and winter. It's also a term that gets thrown around in popular culture quite a bit.
But what if there's another lens in which to view your shift in mood and energy that doesn't involve a medical diagnosis?
Maybe your mood and energy are just different than at other points in the year. Is different necessarily wrong?
It's a hard concept to grasp in a culture that tends to label and pathologize the human experience at every turn. But if you take a look outside, you'll see all around us the natural world is slowing down and preparing to go inward during the winter months... meanwhile the pace of human activity and productivity is expected to stay as it would during other parts of the year.
Why and how this came to be, is material for a whole other blog post, but the phenomena often makes me wonder: what would it be like if we could lean in to the slowing, rather than push against it? And even if our lives can't fully accommodate for slowing, just knowing that our bodies and minds are doing what is instinctual can often ease some of the discomfort that comes with a dip in energy.
Next week's post will focus on some strategies to lean in and care for ourselves during the darker months of the year, but also know that if you are experiencing significant distress no matter the time of year, it is important to reach out for support.
Till Next Time,