Winter is a time when many of us struggle with the demands of a busy life.
We feel the pull to isolate, to slow down, and often struggle to find the motivation to keep working and adulting. Modern life puts a lot of pressure on us; work, parenting, gym, we have to do all the things and be all the things. It’s exhausting.
From an evolutionary perspective, our bodies are designed to slow down over winter. We are meant to sleep more, huddle together around fires with our families and conserve resources.
This isn’t hibernation in the same way that many animals hibernate, of course, we cannot simply shut down and sleep for months on end. But the slowdown is still an important biological need, and honouring it is crucial for our health and wellbeing.
So what might honouring this need look like?
In the colder months, many of us feel fatigued. Our bed calls us earlier, and we’re inclined to sleep in longer. It’s a fact that many of us do not get enough sleep, so instead of pushing through if you feel tired at 8:30 pm because ‘it’s only 8:30’, what if you just listened to your body and went to bed early? Read a few pages of a good book, then drift off to sleep.
Fight the impulse to stay up late out of habit and allow yourself the extra rest your body needs. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes!
The colder temperatures in winter mean that the desire to layer on more clothes and cocoon yourself in a pile of blankets is not really that surprising. Light the fire and curl up in front of the TV, fire up the electric blanket and curl up with a good book, snuggle up with your loved ones, or book a hot stone massage.
Winter is the time for warm, hearty meals full of nutrients. It’s not the time to try to lose weight, because our bodies are programmed to store fat, but it’s not the time to indulge in too much junk food either. Focus on nourishing your body with foods that are healthy and warm and give your body the fuel it needs to get through the chilly season.
You may feel an urge to isolate in winter, to spend time alone and avoid socialisation. While it’s important to balance this need with the need for human contact, honour it by allowing yourself time alone to recharge your batteries if that is what you need.
Think of things you enjoy doing by yourself, things that bring you joy, and do those. Read a book, go for a walk, do yoga, or spend some time doing arts and crafts. Whatever fills your cup, allow yourself the time to do it and nourish your soul.
As with everything, balance is key. You may feel a hankering to stay in bed all day and hide under blankets. As tempting as that thought may be, it is important to make sure your body gets the daylight, fresh air and movement it needs to stay healthy. Try to go for a walk whenever the weather allows, even if it’s just around the block; the fresh air and movement will do wonders for your mood!
Be aware of your changing needs and do the best you can to balance these with the demands of your life; do what you need to in terms of work and social obligations, but allow yourself to say “no” a bit more often than you normally would without feeling guilty.
None of us were blessed with infinite energy, and it is our responsibility to take care of our own needs. Look after yourself now and avoid burnout later.
After all, if you don’t look after yourself, who will?