It’s midwinter in the north, trees are bare, sky is gray, earth is cold. Our fireside dreams, New Year’s resolutions and plans for productivity start to feel scattered, fuzzy, lost. Are we failing, inadequate for the task, or are we blindsided again by the season appointed to us year after year? Are we forgetting the pull of nature upon our minds and bodies that calls us to slow down, ground ourselves in stillness, and nurture an embrace of home and habitat? This is an invitation to step away from the frenzied pace we were never meant to have.
Along with our yearly reset comes a needed season of rest.
Winter is a season of temperate climates, and metaphorically can be a season of the soul in all our lives. What lessons we can learn from the inner work, hibernation and quiet preparation that takes place in the natural world allowing it to flourish in season!
Many are the demands that do not bend to meet us where we are: we must rise to meet them at the most inconvenient times. Jobs, family, parenting, bills, life and health changes and more. But there are many small things in our possession to control, to choose how we will meet them. These small choices have big impact, and help us travel through difficult seasons with grace.
A few years ago I recognized an annual struggle in wintertime to stay motivated, to power through the plans I had made in the warm glow of holiday momentum. I heard others talk about “winter blues” or seasonal depression, but I never understood it until my plate felt really full. Fulfilling the commitments and packed calendar that looked reasonable in December felt overwhelming in January and February. Once-manageable life challenges now felt paralyzing. Fatigue set in with a force, my brain felt fuzzy, and I felt like a failure. Was the problem me, or was the problem how I partnered with seasonal needs?
"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home."
- Edith Sitwell
Make it a Lifestyle. I decided to try something new and embrace winter for what it is. It worked so well that the colder seasons have become a true delight for this summer-loving girl. Here's how it went: Instead of planning to steamroll through January, I anticipated the holiday fatigue that hits January 2nd and gave myself a break. Instead of packing my winter with social engagements and formal entertaining, I provided stretches of solitude periodically peaked with casual hosting and coffee dates. The stress of depending on good weather was replaced with a flexible schedule of no-pressure commitments and a stay-at-home backup. Embracing cozy, slow and quiet made home a haven to love instead of a prison to escape. Investing in truly warm clothing for a cold climate is a common-sense thing to do but a game-changer when you enjoy fashion. Dressing for the weather and getting outdoors for fresh air and sunshine, then coming home to hot tea made for a reassuring routine. Bringing live plants or fresh flowers indoors invigorated the senses. Reducing phone-scrolling and replacing it with a book, candle and hot drink was nurturing instead of mentally draining. S-l-o-w-i-n-g down everything, taking the pressure off performance and replacing it with an open opportunity to be present and explore what is already around us became such a life-giving practice for me and my whole family. We now thrive midwinter.
Mindful Motivation. What do you do when the days feel blurry and nothing seems to matter when you wake up in the morning? I’ve felt that. Giving way to the call for extra rest is not lazy, it is sometimes necessary. Learning to mindfully nourish the body and soul with good food, plenty of water, and life-giving interactions, books and media provides strength and inspiration for the tasks we must do, and rest and peace for the things that can wait.
Slow production. Accept that winter-productivity might look smaller than other seasons and embrace small but significant things. Keep a running to-do list, update it at your sharpest time of the day, but allow the list to be completed at a slower pace. When you can’t think of anything to do, check the list for inspiration.
Invest big in small ways. Slow down enough to be patient with the people around you, to be gentle, to appreciate the little things, to speak blessing and affirmation. Take time to discuss, ponder, wonder. Take time to look people in the eye. Put that phone down. Create margin in your schedule and prepare ahead of time. Refuse to rush, and watch the stress disappear (off your face and theirs). Take time to embrace, to listen, to pay attention. You don’t need to go anywhere or do anything more important than this. These seem so insignificant compared to our big ambitions and accomplishments, but trust me, they are far more important and impactful than you could imagine.
Be intentional with your friends. You don’t need to get together with everyone this winter, but occasionally send a text, make a phone call, mail a card, send a “thinking of you” gift to a long-distance friend. It goes a long way and doesn’t overtax your social capacity.