This time of year is made for napping. Honestly, it’s what our biology wants us to do. I’ve been reflecting a lot about how societal demands always seem at odds with emotional and physical needs, and deeply noticing my own sense of frustration, fatigue, and dissonance as the nights get longer and longer. Right now, the entire northern hemisphere should be mostly hibernated, but instead, most of us are running around at the same break-neck pace we keep year round PLUS holiday stress. This can be a schedule that is too busy or too empty, upsetting or damaging family dynamics, travel, finances, gift-giving, and excessive obligations (even the fun things can get not fun). All this is layered into our baseline stress and worry.
So, as I reflect on winter, which is one of my favorite seasons, I want to suggest a different gift, a different mantra: REST.
That is the point of winter. It was only a few hundred years ago that humans would basically go into ‘Sleep Mode’ until spring started peaking out in February. There wasn’t central heat and indoor lighting. These deep, dark, cold days were for rest, introspection, and sleep. These can be your gifts to yourself and to other people this year. Put less on yourself and less on everyone else to be the image of perfect holiday happiness.
You will need to get creative and honest with how to do that. There are a lot of options: no gifts? smaller/less events? less decorations? more social time with chosen family? This will probably mean you have to say NO to a few things! That’s allowed. The leaves are falling off the trees and a few things will need to fall off your calendar, leaving the graceful, simple, foundational things.
Get MORE sleep, like 9 or 10 hours, I’m not kidding! I won’t even begin to list all the research around what your chronic sleep deprivation is doing to you, but for a few highlights, it’s linked to Alzhiemers, weight gain, chronic stress, and anxiety/depression. This is the time to start healing that damage.
This is also the time to take a break from the gym. Instead, get outside for a brisk walk (this may require a lot of bundling, depending on your latitude). Don’t worry about the inches/pounds you’re trying to loose. This isn’t the season. That’s for March when the green things are trying to push their way out of the ground again. For now, go beneath the surface and spend some time on the more subtle versions of yourself. Reflect on your year. Think about what you want to foster when spring comes back around. Tend to your health with soups, stews, broth, root veggies and do things that are rebuilding and restorative for you. You’ll notice most ‘winter’ foods take a long time to cook – that’s because this is the time of year the fire was going anyway and you didn’t have anywhere else to be! Tend to your mind with hobbies you have long forgotten about: read a book, knit or craft, learn something new, paint something, etc.
Give yourself a chance to breathe and recover from this year and let those you love do the same by taking our cues from the world around us and the folks who came before us. Enjoy the gifts of winter and REST.