sunrise over a snow-covered field on the winter solstice

Living in Harmony with the Seasons: Winter Rest

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass

Have you ever felt like the universe is sending you messages? You hear something that resonates so hard it feels like a punch to the gut, and you’re like, “damn, I needed to hear that!” But then a variation on the same theme comes from a different source. And this happens again and again? The subject of winter rest has been doing this to me recently. So, I thought I’d take the hint and write about the importance of slowing down and taking time to yourself this winter, just in case you need to hear it, too.

As I mentioned in my post about World Introvert Day, the holiday season can be a lot to handle, even if you aren’t introverted. I’ve always found it strange that the weeks leading up to and around the shortest day of the year (the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere) are often the most packed with social obligations.

Furthermore, there’s a lot of pressure on small businesses to produce, promote, and be seen. I felt this strain as I decided to launch my tarot business the week before we celebrated Thanksgiving in the United States (aka prime shopping time). I pushed myself to show up more on social media even though it felt awkward and uncomfortable.

Could you tell? Be honest. I can handle it.

And the thing is, I don’t even like the commercialization of the holidays. Much as I enjoy a good, thoughtful gift, I think the focus on buying presents and spending money around the holidays is a huge bummer!

Then, after the BUY BUY BUY period, you have the DO MORE AND BE BETTER phase that comes with a new calendar year.

I’ve already shared that I set intentions and did some letting go rituals this year instead of traditional resolutions. Yet, the ads, emails, and Instagram posts I see are full of plans to lose weight, get in shape, and generally upgrade your life. If you’re an empath like me, these messages can start to sink into your psyche — making you question whether you’re okay exactly as you are.

And, in case you don’t want to read any further, I can assure you the short answer is YES. You are lovable, acceptable, and worthy right now.

I’m telling you that because it’s what I needed to hear.

I consider myself a pretty strong-willed, individualist, free-thinker. And, yet, I often need permission from others to do simple things like taking a rest. Isn’t that funny? Can you relate?

Permission to take a winter rest

Dr. Amberlee Rose was the first to give me permission to rest and just be this winter. Here’s a quote from her latest newsletter, which had a subject line of “Permission to do nothing.”

Winter is a time for stillness…for doing less...for nurturing your body with loving attention and with rest. ❤️

Dr. Amberlee Rose

Amberlee’s newsletter went on to explain how childhood traumas can lead to internalized patterns of perfectionism, overachieving, and people-pleasing, and how New Year’s Resolutions can exacerbate those feelings.

Now, I’m all for self-help and personal development, but sometimes the most radical love we can give ourselves is to be still for a moment. Not stagnant, but at rest for long enough to feel into who we are right now. It sounds like a simple task, but most of us do anything we can to avoid slowing down and sitting with ourselves.

I’m no exception. Even after years of practice, I have a hard time prioritizing rest and self-care.

Rest is part of nature’s plan

The second message came through while I was catching up on old episodes of the Self-Helpless podcast. In this episode, the hosts discuss Katherine May’s memoir, Wintering, which I haven’t yet read but now intend to.

Kelsey and Delanie talk about their personal experiences with neglecting rest and how their bodies always end up forcing them to slow down with sickness or injury instead.

This was important to hear — not only because winter is in full swing here in Maine or because the entire world is facing a pandemic, but because rest is a critical part of every life. Nothing has made that point more clear than my experience farming, gardening, and generally living off the land.

Working with plants tunes you into the cycle of the seasons. Our lives are linked to the tilt of the Earth’s axis as it moves closer and further from the Sun. Forces beyond our control dictate the appropriate times for planting, growth, harvest, and rest. If a plot of soil doesn’t get enough time to rest, its nutrients become depleted, and it can no longer sustain life.

Right now, if I look outside my window, I see the skeletal branches of deciduous trees stretching naked toward a grey sky. But three months down the road, there will be buds. And then lush, green leaves, followed by the fiery colors of autumn.

The trees aren’t dead. They aren’t lazy. They’re following the ebb and flow of nature, turning their energy inward to prepare for the coming spring. They know that ice won’t cover the ground forever. This, too, shall pass.

sunrise over a snow-covered field on the winter solstice
the view from my back porch on the winter solstice 2021

Wintering refers to the literal and metaphorical winters of our lives. In the Covid era, I think it’s more important than ever to give space to the loss, grief, and loneliness so many of us have been feeling. After all, the only way to get to the other side is to move through it.

Deep Rest

This topic reminds me of an old interview with one of my favorite entertainers, Jim Carey. Jim talks about depression, which can be more common in literal and metaphorical winters. In the interview, Jim broke down DEPRESSED into two words: DEEP REST. He suggested that, sometimes, when we’re feeling low on energy and uninterested in pursuing our usual activities, it’s our bodies asking for deep rest.

Though this statement has stuck with me, I want to point out that I’m not undervaluing the significance of clinical depression. I know from personal experience how devastating depressive disorders and other mental health conditions can be. Mental illness is real, and treatment is more complex than taking a nap.

Speaking of naps…

Winter rest can be its own vibe

My third nudge from the universe came through in this article on medium about How to Make Winter a Time of Rest and Renewal. I highly recommend reading this piece. The article itself makes you feel warm and cozy.

Just in case you don’t have time to read it, here are some of author Beth Bruno’s hot tips for making the most of winter:

  • Embrace hygge vibes with cozy comforts like candles, blankets, and hot drinks (may I recommend the Reishi mushroom chai latte mix by Four Sigmatic?)
  • Make soup (it’s nourishing and hydrating)
  • Drink plenty of water (I use one of these cheesy motivational gallon jugs*)
  • Add cinnamon to hot drinks; It stimulates blood flow and has aromatherapy benefits
  • Bundle up and get outside, even for a short walk
  • Keep moving (I’ve been doing Yoga with Adriene every day this month!)
  • Be intentional about your time — use the down days to complete one of the projects you “never have time for”
  • Protect your immune system (I’ve been sipping on homemade elderberrry syrup daily)

On the topic sunlight and seasonal affective disorder

I found the days and weeks leading up to the winter solstice to be a lot more difficult than the new year, even though it’s a lot colder now. The days are getting noticeably longer, and I’m excited to welcome back the Sun.

Getting enough sunlight can be a major challenge in winter. I make sure to go outside and spend at least an hour in the Sun whenever possible.

Luna walking in the snow with her three dogs
me and the fur babies out on a winter adventure

However, some days the air is dangerously cold, or the ground so slick with ice that even an avid outdoorswoman like me has to stay inside. On those days, I use a Happy Light*. I have mine on right now!

Other than that, I’ve found that post-holidays wintertime is prime for working on creative projects! I’m nearly finished with the first draft of my first novel. It’s been much easier to focus on writing when there aren’t a million other things pulling at my attention.

For all these reasons, I’m grateful for winter. I used to think of it as a period I just had to get through until summer came again. But now, I’m sinking into the stillness, the darkness, and the solitude, restoring my strength so that I might meet the hustle of spring and summer with renewed vigor!

How do you feel about winter?

* This is an affiliate link. I only promote products I personally use and can ethically recommend.

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