Weathering wellness through winter

Weathering wellness through winter
File photo

By Cathy Canfield

Many of my friends and I speak about the annual slump of February. The holidays are over, the novelty of the cold and snow has worn, the excitement of New Year’s resolutions forgotten. We move into a space of counting the days to spring and warmer weather. Naturally, this can be a difficult time for our well-being when feeling tolerance for winter adds to our list of woes.

This time of year, it is a challenge to follow the seasons and cycles of nature. Many traditions see the period between solstice and spring as a time for restoration, inner work and self-nurturing. It’s also a time to start planting metaphorical seeds to prepare for spring.

“What do I want to create more of?” is a great question to contemplate during this time. The act of seed-planting is inspirational today and, practically speaking, the timing could not be better to plan for what you want to grow more of in your life. I have included some ideas that you may have heard before, and I hope you feel invited to try one or two that inspire you. Keep it simple, be kind to yourself, and just be curious about what something out of your routine may feel like.

Now is the time to go within. Read the book you have been meaning to for months. Write in your journal about your dreams for the future, dust off your guitar, sing a song, craft and paint. Slow down, rest, reflect, meditate or take a bath without your phone. Sometimes I ask my clients, “In what ways were you creative as a child? How can you explore those interests today?”

Also, please go outside. There are so many benefits of the outdoors, even on a cold day. Getting some fresh air, vitamin D or a change of scenery, noticing birds and squirrels still up to their antics and getting in some physical activities are all ways to quickly boost your mood. Taking a quick walk outside, bundled up just right, can make all the difference.

Bake, cook a new recipe, make a fire, have some tea and put on your thickest socks. Cherish the simple, comfortable moment you create for yourself. Use your five senses to become mindful and slow down to the present. Treasure the time you have with others, make a phone call to an old friend and spend intentional time with your family.

Don’t forget to dream. Dreaming up and planning for warmer times will stimulate your brain and emotions to imagine a warmer place. Studies show that planning a vacation is just as pleasurable for us as actually taking the trip. Elevate the mood for yourself by imagining a warm trip. Also, having plans or a date to look forward to if you want to make a trip will lessen the feeling of the seemingly endless winter.

Mindset-wise, I will guess that you have survived many winters before this one. And even though it’s true, no, you don’t have to like it, but you have made it to the other side. It is temporary, and I am certain you have weathered harder things than making it until spring. You are here today because you are a tenacious being. We are the ones that have survived.

Whatever emotions are coming to you at this time, it’s still a pretty hard time out there. Allow feelings to come and be – sit with them. Be frustrated, happy, silly, apathetic, giving the feeling ample breathing room. Be curious about it, wonder what made it bubble up. Alchemize it – cry, dance, sing with and through the feeling.

Be curious. Get to know yourself more. Notice if you are in the winter slump and try something outside of your routine. The novelty of this will shake up and dissipate the funk we can all feel. I encourage you to try one of the above ideas or perhaps come up with your own. You deserve to feel good.

The writer is director of Counseling of Alexandria, a small counseling practice that has served the Alexandria community since 2011.