While some are feeling the post-holiday blues, I am in introverted bliss. Sure, I miss the holiday decorations, Christmas markets, and vacation time. However, as someone who truly appreciates time at home, I love when January hits and all of a sudden it becomes “acceptable” to hibernate for the next few months. This is the perfect time to reconnect with myself and recharge before everything starts moving at a fast pace, yet again. So if these last few weeks have you feeling guilty that you haven’t been productive, feeling low energy, or maybe you’ve been hit by a bit of brain fog, let’s learn to enjoy the winter slow down. Instead of getting caught up in trying to action out everything, even when it comes to wellness, let’s learn to slow down with more ease.
There are tons of articles out there discussing how to “beat” the winter blues. And sure, some of these are helpful (getting into nature, limiting screen time, eating healthy, movement, etc.). However, what if instead of beating it, we sat in it? What if we learned to be okay with how we are feeling? What if we weren’t the perfect partner, parent, friend, or worker? What if the to-do list wasn’t finished at the end of the day? And instead, we listened to our needs as they arise. We honor low energy by relaxing. We embrace feelings of sadness by reflecting on what triggered it. We stop for a moment and realize that by not pushing ourselves to do something, we are actually doing a lot for ourselves. Often, this gives me space to be myself. It allows for my feelings to shift and flow, instead of feeling stuck.
“Sitting” with unwanted feelings or emotions can be difficult if it is not something you normally practice. The key is not pushing the emotion away and instead turning towards it with acceptance. Avoid dismissing it or ignoring it. Let go of the attempt to control it. Instead, identify the emotion by acknowledging its presence while remaining detached from it. You can start by saying to yourself, “I know that I am experiencing _____ right now and I don’t know what will happen, but I am going to just ‘be’ with it.” Understanding that you might not be your best self and that is okay. You might then realize this feeling, like the winter gloom, is not permanent. It will shift. It will change. And then continue to think of ways to nurture it. Maybe even think of ways others can help you with it. Finally, take a moment to explore what happened. Is it just the gloomy time of year or did something else trigger this feeling? What are your expectations and are they realistic to have all of the time? Take yourself off autopilot and try to see things from a different perspective.
For many, sitting in feelings will help them relax into the next few months. For others, Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) is real and you may feel stuck in your seat. Some statistics say close to 10 percent of adults experience SAD and it is suspected this is larger as many cases go unreported. If the hopelessness just doesn’t lift or maybe sleep habits and appetite have significantly changed to being consistently unhealthy, it is also okay to ask for help. This may seem ridiculous to some, talking to someone because it is “winter”. However, a little boost not only gets us through the next couple of months, it also helps us put a plan together for future winters.
In the end, meet yourself where you are. There is nothing to force when it comes to feelings. It may amplify it. Instead, breath into the moment to receive what your body is telling you. Let go of expectations and the illusion of control. Stop listening to the voice in your head saying you need to do more. And embrace this cozy time of year with more ease.
ES Counselor & Educational PhycologistCategory Blog