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Self Care this Winter
Has there ever been a week in the history of weeks that felt more winter-like than this past week? I mean, sure... probably, but this week felt exceptionally relentless, snowbound, and severe. However, a healthy dose of perspective is always necessary: it could have been so much worse. We’re incredibly lucky here in the part of the commonwealth where the rolling Piedmont meets the gentle Coastal region to keep us fairly protected from harsh weather. However, our beloved environment couldn’t protect us from this enormous blimp of a winter storm and all its nasty slush that fell from the sky. I found myself wearing 3 pairs of socks, 3 shirts, and 2 pairs of sweatpants every day this week. Occasionally, I’d catch a glimpse of my reflection as I’d pass by the bathroom mirror on my way back to my troll’s den (with snacks in hand) where I had a heated blanket to keep me warm. Those few nanoseconds where I allowed myself to look at what winter has done to me were like a spotlight of reality. I need to get back on the self-care train that seems to have left the station for most of the winter. Why have I done this? I don’t know. Winter is the best time of all for self-care. Below are a few of my favorite self-care activities for the wintertime in all its dim, quiet solitude.
One of the best benefits of self-care is the reclaimed grasp on a bit of control in your day-to-day. When there are things in our lives that we can’t control (like the dark abyss of a cold and dreary winter), we often tend to feel emotionally abandoned and slightly unsteady. How can we take back some control when our routines are crumbling around us? Give it a deep clean. Now, this might be where I’m turning into my mother, inheriting her neuroses, but oh man does it feel good to deep clean the parts of the house that I’ve neglected all winter long. This can also include decluttering your closet, pantry, cabinets, etc. Going through and intentionally facing and organizing the bits and bobs we see every day but rarely pay attention to can bring us back to reality and create a grounding feeling where we feel back in control. Make sure though that you’re using natural cleaning products, as conventional household products are often more toxic than the dirt and grime they’re cleaning.
Create a cozy environment:
There’s a certain importance that comes with feeling comfortable and creating a cozy environment around you (if you need a refresher, read the blog about creating hygge. Scent is a quick way to tap into a certain sensory therapy. I keep organic essential oils on-hand that make me feel cozy. I have lavender for when I want to feel calm, eucalyptus for focusing, rosemary when I’m cleaning, and cinnamon for feeling cozy. Whatever mood you’re craving - scent is the fastest way to get you there (NOTE: please do not go out and buy conventionally scented candles or plug-ins. These are not the same and are actually quite dangerous). Soft lighting is also quite hygge. If you only have harsh, incandescent lighting around you, consider investing in soft, warm light. BONUS: salt lamps, while very trendy, also provide a beautiful soft light while also CLEANING THE AIR (it has to do with ions).
Get outside/forest bathe:
Getting outside may be a bit more difficult in the winter compared to the summer - you need more gear, time, and especially fortitude. But it’s a great idea to get out into it anytime the weather is amiable. The act of forest bathing (or getting outside and essentially submerging yourself in nature) has been a concept that’s been around for centuries, employed in traditional Japanese medicine for overall well-being. Now that the science has been able to catch up to the traditional wisdom, we’re able to show that intentional quiet time spent outdoors has positive effects on cortisol levels, pulse rate, blood pressure, and a better balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, leading to a better overall state of wellbeing.
It’s so easy (too easy) to hibernate in the winter. Especially after all the holiday hubbub has subsided. I find myself most days after work melting into the couch, watching some show I’ve already seen a million times, and not coming up for air until it’s time for bed. Sometimes, I have great plans to workout or paint or even just read, but I often make up a quick excuse as to why I’m too tired to do it and instead lay on the couch in my super cozy onesie and call it a day - until I start the process over again the next day. However, I’m sure if you’ve ever been in a rut like this one before you know that this cycle of sedentary behavior actually makes you more tired and have less energy overall. In fact, the mayo clinic says that “Excess sitting is now linked with 35 diseases and conditions, including obesity, hypertension, back pain, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and depression…” While it may be difficult to stay motivated to workout in the winter, it’s incredibly important and has even been shown to help fight off colds and the flu by boosting your immune system. Setting aside a bit of time every day to move your body will help make and keep this healthy habit and make it a part of your lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be heavy-duty military-style drills either. In fact, slower and gentler workouts are preferable in the winter as to not tax your immune system and energy reserves. A few ideas for slow and thoughtful acts of movement in the winter include walking, yoga, dancing to the radio, shoveling snow, pilates, bodyweight circuit exercises, gardening (obviously this one is hit or miss, but we can’t wait to have you all back on the farm volunteering with us as soon as we can!).
This is one area where I’ve been having a bit of a hard time. I thought I was getting better about treats after the holidays but now with all the dreary weather, I’ve been craving sweet treats galore! It’s sometimes a nostalgia thing and it’s sometimes a hibernation thing, but treats make us feel better. And while sugar is pro-inflammatory and we definitely encounter it too much in the standard American diet, having a few go-to treats around is comforting. I even made myself a deal that I could have any treat, any time I wanted it this winter, as long as I made it myself. Making my treats from scratch guarantees that I can trust the ingredients going into them and it also allows me to get creative and find recipes for healthier alternatives to my old favorites. And let’s be honest, if the only treats in my house are the ones I’m making myself, there are far fewer treats around, which lets me enjoy the few that are even more!
I encourage you all to write out a list of a few of your favorite winter-time self-care strategies and structure some time into your schedule to do them. If you’re an organizer, you can write easy self-care options into your calendar. That way, you’re more likely to remember to do them. Or if you like to be a little more spontaneous, write out self-care activities onto strips of paper and keep them in a jar. That way, if you find yourself with a spare few minutes and want to invest them into your well-being, you can pull an idea from your self-care jar and get to work! However you do it, writing these ideas out ahead of time helps ensure that you’ll actually set time aside for yourself and do them.