On slowing down as a birthright
This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about clarity, intention, and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. Subscribe here. I am also a coach who works with sensitive people so they can stop second-guessing, make decisions confidently and live the life they’ve always dreamed of. You can learn more about working with me here.
You can listen to this essay as audio here
Happy Sunday, Soothers. If you’ve been reading my work for a while you know that I generally get Seasonal Affective Disorder pretty bad. And yet, somehow, this is the first fall/winter I’m actually excited about the season.
A lot of this is 1. I know my best tactics to keep my mood at least level, if not good (I’ll share those tactics below) and 2. Because I now work for myself for the first time… ever… I can turn inwards and use this season and cycle for what it’s meant to be — inner reflection, slowing down, my version of hibernation.
Anybody who follows me on Instagram knows how often I am out in nature and how much inspiration I draw from it. And the more I tune into the cycles of the seasons and nature, the crazier I know it is that we are expected to work 9–5 and maintain an output level of productivity consistency across the year. It’s straight bonkers.
Like this: I’m reflecting back to past winters, where I would, in the dead of night and dark and 30 degrees, force myself to wake up at 5am, go to walk to the gym for a workout, get to work on time hopped up on caffeine to get through, and not be outside at any point during the day except when I left work in the dark to walk home in the cold.
I’d force these early wake ups. I’d lament putting on winter weight. I’d sit in front of a lightbox (honestly which can be helpful for SAD) in the dark because I wasn’t seeing any natural light during working hours. I told myself that something was wrong with me because I couldn’t and didn’t want to get as much done in the fall and winter.
Now I look back and I’m like… what?!
Our bodies are not machines. Neither are our hearts or minds.
Fall and winter are literally seasons where we’re meant, where we’re designed, to do many things our society avoids like the plague (GUESS THAT METAPHOR AIN’T GONNA WORK ANYMORE AM I RITE [cuz our society didn’t do much to avoid coronavirus… get it??]):
Turning inwards. Shedding. Grieving. Slowing down. Letting go.
I am privileged enough to be able to take winter a bit more slowly this year, but this isn’t afforded to most of us, even a little bit.
Nevertheless, I encourage you wherever you can to find small ways to shed, to turn inwards, to be gentler with yourself. This is absolutely the season for it.
Your body and soul, as well as the earth and every other living thing around us, knows it’s a slower time; let your mind align with that where it can.
In case you need this reminder as winter begins to settle its cloak here in the northern hemisphere, in the upcoming months…
- You don’t have to keep the same workout routine
- You can give yourself permission, where you’re able to, to wake up later and go to bed earlier
- You don’t have to keep the same level of social commitments or obligations
- You DEFINITELY do not have to: lose weight; maintain weight; keep a particular standard of a body shape
- …Or generally Do All the Things, Achieve The Most, and Be Totally ON
I know that lots of us are actually dreading winter more than usual because of the pandemic, and I know it will be hard for many. But to offer you some gentleness and insight, I created some questions, reflections and journal prompts you can use as we settle into the season.
- What is one belief you’d like to shed this winter?
- What is one behavior you’d like to shed?
- What is one thing you’d like to leave behind in 2020?
- What is one thing you may need to grieve?
- What is one way you can slow down in the coming months?
- What is one nourishing winter meal you can learn how to make?
- What is one way you can make your living space cozier and more inviting?
- What is one seed you can plant now for spring?
This Vice article also has some wonderful questions and recommendations.
In terms of practical tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder, the following have been the most helpful for me:
- Supplementing with liquid vitamin D + dissolvable B12
- Drastically cutting or reducing caffeine and alcohol (I try to find special teas and mocktails to still have little drink rituals throughout the day)
- Regular meditation + conscious breathing (my breathing video is here)
- Making meals with winter produce, stuff I’d never want to eat in hot DC summers; stews, roast foods, heavier and warmer meals
- Weekly baths with epsom salts
- Walking outside during sunlight as frequently as possible
- Hiking or being in nature as much as possible
- Picking a plant or tree in your neighborhood and visiting it. Seeing myself aligned in plants/flowers/trees has been a powerful practice and reminder for me. My favorite tree that’s awash with the most glorious, joyful buds in May is powering down, now, too, and holding fast through the coming season. And she’s no less beautiful for doing so — in fact, it’s what allows her to bloom come spring. I can do that, too.
- Developing a maximum cozy evening routine. Lately I’m throwing my PJs in the dryer to warm them up, preparing a cup of hot chocolate while they spin, lighting 17 candles, then bringing my warm PJs and drink to the couch to read a cozy mystery. (This would be a great winter to get invested in a book series. The Maisie Dobbs series are A+ cozy mystery books, fwiw.)
And frankly, also, I’m leaning into the reality that my mood will not be as bright as it is in the other parts of the year, and giving myself a LOT of space and grace around that — without giving into it, if that makes sense.
And you, too, I want this for you:
Give yourself permission to tune into the gentleness of this season in whatever way you’re able. You deserve it, as a creature, a member of this planet, a human being… as you.