By Lisa Bland —
As we journey around the sun and emerge from the depths of winter, it’s comforting to know that green life will soon be stirring. In a land where half our year is spent in winter, and the months of January and February statistically can be the most challenging to us northerners in terms of mental health, good self-care can be a way to get through the slog of winter and prepare for the new energy of spring.
For some, this may be a season to be immersed in creative pursuits: dreaming, reading, sleeping, enjoying winter sports, and gathering socially. For others, this time of year is a struggle. For the elderly and those who live alone or struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder or depression, life can be even more isolating during short dark days as physical challenges add up when dealing winter conditions. Many of us are flat out busy, and the demands of modern life give us no chance to pause and rest with the season.
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Our society’s modern systems are designed for efficiency and productivity. They don’t take the weather and winter roads into account, the lack of sunshine, if you felt like sleeping in, and how your body and mind are dealing with being cooped up inside sitting all day or constricted in layers of winter clothes.
When February comes around, the indulgence of the holiday season is behind us and January’s inspired resolve has given way to more realistic plans. By this point maybe we are ready for some adamant self care and to reclaim the parts of self that have been under external pressures for so long.
I must admit, I am not a great example of living a balanced life as I struggle to balance work with play and time for exercise and rejuvenation. I continuously pile too much into my day, carve at my sleep time, sit for hours in front of the computer, eat chocolate for dinner sometimes, and miss out on walks or yoga because I just can’t seem fit it all in.
But more importantly, I’m aware when I’m out of balance. I care, and I try. For many of us, there was a time when life was simpler, when our technology hadn’t taken over, when distractions weren’t continual, and people just went visiting or checked in on their neighbours for no reason. Or we just wandered off into nature. I remember loving stormy days growing up on Haida Gwaii, and it brought great excitement if the power went out and suddenly we were left in the raw elements. Even when I was young, I celebrated un-plugging and knew there was something special about it. Each time it left me with the peaceful feeling that my body was resetting to something more enduring and comfortable. It felt right.
It’s easy to forget that humans evolved most of their time in nature and we are designed to be a part of it. We have simple needs for sunlight, water, food, shelter, and love. The effects of sitting all day, sensory over-stimulation, food ingredients our bodies don’t recognize, medications that cause impacts to our organs and nervous systems, loud and constant noise, fast moving vehicles, synthesized chemicals in our food, on our skin and breathed into our lungs, electromagnetic radiation all around—these must certainly have an impact. Just looking back at the last century, it’s really strange that we consider this normal.
I find these days that the word busy, or extremely busy is how I describe my life. As I hear myself say the words, another part of me sees a hamster going around on a wheel and keeps whispering quietly to find a slower track, and gently take a detour off the whirling, spinning, light-show carnival of modern life. No sooner do I listen to that voice, I find solutions to the stress and overload. They aren’t a long way off in the future. They’re right here and now.
So I leave you with a list of things that bring me comfort and healing when I feel overwhelmed and off kilter. When life is just too busy and complicated or it’s dark and a struggle and you’re feeling alone, there is always a light somewhere, in something. Hang in there—spring is just around the bend!
Find a quiet place. Sing or hum a favourite song, feeling the soothing vibration of your voice in your body. Look at the sky, watch the trees in the wind. Breathe. Think of something you’re grateful for. Think of a person who is struggling and send them a loving thought. Think of those whose lives are torn by war or abuse or disaster, and resolve to make the most of your freedom of choice and the privilege you were born into.
Call or visit a friend or family member and share some of the joy, laughter, and pain of living. Try to listen as much as speak and understand the feeling or need behind the words. It doesn’t matter whose turn it is sometimes. Resolve to be a better listener and show more gratitude. Try not to grasp at outcomes.
Make soup. Lately I’ve been making bone broth out of organic beef or chicken, loaded with onions, garlic, celery, carrots, and whatever else needs rescuing from the fridge. It’s easy to put into jars in the fridge and on days when I have no time to prepare anything I can warm it up and sip it and know I’m being nourished.
Try not to eat chocolate for dinner. Fruit is a better option. Soup is the best.
Jump at every opportunity to do yoga, go for a walk, get outside in the fresh air. It’s the place where space is created and new patterns are formed. It’s the reset button.
Turn it all OFF. Unplug everything—the noise, computers, phone. Flip the breaker switch off in your house for an hour. Light a candle if it’s dark and be inside without the buzz. Write in your journal about how you’re feeling, what you’re glad about in your day, and what bothered you. Go a little deeper and don’t be afraid of the sadness—it can show you the way through to a clear heart and untroubled mind but first you may have to look at it. It’s your story, don’t be afraid of it—you can change it.
Talk to people. Our stories and experiences are rich. Many are craving connection. Say something real rather than the expected response. There may be a hug or a smile waiting.
Make a plan to do something that pleases your spirit. It can be simple.
Working hard at and sacrificing yourself for something you love and have passion for is much easier than putting your time in for a paycheck. The feeling of using creative energy in the direction you want to go, though it may be a heavy burden, is ultimately work that is fuelled by the fire of your spirit and will lead to good results. Balance can be figured out along the way, and saying yes truthfully with your heart to something is worth the effort.
You are worth it. If you can afford it, give yourself the gift of healing touch—bodywork, massage, or acupuncture can really help if you feel constricted or trapped in a tired or sore body and we have some great local options.
Health is wealth. No matter what is happening in your life, you probably still have a lot of control over what you choose to eat and how you treat your body. Make yourself a beautiful salad. Your cells will thank you.
Be kind to yourself and others and savour the sweet moments in your life.