About five or six years ago I recognized my need for a proactive winter health strategy. There are things I love about winter; the Christmas holidays, the afternoon light in January (swoon), and skiing, for example. But winter is my most difficult season for the sheer length of it, the shorter days, and probably other factors (nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxins, negative thought patterns?) I'm not even aware of yet.
Each year I have added more tools into my toolkit to support my winter health, joy, and wellbeing.
Naming my difficulty was a huge first step. Not everyone in my family struggles with winter and to speak up for myself in this regard, and to be ok with being different from the crowd (in my very own living room), was a good first step.
Choosing to appreciate winter, regardless, was my first strategy. "By golly, I will make the most of this winter!" And then I swing my arm just like Rosie the riveter. This attitude, paired with a fairly serious commitment to getting outdoors everyday and looking for the beauty, was a good starting point.
Skiing was a game changer. I adore skiing. Telemark, alpine touring, alpine downhill (the kind people are most familiar with), and x-country. I've experienced all of them in the past few years. Huge thanks to my husband Damien for moving our family forward in this direction.
This will be my third winter using a therapy light. This is the model I use. (That is an affiliate link.) The first winter I used it, there seemed to be a noticeable difference for me. But that was also the winter we were prepping for our thru-hike, a lot was different that winter, there was no control, in the scientific sense. Regardless, I really think the light helps.
Supplements. A couple winters ago I started taking supplements - 2000 IU's of vitamin D and 1250 mg (750 mg EPA and 500 mg DHA) of omega-3 fatty acids daily. Now I take those daily all year round, and a few others to help out my sensitive amygdala. (In other words, for anxiety.)
A change of scenery has also helped. For me this means traveling, if possible, at the end of winter.
Three years ago, after a very difficult March, my lowest SAD experience to date, we decided on a whim to go to my parents for Easter. And we left the next day. It was one of the best spontaneous decisions (that cost a bit of money) I've ever made.
Two winter's ago we were so busy prepping for the AT I didn't have time to get SAD and our departure in late March shifted us into a geographic region that was experiencing spring. In two days we went from winter to spring.
Last year we took a house-hunting trip to Montreal and this shift in energy in our home during the month of April helped me get through the end of winter.
Last year I did something else to support my winter health, I joined Heather's hibernate class.
I have participated in almost all of Heather's classes except Summer Soul Camp and Harvest.
Here's my brief rundown:
- Whole Food Kitchen - Love the recipes. I refer back to them often.
- 30 Day Vegan - I actually know how to do that, so while the course is interesting, it's like preaching to the choir.
- Hibernate (2nd run) - Knocked my knitted socks off.
- Freezer Cooking (the one that just wrapped up) - Game changer I'm not going to tell that story here. Now's not the time but it shifted things significantly for me in a much more positive direction. (It's been a hard kitchen year.)
I didn't take Hibernate the first year. I wanted to, my body craved it but I was just too busy with our hike prep. I got through winter fine, no SAD, but the pace of that winter didn't set me up very well for what followed: the most physically, emotionally and mentally demanding experience of my life. By the following fall I was broken and bruised. You know the story. I learned that lesson the hard way.
I need winter as a time for rest, reflection, and fun. Winter is not a pushing through season for me. It's a time to be cozy, as much as our schedules allow, and a time to really nurture myself.
Life is life. Stuff happens. You can't make everything go your way in terms of arranging your seasons just so. But I can create intentions for the seasons of the year, and seasons of my life. As I learned from this past year.
I need to take care of myself all year, but I thin out in winter. Summer fills my well and I feel really healthy during those months, but the well is starting to run dry by mid-winter especially and I need to proactively refill it with life-affirming winter strategies.
Hibernate is part of that.
I was so blown away by it last year. The quality of the content, the vibe it brought into my days, and the skills I learned. Last winter I re-wrote the script for that season, in part because of Heather's workshop. I vowed if it was offered again I would shout it from the rooftops.
Because it was so wonderful for me I decided to gift a registration to a friend this year because Heather makes an impossible-to-turn-down offer where she allows a 2-for-1 registration for a limited time.
It's that time. Hibernate begins January 11 and registration starts today. The 2-for-1 deal is good till Monday.
This year is recycled content from year one and year two. Some content will be new to me and some will be familiar. If you've never joined, it's a great year to do so. I assume you'll get the best of both.
I appreciated so many aspects of last year's retreat. Each weekday for four weeks there were fresh ideas to inspire creativity, rest and renewal, physical health and wellness, and/or relationship building.
Heather organizes the self-paced workshop around five themes: renew, gather, nourish, create, and rest. In addition to beautiful essays, there is a Facebook group to connect, instagram hashtags to share our photos, and blog commenting. (I love all that stuff. Some people just want good content, you get that in spades.)
I didn't even try half of the ideas presented during the course and some of the content I saved specifically for later, candle making for example. I started that last month and now that I'm well stocked, with easy access to more supplies, I will make those in batches throughout winter.
Another favorite of mine from the course was the herbal chai recipe. I ordered a bunch of ingredients in bulk the end of last winter so I'm all set to start my herbal chai routine come January. It is the perfect nourishing, non-caffeinated, not-too-rich winter beverage. I can't wait.
And then there was the meditative drawing, which opened the door to Zentangle, which is an art and therapy I have been practicing, almost daily since summer. I will be publishing more about that next week, fingers crossed.
I loved all these things and more but what I appreciated most is that Hibernate helped me set an intention for the winter season.
I'm the only one in my house who seems to need a season-honoring focus for the winter months. My kids are, well, they're kids. They operate at a different level than me. When I was a kid I don't remember ever thinking about how the season affected my moods, etc. And as a teen I just wanted to do stuff all the time. Just like my kids.
I am not a teenager. I'm a life seasoned mom, supporting three teens. And as it turns out, my needs are different from those of my family, both teens and husband. He loves winter, loves skiing, loves snow. He wants to ski until June. He doesn't get moody in winter. He can power through without much attention to seasonal shifts. Not so for me.
(Interestingly, he isn't as buoyed up by summer the way I am. I'm high and low, and he's steady.)
I'm making a big effort to live according to my own seasonal rhythms, while providing a home environment that allows everyone the freedom to meet their needs also.
Hibernate is a winter gift to myself. The gift of friendship and beauty. The gift of cozy and craft. The gift of learning new skills and trying new recipes. It's just a really good thing. Join me there?