10 Ways to Practice Self Care this Winter Season

Anyone else feel a sense of relief that the holidays are winding down? I diverted so much from my regular routine because of all the gatherings. Spending time with family and exchanging gifts is so lovely but man, that was also kind of stressful. I have taken down my tree, cleaned my house and the Christmas lights are tucked away in a box until next year. I’ve made the switch from Holiday Tunes back to my Outkast playlist. Things are settling back into place. Anyway…

Winter is a time for rest and introspection

It’s the season when everyone and everything seems to naturally slow down. This makes it an ideal time to support your physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing by making self care a priority.

Before moving to Nashville I lived 7 delightful, season-free years in South Florida. Perhaps things were changing all around me, but it was hard to notice other than the fact that there were a few months at a time where it was too chilly to snorkel.

Living in Colder Climates vs Visiting

I am not totally ignorant to the cold. I was raised in the northeast and have returned every winter for a lovely white Christmas. That being said, there is a huge difference between visiting a cold climate and actually living in an area where you experience all four seasons. Previously, I could take a quick trip to the frozen tundra of New Jersey (too dramatic?), borrow my mother’s winter gear for a week or so, and then fly back to my cozy, tropical abode to warm my bones.

Transitioning Back to Four Seasons

The first year we moved to Tennessee I recall thinking that it was a southern state and that winter was not really going to be a thing to concern myself with. I refused to buy a substantial jacket. Amateur mistake. I was living in denial. I quickly learned how seriously I underestimated the variation of weather in “the South”. While winter doesn’t last quite as long here as it does up north, it most certainly does exist.

December in South Florida

DRESS FOR THE WEATHER

Stock up on hats, gloves, scarves and cozy socks and master the art of layering clothing. Wearing appropriate clothing makes the cold weather more tolerable. 

GO TO BED EARLIER

Our natural sleep cycles are directly effected by our exposure to daylight. When we are exposed to the sun our body suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. During the Winter months our bodies are exposed less and we often get tired earlier. If you find that you are tired earlier at night, go to bed. This will help you remain in sync with your body’s natural circadian rhythm.

Another thing I had to adjust to is the sun going down at 4:30pm. My mood is effected by the time change. I did a fun experiment of trying to ignore my feelings surrounding this the first year we lived here and it didn’t go well. Lucky for me – I have had decades of practice managing (ish) my own mental health. I made the decision to consciously change both my perspective and my routine.

TRY LIGHT THERAPY

Our mood, like our sleep cycle, is also effected by the amount of sunlight we get. Levels of Serotonin activity in our body increase when we are exposed to sun light. Many people use Bright-Light Therapy lamps to counteract symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Be sure to speak with your doctor about this first as some people have adverse reactions.

INVEST IN A SPACE HEATER

Investing in a small space heater can help to keep you warm on those extra cold days. Especially if you live or work in a shared space where not everyone agrees on temperature control. I purchased an electric space heater this year that makes a world of difference in the way I experience my office job during the winter months. Instead of sitting at my desk with my jacket wrapped around my body, I am warm and cozy by my tiny fire place. My bright light and space heater are photogaphed below.

GET SOME EXERCISE

It’s important to stay active in the colder months to help reduce stress, maintain energy levels, and improve sleep. If you don’t mind the cold so much, get outside for some fresh air and vitamin D. Bundle up and take a walk or go for a jog. I spend a lot of time doing yoga in a heated room this time of year. Whatever you do, keep moving your body.

MEDITATE

Winter can also be an be ideal time to do nothing but being stuck inside day after day can be tough for some. The practice of meditation can help flex the mental muscles involved in filtering out negativity and all the extra noise that goes on in our heads. Meditation can be done at any time but morning meditation specifically can set a calm and peaceful tone for your entire day. Don’t concern yourself with whether or not you think your “good” at meditating. That’s not the point. Remember that it’s a practice, not a talent.

JOURNAL

You may find that getting things down on paper is an easy way to make space for any ideas or thoughts that you may otherwise not acknowledge. At the risk of sounding corny, I must say that it’s important to make time for your feelings. Tis’ the season for looking inward.

I was really resistant to change my tags when we first moved to TN until I found out how cheap car insurance was.

PRACTICE ABHYANGA: SELF MASSGE

Self massage is a great ayurvedic tool to use in order to avoid dry skin associated with winter weather. Abhyanga is the practice of self massage using warm oils which are meant to leave a feeling of warmth and stability. You can use whatever oil you prefer. Some popular ones used in Ayurveda are sesame, almond, coconut and sunflower oil. The practice generally includes long strokes on the limbs, circular strokes on the joints, abdomen, and chest and ends with the feet. If you are feeling ambitious you could begin with the crown of your head and work slowly out in circular motions while moving down towards the face and ears.

TAKE A HOT BATH

There is nothing like a hot bath on a winter day. This is great for after abhyanga as well. It will allow you to continuously soak in the oils and absorb the moisture. If you prefer to skip the self massage you can simply add some oil to the running water of your bath. It’s always beneficial to add a few drops of your favorite essential oil as well. Lay back, relax, and enjoy the calm.

EXPLORE A CREATIVE OUTLET

Paint, draw, color, write, play an instrument, try a dance class. There are so many different ways to express ourselves that we often don’t make time for during the warmer months when we are spending more time outside. We encourage these activities in children but typically don’t make them priorities as adults. Take the opportunity to explore some of these and sprinkle some simple joy and wonder into your life this season.

Winter time in Tennessee
Make an effort to align with the Winter season by allowing yourself to slow down.

As the nights stay long and the days are shorter, make time and space for rest and relaxation. Remember to listen to your body and you may even find that you enjoy the rhythm of the season.

All the best,

thehappinessjones

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