Self Care for the Winter Season
Winter is the most Yin time of the year. Darkness and cold surround us. The long nights are a sign that we should be turning inward and resting. Instead, most of us are rushing to meet work deadlines, running to finish holiday shopping, booking flights to see family, and meeting social commitments in the evenings. Instead of resting, we’re burning through our resources. Instead of feeling the joy of the season, we’re stressed, anxious and tired. Covid only adds to the problem.
In Taoist philosophy, winter is the time to look inward. Think of roots buried in the ground, biding their time for the soil to thaw and to come out of the earth again. Our energy is naturally lower, our reserves less able to be refreshed. Spring is the time to start to move outward, as budding blossoms do. Summer is the most Yang time of the year, all heat and warmth and action. Summer is the time to exert ourselves and build resources to hold with us through the winter months. And then, in the fall we begin to turn inward again.
In New York City, we are conditioned to go go go and never take a break. The winter holidays can be a perfect time to take a break. If you celebrate the holidays in a quieter and simpler way, you may find that you feel calmer and less stressed, and you’ll be acting in line with the season instead of taxing your naturally lower winter energy. This will give you space to really connect with friends and family and loved ones.
Winter is the season of darkness. Nights start early, and the sun rises late. This is the season of hibernation. Go to sleep early and wake up late. Sundown, being 4:30pm, is probably too early for sleep, but it is a good sign to start your evening rest earlier than you would during the summer months when it stays light until after 9pm.
A simple way to turn inward during the winter season is to meditate. Taking a few minutes each day to listen to your breath and to let your thoughts go can help you start your days calmly, Or if you meditate at night, can help you relax before sleep. There’s no such thing as “being bad at meditating,” just taking a few minutes to breathe can be enough. Or try a meditation app to lead you.
Eating for winter also helps nourish your body. Leave raw salads and plentiful helpings of fruit for summer. Instead during the cold months eat warming foods such as soups and stews. Oatmeal instead cereals. Adding spices such as ginger and garlic help warm your digestive system and keep you healthy through the long cold winter.
And finally, enjoy the weather! Get outside. Try ice skating or skiing. Go for snowy walks in the woods, or city rambles through the Christmas lights. As the Scandinavians say, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” Getting outside in the sunlight, no matter the weather, helps us find balance. And then return home to warm, healthy food and early sleep as the early nights set in.