Written by Shauna Weaver, CIT
Winter is my least favorite season. Don’t get me wrong -- I enjoy the beauty of a fresh snow as much as anyone, and savor the excuse to spend an evening burrowed under the blankets with a great book more than most. But I’m often reminded of my true feelings about winter while scraping ice off my windshield, laying in bed with the flu, or generally feeling like all color has drained from my world as I struggle with the lows of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The slow pace of a dull winter world has invited me to evaluate how I’m doing with self-care -- that is, how well I’ve been taking care of myself in physical, mental, emotional, social, and even spiritual ways.
How to Know How You’re Doing With Self-Care
There are helpful clues that let me know whether or not I’m giving myself the care and attention I truly need: The habits I fall into, my level of patience with daily frustrations, and the priorities that have rearranged themselves somewhere along the way, to name a few. They’re different for each of us, but you will notice them -- as will the people around you -- if you pay attention. At first glance, self-care might sound like a self-centered endeavor -- one step above locking yourself in the bathroom and taking selfies all day long. But I’ve found that taking care of myself is necessary to be the kind, caring, present person I want to be for my husband, clients, and friends. After taking inventory of my self-care clues, I noticed the tendency for my life to become filled with counterfeit versions of the things that make me my best self... And after looking around, I’ve realized I’m not the only one.
Relaxation is Not Optional
Catching up with friends, old and new, seems impractical and unnecessary because of social media, so it becomes a rare event. Face-to-face (and even phone) conversations get substituted with texting. The opportunity to experience the acceptance that comes with feeling seen and heard for who we are and how we’re doing is denied to us when the task of showing up has been replaced by pretty Instagram posts that make it look like we’ve got it all together, and are miraculously always doing great. Escaping through Netflix marathons becomes mistaken for rest. Relaxation, which is often regarded as optional, is given up for the opportunity to “get ahead.” We know a car running on empty doesn’t get very far, but we push our luck, hoping that human beings are different… or that at least somehow we’ll be the exception to the rule.
Be Kind to Yourself
Sometimes it’s helpful to ask, “How are these habits (or behaviors, or mentalities) working for me?” I know that when I exchange resting for “getting ahead” for weeks or months on end, I don’t feel accomplished -- I feel frazzled, irritable, and tired. The amount of anger, anxiety, depression, and feelings of overwhelm that I witness inside and outside the counseling room suggests I’m not alone… and if you can relate, neither are you. Before you beat yourself up, remember that the purpose of asking these questions is showing yourself care and kindness! The world has become an incredibly demanding place to live in. Forming new habits and making different choices from those around us can require courage, discipline, and strength. Any steps that you or I take toward self-care is something to be proud of and will pay dividends.
Here are some winter self-care tips to inspire you:
- Have a session of light therapy (lamps start at $20 on Amazon)
- Bundle up and go for a walk with a hot cup of coffee or tea
- Get to bed a little earlier
- Take your vitamins (I know it sounds cliche, but they can make a surprising difference)
- Read a book from your favorite genre
- Cook a tasty and nutritious meal
- Get a manicure or pedicure
- Go to the gym or a yoga class
- Take a long hot bath (if you don’t have a bathtub, a foot spa can be just as nice)
- Have dinner with a friend
- Diffuse your favorite essential oils
- Sit down and journal whatever comes to mind -- without judgment
- Buy a good pair of fun, fuzzy socks (it’s amazing the joy these can bring!)
- Have a game night with family or friends
- Be kind to yourself as you go about your day
Of course, there are times when self-care is not enough. If you suspect you’re dealing with anxiety, depression, or any other disturbance during the long winter months, remember you don’t have to do it on your own! It would be our privilege to walk with you through these challenging experiences we all deal with.