While the winter holidays can be a time of celebration and warmth with family, friends and other loved ones, they are also an important time to rest, reflect, and nourish yourself for the coming year.
Like nature, people cycle through different seasons. Winter is a time when the natural world slows down. Animals hibernate, plants go dormant, and our bodies ask for more rest. But all too often, in our fast-paced culture and ever-connected world, we fight against this. We try to push through at the pace we go at the rest of the year. This can be exhausting. It can also be a sure way to give yourself adrenal fatigue.
I used to be one of those people fighting against the natural turn of winter. My health suffered because of this. Over time, however, I learned to slow down, take more time for myself, and tune more deeply into the natural rhythm of winter. Today, I’m proud to say that I have finally embraced the winter season, and I’m much better off for it.
If you have trouble slowing down or find winter to be a challenging time, I want to offer you some tips that have helped me over the years. Even if you just incorporate one or two of the tips over the winter holidays, you’ll be on your way to a healthier and happier season.
10 Self-Care Tips for the Winter Holidays
TIP 1: Don’t Push Yourself.
During the holiday season, we typically receive a plethora of invitations to parties, events and winter activities. While it is wonderful to celebrate the holiday season with family and friends, sometimes the number of invitations can feel overwhelming. I’ve learned that if you don’t feel like doing something, don’t do it. Pushing yourself past your limit can lead to exhaustion, resentment and a lowered immune system. Listen to your body, and say “no” to anything that feels like it’s taking you past your limit. There will be plenty of opportunities for you in the New Year.
TIP 2: Rest when your body asks for it.
In winter, the days are colder, and the nights are longer, which can lead us to to feeling sleepier earlier, and more sleepy in general. If this is the case for you, don’t fight it. Get into bed with a good book, and when your eyes get heavy, turn off your light and drift into a sweet sleep. This goes for napping, too. A winter’s daytime nap can be just what the doctor ordered — pure nourishment and restoration for your body and soul.
TIP 3: Drink lots of tea and hot fluids.
Winter can be challenging on your immune system, which can make it easy to pick up germs. Tea not only keeps you warm from the inside out, it can also help boost your immune system, soothe a sore throat, or stop the sniffles. Some of my favorite winter teas are ginger tea (boosts circulation, improves digestion, strengthens immunity), hibiscus (rich in vitamin C, lifts mood, strengthens immunity), or simply, hot water with lemon (good source of Vitamin C, promotes hydration, soothes the throat). If you add honey, it can sweeten your experience. : )
TIP 4: Move your body gently.
Even though it’s ski season, sledding season, and maybe you’ll hit the ice skating rink, too — this should be balanced with gentle movement for your body. Try yoga, dance, Tai Chi, or a gentle walk (see Tip 9). Your body will love this. Gentle, slow movement is the name of the game in winter. Some vigor to your exercise routine is also great to boost both your endorphins and your immune system, but don’t try to keep up the same pace to your routine as the rest of the year. Remember, winter is a time of slowing down.
TIP 5: Take warm baths.
In the winter, the temperature drops and we’ve got dark, cold nights. Soaking in a warm bath will help raise your body temperature, and make you feel yummy from the inside out. Add some lavender oil or some rose petals — two of my favorites — to make your warm bath extra pleasurable. Steam from a hot bath can also do wonders for a stuffy nose or a bad cough. It can also help lift your mood. It’s one of my favorite winter activities to bring my body pleasure and my mind and heart peace.
TIP 6: Write in your journal.
Take time to reflect on the past year — What did you accomplish? What are you most proud of? What do you want to let go of? Then reflect on what you want to create and call in for the coming year — What are you most passionate about? What do you want to contribute and create? What do you want to call in? What’s your vision for yourself moving forward? Write this all down. Writing in your journal is one of the best ways I know to get more deeply in touch with your inner voice. Your relationship with your inner voice is integral to your power, your happiness and your health.
TIP 7: Snuggle in with a favorite book.
Winter is a great time for reading. Grab your favorite blanket and snuggle up with a warm cup of tea and the latest book on your bedside table. Reading is a great way to move out of the winter doldrums and into a world of fantasy and possibility. Whatever your desire — fiction of non-fiction — choose to read something that will bring you pleasure. If you’re looking for a recommendation, I just finished reading Meg Wolitzer’s novel, The Female Persuasion. I loved it! It’s been called “a new feminist classic for the modern era.” It was perfect for me. What kind of book do you desire to read right now? Find that book, and snuggle in. Reading is a wonderful way to relax and/or learn something new.
TIP 8: Spend some quality time with friends and family.
Winter can make some of us feel lonely. The short days and long nights can be challenging. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) has been reported to affect at least 3% of the U.S. population, and countless others have other forms of winter doldrums. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, SAD is marked by the onset of depression or low moods during the late fall and early winter months, when less natural sunlight is available. While it’s natural to want to hibernate for the winter, it’s important to stay connected with friends and family and spend some quality time with them. (Of course, being mindful not to over schedule yourself.) Spending quality time with friends and family will do wonders for your well-being. If you feel you struggle with SAD, please contact a mental health professional to get the support you need.
TIP 9: Take a Winter Walk
When the weather is cold, we are more likely to want to stay inside. I get this. Who wants to go out in the cold??? But, going for a winter walk will actually do wonders for your well-being. Going for a walk outdoors can help lift your energy by not only activating your endorphins, but also exposing you to natural light, which will help lift your mood. So if you struggle with the winter blues, like many of us do, you’ll want to lace up your walking shoes and head out the door for a 20-30 minute walk. And, please remember to dress warmly!
TIP 10: Be kind to yourself.
This is one of my favorite practices — loving kindness — also known as Metta, in the Buddhist tradition. Start by carving out 5 minutes for yourself to sit quietly. Close your eyes, relax your mind, and take a few deep breaths. Imagine yourself experiencing complete physical and emotional wellness and inner peace. Imagine yourself feeling absolute love for yourself. Thank yourself for all that you are — knowing that you are just right — just as you are. Focus on the feeling of inner peace, breathing out any tension and breathing in feelings of love, kindness and peace. Repeat three or four positive phrases to yourself, such as: 1) May I be happy. 2) May I be safe. 3) May I be healthy, peaceful and strong. 4) May I give and receive appreciation every day. (You can also make up your own positive statements.) Rest in the feelings of self-love and warmth for a few moments. Then, either bow to your heart in gratitude for all that you are and open your eyes to complete your meditation — or, if you’d like to take this meditation the next steps, see below.
Bring to mind a loved one in your life – a spouse, a child, a family member or best friend. Feel gratitude and love for them. Stay with these feelings for a moments, then repeat the follow phrases (or similar ones) to bring about feelings of loving kindness within you: 1) May you be happy. 2) May you be safe. 3). May you be healthy, peaceful and strong. 4) May you give and receive appreciation every day. (You can keep extending this meditation to other individuals and even groups of people around the world.)
When you feel complete with your meditation, open your eyes. Remember, that you can return to these loving feelings anytime through this loving kindness practice.
One more thing — if you put on a few pounds over the winter holidays, don’t worry about it. It’s natural at this time of year. According to research, our body’s natural instinct to maintain body fat in the winter is stronger than in any other season. This is because winter is when food is most scarce for animals, and storing extra fat is a necessity. Remember, we are part of nature. You’ll start shedding the pounds as the season turns.
I wish you Happy Holidays and a season of warmth, love and nourishment!
Tabby Biddle, M.S. Ed. is a women’s leadership coach, strategist, writer and consultant. Her life’s work is devoted to elevating women’s voices. To learn more about using your voice, making an impact, and being a leader of change in this world, visit tabbybiddle.com.