Do you feel anxious as winter looms? Do you struggle with the cold and wish you didn’t have to get out of bed in winter? Do you feel hopeless and heavy wishing for summmer? Maybe you avoid winter and travel for an endless summer all year around to avoid the discomfort.
Maybe it’s not a disorder but instead you are yearning to rewild and reconnect to your own natural cyclic rhythm?
I used to think that I had Seasonal Affect Disorder. I struggled immensely in winter and just could not see past the fog. Since having children, starting a business and abandoning the expectations imposed by an external party (other than my children of course) I have noticed that winter has not only become bearable, but also joyous!!
The official symptoms (via Beyond Blue) of SAD are
“feeling hopeless, lacking energy, changes in sleeping or eating patterns and a loss of pleasure in things you might enjoy are all symptoms of SAD. With SAD, you may also feel heavy in your limbs, you might want to sleep all the time, including through your alarm, and carbohydrates are becoming your one true love. Speaking of love, intimacy might also be very unappealing.“
While I don’t want to discount the fact that some people really do suffer, I also want to point out that almost every other living creature and plan on this planet has some form of rest or dormancy at this time. We too are animals so of course we would be feeling tired, needing extra rest and wanting to sleep all the time. We would be craving different foods, especially those in season (such as potatoes which are high in carbs) and when we are not able to surrender to what our bodies are calling us to do, of course we would begin to feel hopeless and sad! The pressure to be and do something that your body is not meant to be doing is ultimately going to manifest as something less than pleasurable.
Perhaps you’re not sick. Perhaps you’re not failing because you can’t keep up with everything you have on your plate. Perhaps you just aren’t meant to be awake let alone working 16 hour days fuelled by coffee and 5 hours sleep.
Too often we overlook rest and in this linear culture we are expected to be and do the same things every single day (we can’t risk the potential for profit losses!). But what we forget is that as earthly beings on this cyclic Mama earth, just as every other living thing on this plane, we too are innately cyclic. We require both action and rest to function at our best. We need to give and receive to live as our most vibrant selves and we too require embodiment of our cyclic nature. There is no escaping what we are at our core, no matter how hard we try.
The same can be said for summer (and many do feel similarly in summer, but more in the form of anxiety, overwhelm, a sense of urgency). Summer is a time more or less for action, nurturing and socialising. If it is too hot and one cannot action the things they are yearning to, anxiety, overwhelm and depression can set in. And for those who chase the sun or snow and never experience one half of the cycle, there is a need to be aware that unfortunately, it is likely to catch up with you. We are not meant to be in one mode all the time and we will experience consequences for trying to escape who we really are at the core.
We need to witness our inner yearning in the context of our wild nature, our connection to the earth and to one another. Seasonal affect is certainly real, but perhaps could be seen alternatively from being pathologised as a disorder that needs treatment. Rather, these ‘symptoms’ are a sign that we are being called home to our intuition and our bodies as wild beings as well as our innate connection to Mama Earth.
If you feel the pangs and anxiety of winter (or summer) looming, Perhaps you are not sick. Perhaps you are out of alignment with your inner wild. Rewild and come home to your inner cyclic nature and you might surprise yourself.
Our earthly cycles are based around the phases of birth, bud, blossom, bloom, harvest, decay, death/rest and rebirth. We have half of the time as hustling, action Yang time, and half of the time as resting, reflecting, yin time. We need to rest and reflect in order to give even more to our action time, and to reflect on how things could be done better and learn from the previous cycle.
You can witness these cycles present in our seasons, day/night, plant cycles, moon phases and the menstrual cycle.
8 ways to embrace winter and honour your natural and cyclic inner wild are:
1. Get more sleep and rest! More cave time.
You are feeling tired, heaving and craving rest and alone time for a reason! Think about how the animals and the plants on this earth behave at this time. Winter is a time for death and rebirth. This is a time for great transformation as we go from the deepest and darkest point, to the rebirth as the light returns and we begin spiralling outward again. If we do not surrender to rest and replenish our resources, we will begin the next cycle tired and with unresolved things that we take into the next cycle. Additionally, women traditionally were said to (mostly) all bleed together under the darkness of the dark/new moon and this is the time when our intuition is most heightened. The veils between worlds become the thinnest and we are able to most easily receive messages, visions and dreams. Thus, this is a time for inward reflection, quiet and dreaming! Thus, this has become the most powerful time for my business when the majority of my writing and ideas come through to action when the light returns. As a culture that doesn’t embrace self reflection, being quiet, intuitive, sensitive or rest it can be challenging at first to realign with your natural rhythm, but it won’t take long. It will come as a deep remembering and often our bodies will begin to force it upon us if we continue to resist it’s needs.
2. Eat seasonally and nourish your body in a way that makes you feel warm and satisfied.
Your body is craving foods that are in abundance at this time of year. It wants to feel connected to the other cycles of the earth and these foods/herbs are the exact medicine abundant at this time for the very reason to support the other creatures cope and surrender to (with least discomfort) the elements of that season.
3. Move your body, but slowly.
It’s important to continue to move and stretch your body in a way that feels good, but it is not the time for resistance or pressure in any way, including putting extra stain on the body. Many people notice that they don’t feel like running as much or pushing their body in winter the same way they do in warmer seasons. Autumn begins the slowing down and winter is the time of complete rest. Our bodies often ask for our exercise and movement to adjust to the cycle with everything else. Go with what feels good and reduce resistance and expectations wherever possible.
4. Get sunshine and be in nature as much as possible: Our bodies crave vitamin D and love to feel the warmth of the sun on our skin. Ground in the earth with bare feet and notice what arises for you by spending more time in nature to more deeply connect with the elements and the gifts of the season. Notice the creatures and plants and how they look and feel at this time. Take notice of how your body feels and what messages come to you when you quieten your mind.
5. Keep warm and be comfortable: Wear the comfy warm clothes. Layer yourself up. Snuggle with those you love and embrace doing things that make you feel safe and warm. As per every suggestion, lower your expectations and enjoy quieter times in comfort. This is a time of giving back to yourself. Give yourself permission to dress and appear just as you want to. Give yourself permission to be comfortable and warm and dress just for yourself. There is also nothing like sitting around a fire and feeling the warmth of the hearth. Humans are so drawn to fire in winter- another side of our inner wild yearning to be seen.
6. Acknowledge any discomfort that arises from the transition of spiraling in and out:
For many, it will still feel uncomfortable. Many have expectations from work, family etc and need to continue ‘pushing on’ even when they don’t want to. Make time, even once a day or once a week to go slower and honour your need for rest. Make less commitments and less social engagements, just make a conscious effort to go slower and know that you require more down time that you would at other times (and even more if you are bleeding!). Lean into the discomfort and ask what it needs to feel ok. Go deeper and find the place from which this discomfort stems.
If you do know that you have an event coming up that might require some extra push, plan to rest more before and after. Prepare yourself so you do not feel strained.
7. Embrace the gifts of a slower time:
Going slower and being more inward can bring so many unexpected gifts. This is a great time to be creative, write, craft, cook, have more silent or quiet time, reflect, journal, plan, meditate, read and dream. You might want to learn a new skill or start a new project and you might find it easier to go deeper into your practice that you would when you are distracted by thoughts and a deep desire to take action. This is a less social time but more about learning to enjoy your own company. You don’t want to become isolated or feel like a hermit, but you might prefer a women’s circle around a fire or a movie with your family on a saturday night than the larger events you would enjoy in summer.
8. No shame, no guilt
Sometimes the discomfort about going against the grain, against the norm of our linear and profit driven culture can bring about intense feelings of shame and guilt. Pushing ourselves beyond our limits are glorified and seen as the only way to grow. Rest is stigmatised as ‘lazy’ and lazy is seen as very bad. When we honour our own rhythms and acknowledge that rest is a vital part of productivity, it needs to come without feeling guilty. The feelings of guilt and shame will only sabotage the deep rest we crave. This might take some time to rewire and may require some planning to be able to rest after work has been done so to reduce these feelings. Just acknowledging that these feelings may present as a part of our conditioning in an unhealthy culture that goes against our nature can help as a reminder to honour them but not feed into them.
At the end of the day, rewilding comes from taking time to deeply listen from within. Ask what it is you need at this moment and honour that need first and foremost. Reconnecting with your intuition and honouring both the light and the dark of our humanness is where the magic happens. Discomfort during any season is just a call to go within and disconnect from the cultural programming that has removed us so far away from our inner wild. No matter how busy you are you can always find a way to come home to yourself first.
Image by Kirsten Klemasz Doula & Photography