Winter is coming, time for hibernation
It’s time to focus inward. The holidays are a flurry (yeah bad pun) of activity and so many folks feel anxious and overwrought with the to do list and making sure the holidays are a beautiful time for the family, friends, and those in need. For me, this is the time of year I search within. Christmas for me is without a doubt the time of year I take stock of my life and if things are on track. I look without judgement (mostly) at the past year and how I’m fairing in all ways spiritually, mentally, and physically. I also check in with the grief I have, and inevitably we all have, and how I need to feel this. By turning inward I am able to quiet myself in all ways and find the holidays one of the most enjoyable times of the year even though I have so much to do. I mean I’m certainly human, I run around my dining room table turned wrapping station trying to, yet again, find the scissors or the pen. But isn’t it part of the joy? I remember doing this with my mom, or my gram and it makes me smile—in the end. Sometimes the memories tickle the grief and I let the tears flow for in that I am connecting to my loved ones once again. Remembering the love I still have for them and suddenly they are more alive for me. Some memories don’t feel joyful but it’s part of life and it will pass. The holidays are joy I’ve made the choice to embrace this.
That to do list for many of us is quite long. It can be easy and human enough to get lost in it. If the holidays landed in July the to do list would be easier to digest, but why? The obvious loss of daylight certainly is a big contributor. I know friends who have Seasonal Affective Disorder and swear by the light they sit in front of to restore their mood—no fun to deal with SAD. There were parts of the world even just 100 years ago that lived a very different life in the winter. Russian peasants in the Pskov Government had a form of hibernation to conserve food, energy, and keep warm. Some people in the past, and some now do what can be called the big sleep, which isn’t really accurate. They sleep intermittently in the night and get up for a couple hours. Those hours in the night are extremely peaceful for them. Researchers measured higher levels of Prolactin during this time. That’s right the same hormone produced for nursing mothers, turns out Prolactin is a great calming hormone.
Scientists are studying if ancient man may have actually had a form of hibernation. It seems like a good idea to me—I instinctually get in my PJ’s earlier (if that’s even possible), rest in the evening to get up to do a couple things before bed, and require more coffee to get things done in the winter. Light, climate, whatever the reason, I embrace the change to this season.
It’s difficult to change our schedule with the seasons in this “modern” lifestyle we have. Somehow it doesn’t seem very modern to disregard nature, what can we do?
If you have a job where you can’t decide it’s time to get in your jammies at 3—I mean I’m pretty sure if you bring your flannels to the office & took a nap you might get fired, actually definitely fired. Think about your own nature. For instance I am 100% not a morning person. If I never saw the sunrise again I’m good with that, so getting up in the dark is never going to go well for me. If you have to I recommend what my friends with SAD do, get one of those “happy lights”. They are cheap, effective, and may even improve your mood. (For evidentiary purposes ask your friends or spouse to give feedback) Bring it to work, sit by it during breakfast, whatever works for you. Think you can do the “big sleep”? Go for it. Go to bed earlier, wake up stay up a couple hours, go back to bed. I know that is a big one—maybe best for people who work from home. I cannot attest to this method at all but even if it helps one of you I’m glad we talked about it. Get in bed earlier just hanging, reading, etc. Try changing to a higher or lower temperature in your home. I know in the winter I do better with a cool house, but lots of layers and a warm body. See how you respond to this, we tend to get in habits and don’t even think about how these things affect us. Track how you do with the change.
Enjoy your winter. Embrace what winter brings. It can bring reflection, quiet, change, and cozy. The Danish have a word for this Hygge. “The Danish concept of hygge, or hyggelig refers to finding comfort, pleasure, and warmth in simple, soothing things such as a cozy atmosphere or the feeling of friendship. The Scandinavian term encompasses a feeling of coziness, contentment, and well-being found through cherishing the little things.” So buy the flannel sheets, snuggle up and give in to the change.
Winter is coming. You can surrender to the inevitable or struggle with the change. Just as it is with the holidays they come every year and I know people who dread them. Plan ahead, or “cope ahead” with what can make them if not manageable, enjoyable. Find the joy in what life is handing you, not every moment but the totality. If you are struggling at this time it is okay. Reach out to loved ones for support we are after all human. Sending you love and hoping your holidays bring joy and hygge.