5 Simple Acts of Self-Care
Winter can be a difficult time of year for many of us, mostly due to the lack of sunshine and the increase of ice, slush, and generally yucky weather. I usually rely on having active outdoor time to help ground me and brighten my mood, but it’s so much harder to find the motivation to go outside during the colder months. If you live in a northern climate like me, we probably still have a month or so to go before things really start to look up, and the world outside becomes green again.
Sorry for starting on a bit of a low note, but this all brings me to today’s topic: a list of five small but meaningful ways to be kind to yourself when the weather brings you down.
1. Be more mindful of what you read and watch. At the start of winter, I read two wartime books back-to-back, and on one hand, I felt a renewed sense of gratitude for all that we have and don’t often enough appreciate, but on the other hand, I just felt so sad. Both books reminded me how terrible we humans can be to one another, and for several weeks, I had a hard time bouncing back from the feelings they brought out. It made me realize that when I’m feeling vulnerable to low mood, I need to be more mindful of what information I choose to bring in. I do think it’s important to read books that make you feel strong emotions and deep empathy, but that it can be helpful to ask yourself whether you’re in a more sensitive state before you start reading them.
2. Brighten things up. I like to find little ways to make my home feel a bit more colourful and cozy. This can be with a small bunch of flowers, a big bowl of citrus, or lighting a seasonal candle. I also sometimes find it helpful to turn on a small lamp starting mid-afternoon, when the sunlight starts to fade. It’s amazing what a difference brightening up your environment can make.
3. Build a tea ritual. Tea holds such a special place in my heart. When I would have night frights at the cottage as a young girl, my mom would prepare some sleepy time camomile tea for me. It was instantly soothing, and just made everything seem a little more okay. I continue to use tea in the same way now. During periods of life where I feel bolder and less fearful, I have no trouble with my favourite earl grey. But if I’m feeling more anxiety, I switch that out for a gentler green tea, and load up on camomile, tulsi, mint, ginger - whatever feels good. It’s an inexpensive and healthy way to build little moments of self-care into your day. Extra points if you share a pot with a good friend.
4. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. One of the things that I find hardest about feelings of anxiety and sadness is the strange desire I have to keep them hidden from my friends and family (my husband is an exception - he’s well aware that he lives with what we jokingly refer to as a sensitivo). Of course, everyone has problems, and they probably don’t want to become overly entangled in yours, but that shouldn’t stop you from answering honestly when a friend or family member asks how you’re feeling. In fact, allowing yourself to be vulnerable in your relationships can often bring a great sense of relief and deepen your connection. Easier said than done, of course, but I urge you to give it a try.
5. Stay active. It’s so easy to find excuses not to exercise in the winter, and it can be difficult to find the motivation if your mood and energy are low. Something that has really helped me is finding exercise that I love that I can easily do at home, with minimal equipment (or even no equipment). On days when I know that the snow/hail/cold would keep me from going to the gym or for a walk, all I have to do is press play. Physical activity is one of my top tools for dealing with anxiety and low mood, and I know that it’s even more important to keep it up when I feel them creeping in. My exercise happy place is Barre3, because it combines cardio, strength training, stretching and breathing exercises, but for you, it could be a yoga app, some YouTube videos, or even doing a push-up and sit-up challenge. Whatever you connect with is great!
Please note that these tips are intended to help with low-grade, seasonal blues, and are not intended in any way to replace proper medical care. If you are struggling with your mental health, please be sure to make an appointment with your healthcare professional.