Blog Archives

Winter Solstice and Winter Self-Care


Although it’s been freezing and frosty for weeks, today is the first official day of winter, or the day the Winter Solstice occurs. Those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are the furthest we’ll ever  be from the sun, that life-giving source of heat and light.  Today, the gradual shortening of the days ends and many cultures around the world celebrate rebirth. Today is the shortest and darkest day of the year, and time seems to stand still as nature lies dormant. The trees have shed their leaves, the sap has frozen, the birds have migrated. All is silent.

I was going to create a painting to celebrate this special day, but my spirit and body seems to have aligned with nature because I too have slowed down. I’m ok with this, because I think it’s what my body needs.

My big goal with winter and winter blues this year is to make peace, while giving my body and spirit the best support I can. Dark days are hard for me. I’ve been fatigued and melancholy lately. Not depressed, just less enthusiastic.

I’ve also been reading all I can about the effects of winter on the body and spirit.  Though it seemed a little “woo woo” at first, I’ve really come to understand the concept of yin and yang, the two complementary energies that govern the universe. Yin is slow, cool, wet, feminine energy while yang is fast, hot, dry, masculine energy. Winter is yin, while summer is yang. These two energies exist within us and we feel better when they’re balanced. Makes sense.

Today is the slowest, most yin day of the year.  During the winter, we have very little yang energy to spare and quite a bit of yin energy. This can look like we have no energy, but yin energy is just slower and more  contemplative.

In the winter, we can balance these energies by building and conserving what yang we have, and releasing excess yin. Do yin exercise, like restorative yoga and walking while avoiding strenuous yang activity like running and aerobics. Eat yang foods (warming spices like ginger, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon and tumeric) and avoid cold yin foods like cucumbers, lettuce, and mango (i.e. “summery” foods).

This concept was galvanized for me yesterday when I felt kinda bla and attempted my favorite exercise DVD, hoping to gain some energy. I made it about ten minutes in before feeling like I was going to keel over. However, I was all warmed up for a walk, so I bundled up and took a stroll around the block instead. It felt great, then I for a yummy, yang-building lunch I had eggs scrambled with onions, tumeric and garlic salt.

So instead of burning yang energy that you don’t have today, try slowing down. Trade your kickboxing class for some gentle yoga, have a spicy stir-fry for dinner, and enjoy a quiet evening rather than running around Christmas shopping, preparing for parties, or doing chores.

Take the hint from nature. This is a time to slow down, focus inward, and renew.

Slowing Down with Nature

In a few days, we will have reached the shortest day of the year: The Winter Solstice.  Until then, the days of the Northern hemisphere rapidly grow shorter and darker, and the world seems to slow down.

I too, feel like I’m moving in slow motion.  I wrote about winter blues a few weeks ago, and though I’ve accepted that this is my slower, quieter time of year, it’s still difficult to deal with low moods, fatigue, and carb cravings. My body also seems to want to eat higher on the hunger scale, meaning that I start to eat when I’m less hungry and stop when I’m fuller than usual. I’ve taken on a few pounds of “winter padding”, which doesn’t really bother me because my clothes fit and I know they’ll go away in the spring.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like she’s slowing down. Creative people in particular seem to be very sensitive to the seasons and the cycles of nature. Many great creators throughout history worked seasonally. I honestly can’t remember who at the moment, but maybe that’ll be a fun post for later 🙂

A few days ago, I wrote about how I felt overwhelmed by my to-do lists, especially related to art. I was going to post two new paintings last week, but I haven’t quite finished them. I was going to create a painting about the solstice and actually have it finished by the solstice (which would take several full days of painting) but I haven’t even started it. I was going to do so many things, but I just can’t. 

At first, I felt guilty. Sometimes I’m still stuck in that modern American mindset that my worth is determined by my productivity and how much I work, which is not true at all.  Then I remembered that in these darkest days of the year, I need to respect my need to slow down. I can’t chug out one or two paintings a week like I did in early fall. I can’t power through a mile-long to-do list each morning before work. It’s not laziness. It’s just respecting my limits, which is an essential part of self-care. 

Right now, I accept that it may take me two or even three weeks to finish a painting. I accept that what I need right now is the time to read, journal, do yoga to keep my body healthy. I need to think, prepare healthy and warming foods, and slowly work through the things I have to do. I have to go to work to pay my rent. I have to buy groceries and wash my dishes and do laundry. Sometimes, that’s the best I can do.

I’m not taking time “off”, I’m just allowing myself to move slower during these darkest days of the year. This feeling is temporary, and it’s ok.  It’s ok if you need to slow down as well. The holidays are a time when most of us feel like we should be rushing around, even though it goes against our natural instincts. Do what you can to take this week slow. You’ll thank yourself later, and think how energetic and awesome you’ll feel in six months during the summer solstice!