Winter in Australia, (in a global sense), is really rather mild. Great on a practical level, (no digging your car out of the snow), but does that mean we ignore the energetic flux of the seasons? Our year powers on right through the winter months with no public holidays, and for many of us winter is a gruelling daily slog of getting up in the dark, getting home in the dark, and making little adjustment to conserve our energy. Some of us may feel that we have as much energy as usual and it's all systems go, but most of us feel the drain and strain of the colder months, generally lacking in vavoom. As our systems tire and get run down we become more susceptible to sickness and ill health.
So what can we do to counter the low energy months?
I have a few suggestions, they are all simple and intuitive, but sometimes it's good to have the reminder. And to add to that - even if it is not possible to slow down and do less, acknowledging that there is a valid reason for feeling lack lustre can be helpful. The knowing means you will be less likely to beat yourself up, (a further drain on your energy), and perhaps this knowing gives some permission to not complete your to do list.
Do less! I dare you! Enjoy yourself more! I dare you!
I love this image of a Dormouse deep in hibernation. Clever creature; all snug in a warm nest with 2 big fat acorns ready to tuck into when she wakes from slumber. Although we are not a hibernating species we still need to withdraw a little and batten down the hatches. Winter is the time for comfort and taking care. Good heating, warm clothes, pleasant company, early nights and eating well. Slow cooked, warming, nourishing foods. Soups, stews, casseroles, curries... Preparing your meal early in the day and cooking it for several hours is heavenly, and so good for you. Cook it in the oven it and it has the added benefit of warming your home. And when it comes time to eat all the hard work is done, just serve up and enjoy..."Glass of wine with that?"
Let's take a look at the season of winter through the theory of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). In TCM every season is associated with an element, (5 element theory), and a corresponding pair of meridians in the body. When we live our life in tune with the seasonal ebb and flow we are more in balance and stay healthier. The element associated with winter is Water and the direction of the flow of natural energy is downwards, (think of a tree shedding it's leaves and drawing it's energy down into the earth). Water always seeks and flows to the lowest point. Water nourishes life and is the source of life. It is essential for survival. The associated meridians (energy channels) in the body are Kidney and Bladder. The Water element is the most yin of all elements and it governs our bones, bone marrow and spinal chord. The Kidneys are believed to hold our vital life essence which is inherited, (like DNA), and which we slowly use through the course of our life. It is also controls the adrenal survival response; the flight, fight or freeze response. So you get a sense of the TCM winter picture. When we look after ourselves through the winter months we nourish and replenish the water element; our vital, moving life force and our deep energetic reserves.
Nourishing the Water Element:
Sitting, breathing and feeling down into your body - the deep core of your being, the deep bowl of your pelvis. Allowing your breath to draw right down into the belly and feel your own inner yin - the quiet, still, winter within. Sitting quietly in nature beside some water, observing the qualities of water and reflecting on the fact that you are largely made of water. This stillness of sitting and tuning in is deeply restorative, as it nourishes kidney energy, calming the sympathetic nervous system and it's flight - fight - freeze response, and triggering the deeper, relaxation response of the para-sympathetic nervous system.
For fast-acting relief, try slowing down. ~Lily Tomlin
Taking time to rest. Resting in the company of those you love. Resting on your own. Doing conscious, lying down relaxation, just like we do in a yoga class; in a warm and comfy place with no external distractions. Make yourself very comfortable, settle in and consciously drop down through the layers of activity into a place of deep rest. This conscious resting can be done anytime, but for the best effect do it sometime between 3 & 7 pm. This is the time when the Water element is most active, and resting in this time slot is most beneficial.
For good balance there always needs to be some of the opposite. In the yin/yang symbol in each side there is a spot of the other. So in this big yin time we need some yang. Some activity. It is fabulous to do some regular exercise during the cold months. Get outside and breathe in some cool air. Get hot, get your blood pumping and clear away a few cobwebs. As long as you don't overdo it you always feel better afterwards... Then what better than a little stretching and resting in a nice warm bath? (I can highly recommend bath yoga!).
Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop. ~Ovid
Do less. Sleep more.
It really is that simple. Go to bed early. Rise a little later and get more sleep than usual. Cross some things off your to do list and take the lid off the pressure cooker! Give yourself a bit of a break. The depth of winter is not a great time to start big new projects, but it is a good time to do some reflection and planning for the coming warmer months.
Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius. ~Pietro Aretino
© Claire Heywood, June 2017