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January 16, 2019

How and when to practice self-care in winter

Alyssa James

Winter. It’s cold, dark, and all we want to do right now is curl up in a ball and hibernate. But rather than let that urge totally take over, we thought it would be a nice time to channel the cosy feels into something positive. Through this content series and set of member events called Self-Care Sundays, we’re exploring different ways of improving our health and wellbeing in the chilly months. 

No season divides opinion quite like winter does. On the one hand, we get holiday cheer, cosy scarves, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. On the other, it’s short days, chilly apartments, and Jack Frost nipping at your nose. However you feel about winter, it’s true that it brings unique physical, emotional, and psychological challenges. We spend a lot more time indoors; we have to protect ourselves against colds and the flu; and seasonal affective disorder, estimated to affect one in fifteen people in the UK, rears its ugly head. Although we should practice self-care throughout the year, the unique challenges of the winter season make it even more important. 

But first, what exactly is self-care?

“Self-care is the mindful taking time to pay attention to you… in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you,” says psychologist Maria Baratta, Ph.D., L.C.S.W. Any intention action (or inaction) you take to support your physical, emotional, mental, and/or psychological health, is a form of self-care.

Taking care of yourself gives you the energy to help and support others, so spend time thinking about how you need to be taken care of. Ask, ‘What are my needs?’ and do your best to fulfil them.

Whether you’re a seasoned self-carer or are new to the concept, here are some ideas about how you can practice self-care this winter. 

1. Slow. Down. 

Take a cue from nature and slow down, too. Modern technology has helped us make many advancements, but it also keeps us from following the cycles that are natural to us.

Use the winter time to slow down and balance the intensity of other times of year. Hibernate a little bit. Take pleasure in the joy of doing nothing. Forget FOMO and relish in the feeling of staying in and having a night to yourself.

2. Connect with people in real life

Ever caught yourself saying “Has it really been that long?!” to a friend you haven’t seen in a while?

In my experience, I’ve often found it hard to grasp that I haven’t seen some friends in two years. That’s because technology fills in the gaps. Social media can give us the illusion that we’re connecting with people, but it actually leaves us feeling more socially isolated.

Reach out to friends and spend time with people who make you feel good. Build and maintain authentic connections through conversation and activities with people in real life.

3. Winter-proof your home

It’s more than just double-glazed windows! We tend to spend a lot of time indoors during the winter, so make your living space a sanctuary you’re happy to be in.

Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, suggests buying indoor plants and investing in candles.

“There is a strong relationship between your mood and your sense of smell,” says Backe. “Lighting a cinnamon or lavender scented candle can do wonders for calming the senses and relaxing the mind.”

Pick up some air-purifying plants, get a cosy blanket and those books on your to-read list, or invest in aromatherapy bubble bath. Make it a priority to have things to hand that help you relax and unwind during these colder months.

4. But also get outside as much as possible

When it’s cold and grey, the last thing you want to do is leave your warm, cosy home (especially if you just winter-proofed it!). But breathing the stuffy, recycled air that circulates indoors can make you more sluggish and prone to illness.

Lace up your boots for a brisk walk outdoors. Studies show that spending time in nature helps you relax, while vitamin D will leave you feeling energised and awake.

5. Keep moving

If you’re feeling the winter blues, exercise is one of the best ways to increase your mood. Don’t let the impulse to hibernate take over – get on the treadmill, give yoga a go, or join that dance class.

At co-living space The Collective Old Oak, there are lots of opportunities to get moving through a monthly roster of events and activities for members. You’ll be feeling the endorphins in no time!

6. Reflect on the past year

Winter is a naturally restful, contemplative time of year. Use this time to take stock of everything you achieved in the past year – and celebrate your biggest wins. What went well? What went not so well? What were the lessons learned?

From that place, you can think about how you want the next few months to look and feel. 

7. Practice self-compassion

At the start of the year, there’s a lot of emphasis placed self-improvement: just look to all the articles online about New Year’s resolutions. While setting goals and intentions can be a positive thing, it’s important to be kind to yourself. 

“One area of self-care I think is impactful is the language we use in our personal dialogue, or self-talk,” says Melissa Wolak, Transformation & Mindset Coach. “Changing the language we use from judgemental, critical, and negative to positive, encouraging, and empowering is a practice that can be done anywhere and anytime.”

Overall, use this winter to reflect, recuperate, and support yourself and your needs. Then come spring, you’ll be ready to flourish.

For more on our upcoming Self Care Sundays at The Collective Old Oak, members should head to the app. 

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