Contributed by Angela Dieckman
Let’s face it, Iowans, winter is a reality. Whether it’s the great variance in temperatures from moderate to brutal or the darkness that sets in anywhere after 5 p.m., winter can be a season that garners dread. I’d like to offer an alternate view on winter and help provide some tips to use winter months to your benefit.
First, while there are agricultural and environmental reasons why winter is important for our state, a more personal reason it can be beneficial is that winter naturally forces us to slow down. Think snow, getting coats and boots on, warming cars, driving…. This can be a great balance to other seasons where life is naturally busier, fuller and faster. Think of it as Mother Nature giving us all a (much needed) time out to “practice slowness.” Yes, it is totally counter-culture, yet if we’re honest, it feels good to use the weather as an excuse to not have to do so much at times. I invite you to simply be present in the slowness of winter and begin to make choices that help you do that.
One important, and necessary, way you can practice slowness is to be mindful of your self-care. Let’s first establish what self-care is not. It is not doing whatever feels good whenever you want as a coping mechanism. Rather, it is caring that is done by you for you; it’s a sort of kindness offered (much like we want to extend to others) that also chooses your long-term well-being and nurtures you deeply. Often a good rule of thumb for self-care is that it looks like doing the thing you least want to do because you know in the long run it will benefit you the most.
Some great examples of practicing both good self-care and slowness might include making your home a refuge since you will be in it more in the winter time. This might mean some decorating, decluttering or rearranging. The goal is to make your home a place you want to be on those cold winter days.
It might also look more practical by having the right winter gear such as a warm coat, boots, gloves, hat, or ice scraper. You’re going to have to be outside some, so making it bearable can also help you be less uncomfortable.
Other ideas include exploring new hearty recipes. Break out those crock pots and Instapots and take advantage of having time to try out new recipes that will definitely nourish your body. Another source of good self-care is having soft lighting in the rooms where you will be. This creates a cozy environment and makes our minds forget what’s happening outside.
Choose activities that you don’t normally do in other seasons, such as hosting a board game (or card) night, doing a jigsaw puzzle, learning a new hobby, reading a book, watching a documentary or TedTalk to learn something new, and then discussing. These can all be modified to include your family, of course. And lastly, say no when you need to and do so without guilt, which is applicable in all seasons, but winter gives you a built-in excuse.
Angela Dieckman is a licensed mental health counselor practicing at Compassion Counseling in Muscatine. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 563-263-0315.