With Imbolc signaling the first stirrings of Spring, I’m reflecting on Winter and what that means in this time of my life. As you may have noticed, I haven’t written in this blog since the end of November. This post will explain why, and also why Winter is not a great time for me, and how I hope to change that.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have always been attuned to the seasons and the earth’s cycles, and this is the time of year when I want to hibernate as many animals do. I want to go dormant like many plants and trees do. But alas, this is the season of contradictions for me. There is no peace, rest, or reflection. There is only the stress, social obligations, and obligatory consumerism of the November and December holidays. Then, while I’m still recovering from that, the busiest time of the year at my place of work starts as soon as the new year starts in January. I’m not just talking about days that are more busy. I’m talking 12 hour days, 6 days a week, and still not being able to get everything done. Sure, it’s great to have that income boost from all the overtime, but it’s a one-way ticket to burnout town. This continues until around April every year. The months of November through March are usually horrible for my mental health. Once March rolls around, things are starting to slow down a bit at work, I can see and feel that Spring is in full effect, and I start getting that burst of Awen that I wrote about last spring in my post “Spring: Too Much Awen?“.
How I currently experience Winter is in opposition to how I feel that I should experience Winter. I feel that Winter should be a time when we slow down, conserve energy, reflect on the previous year, and start preparing and thinking about the year to come. I feel that it should be a time for deep shadow work and introspection. As it is, there is too much going on and I become too overwhelmed to slow down and do any of this. I expect the change in the weather and shortening of days to affect my mood and make me depressed, but I would be better equipped to deal with it and embrace my emotions if I didn’t have as many other obligations. I imagine it’s similar for most people who work a full time job, or maybe multiple, or who have many other obligations during winter time.
I have started to make some lifestyle changes lately that have been helping my mental health and keeping my energy up so that I’m not as drained after a long day of work. Yes, they basically boil down to diet and exercise which I’m sure you’ve heard a million times before, but hear me out. I’ve started intermittent fasting, originally as a weight loss method, but it turns out this is how my digestive system prefers for me to eat. I stop eating for the day at around 7pm (no more midnight snacks for me!) and I don’t eat anything the next day until lunch time, which is anywhere from 11:30 am to noon. I’ve always been a breakfast person, so at first, skipping breakfast was difficult. But now I just eat what I would normally eat for breakfast at lunch time so that I don’t miss out on any tasty breakfast foods. For the exercise, that one was definitely a challenge because of my joint hypermobility and instability. But after some physical therapy and gradually increasing the amount of walks I take, it became easier. I also utilize tools to motivate me to keep up with the exercise and other good habits because, ya know, ADHD. I use the gamified to-do list and habit tracker Habitica (formerly Habit RPG), a gamified/virtual marathon app, the Conqueror Challenge, and Co-Pilot, which is pricey but worth it because it comes with a personal trainer to keep you accountable and make personalized workout programs for you. I have definitely felt a difference with the diet and exercise, but another key component is making more time for my Druid studies, meditation, and journaling. The journaling is especially helpful when I’m feeling frustrated or burnt out and need to just vent and get stuff out.
During my meditations and the small amount of downtime I have, I’ve been thinking about ways to work toward changing this part of my life that I’m not happy with, which is the fact that my Winters are so hectic. One major change that would go the furthest towards changing this is to get a new job that doesn’t have a busy season during this time of year. I have found a potential job that would be a good fit for me and I’ve applied. I’ve bounced around from job to job so much in the past and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to be very selective of what jobs I apply for because I don’t want to get into the situation where I’m unhappy and want to quit again. As I’m applying to a few select jobs, I’m also looking into possibly going back to school to get into a field that would put me closer to nature. I plan on getting my California Naturalist certification in April of this year, and I’m hoping that the skills learned in that course and the subsequent volunteer activities that I’ll be doing with it will help guide me in the right direction.
I’ve also been working on things that I can do now. One idea that I’m working on is planning a “working retreat”, or at least that’s what I’m calling it for now. Since I can’t unplug completely and go on a full retreat because I have to work, I’d like to plan a week or maybe even start with just a day or two at a time, where the only electronic device use permitted is work related and for playing music. Outside of that, I would be unplugged. No social media, no TV, no video games, and lots of meditation, art, and journaling. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do it, but I’m going to give it a try. And maybe I’ll write about it here when I’m done!
Yours under the sleeping Blue Oak and a Winter Full Moon,
Header image by Kerstin Riemer.