Up here in Yukon, Canada, where I live, we expect winter to come early and stay late.
We start preparing with massive piles of chopped wood in August and we are still using them to heat our homes come May.
And sometimes we complain about it, the measly four hours of daylight that makes it feel like it is always dark and the mid-winter blizzards that make driving to work a treacherous journey.
But a lot of the time we also love it.
The pink sky on the snow-crusted mountains at four in the afternoon, the moonlit bonfires with friends, hot drinks in hand. The long afternoon cross-country skiing through the hoar-frosted forest where caribou tracks guide our way.
Yes, winter—there is much to love about it and at times also much to hate.
One of the things that can be the most difficult about living in a northern place is the fatigue. With not much exposure to sunlight, the sense of being exhausted all the time can set in hard.
But if I have learned anything from almost two decade of northern living it would be: don’t fight it. Acceptance—isn’t it always the way? And when it comes to seasons, weather and temperature, the process is no different.
If we start to believe that something is wrong with us, for being tired and cranky during the month of December, and even at times feeling like we can’t get as much done as we do other times of the year, we might be missing the whole point:
December is here, so just go with it.
Each season is different, with each one asking something different from us.
And winter, where the darkness falls down on us deeply and the full moon on the white snow turns the whole world into a black and white movie, it is asking us to slow down, find a steadier pace, rest and regroup because spring is just around the corner.
This year, for me, it is as if December has dug itself deep into my brain.
Moving slowly, sleeping more, canceling plans to make room for more quiet time—this is what I feel I need to do, and this seems exactly what December is all about.
Whereas the long days of June and July call out to me to get things done, the darkness of winter is asking me to slow down to a turtle-like pace and you know what? This year I’m doing just that and it feels good.
It feels a little spacey and a little dreamy, not as efficient or productive as I’m used to, but it feels right. This is the time of year to do less, stay home, spend time with family and rest-up and it is a good thing to because spring will need all of my energy to meet its creative demands.
So, what does it look like to just go with the flow of December?
It looks like playing long card games with the family, TV and movie bingeing and drinking cup after cup of tea under an afghan on the couch.
It looks like thinking about plans but not working too hard to make them happen.
Here are five ways we can let the flow of December into our life in a healthy and thoughtful way:
1. Sleep and More Sleep.
This is not the time of year to skip out on sleep. Finding it hard to get up in the morning, when it’s dark and cold? Or grey and wet if you live on the coast? Then go to bed earlier, or change your work schedule if possible to start later.
There is a reason winter and hibernation go together. We don’t have as much energy from the sun to fuel us along and because of that we are meant to rest and refresh, so that when the sun returns so will our energy. That is if we have ensured we have gotten enough rest, of course.
2. Just Say No.
This is also the time of year that everyone around us amps things up—Christmas concerts, solstice potlucks, parties, dinners, family commitments of all sorts. But you know what? It doesn’t have to be that way. We can stop the holiday craziness with one word, no, or two if you want to be polite.
Even better, we can explain that taking care of our health is important and one way we are doing this is by not being too busy during the month of December. We can inspire others to do the same through our honesty and commitment not to fight the winter months but instead to use them as a way to care for ourselves by making sure we are not too over-committed.
Even if it is all fun stuff, it can still be too much, especially if all the fun is impeding us with number one on this list, getting enough sleep.
3. Don’t Stop Moving.
Okay, I know I said rest is important but if we become couch potatoes, our mood and bodies will suffer. We still need to move every day, and even better we need to sweat. It doesn’t have to be a lot—30 minutes of yoga, 10 minutes dancing around the house, putting in some time on the treadmill with great tunes blasting. We don’t have to want to do it, we don’t even need to be in the mood to do it.
We just have to do it because we will be less grumpy and have fewer health issues in the long run if we keep fit during the winter months.
4. Get Outside
Even better, move outside—cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, down-hill skiing, going for a walk. Getting outside gives us things that are essential and just because it is cold and dark doesn’t mean we don’t need oxygen and vitamin D and a connection to the earth.
These are year round needs and winter is beautiful, so we need to make sure not to miss out on it. Again, 30 minutes a day is excellent. Where I live, it goes down to -40C (which is also -40F) and we still go outside every day. And if we can go outside when it is that cold, everybody can go outside.
5. Keep Eating Right
Oh winter, the time of sweet cravings, cheese cravings and pastry cravings—all the stuff I love. I have food binged over Christmas more times then I can count (and I’m Jewish so what does that say). But our bodies need the right fuel to function: not too many sweets and white flour and lots of non-processed proteins, fats, vegetables, fruits and grains. Root veggies, beans, organic meat, whole grains, raw fruit—these are food that need to go in our bodies every day, no matter the season.
So, I say, let December in to your life. Find time to slow down, hibernate a little and only do as much holiday cheering as feels right, while still taking care of ourselves.
And maybe like me, you’ll find going with the flow of December and letting it in can be inspiring in its ease and beauty.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Anthony DeLorenzo/Flickr