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Tailoring your self-care to the seasons

With cooler months fast approaching for Australians, it is important to ensure that your self-care strategies are conducive to the season of the time, writes Ellen Moran.

Maybe you’ve felt it recently too. As you leave your bed each morning, goosebumps cover your skin, the air smells cool. We have begun to experience the transition from long, sun-baked days into cooler, wetter, darker days. The sun doesn’t have the same sting as it did a few weeks ago. The trees have dropped their flowers. The ground is sometimes covered in freshly fallen crunchy golden leaves, sometimes damp mushy foliage that still smells like rain.

Things seem to move slower. The sun rises slower, starts setting earlier. The garden quietens, no more green shoots springing out of the dirt. Instead, seeds sleep as the dirt cools. Blankets are more inviting; we sip on tea, always bringing a jacket “just in case”.

This is a part of the yearly cycle that we notice, but have forgotten to honour. We can see the world around us changing pace, turning its energy inwards, taking a break from any sort of hustle or bustle. Why don’t we do the same?

I don’t blame you if you’ve never even thought about your own seasonal cycle. Our world is conditioned to run alongside the circadian rhythm, that is the rise and fall of the sun. We have very little institutionalised practices that give us permission to follow the natural seasonal rhythm that our bodies are designed for. And you probably didn’t even realise that our bodies were designed that way, because we have houses and blankets and cars and desk jobs that totally remove us from the feel of the slower, cooler months.

We don’t know what it’s like to slow when the rest of the natural world does anymore. We are told the opposite. “Summer bodies are made in winter!” Right? We feel like we have to keep the momentum going, so that we don’t lose whatever “progress” we made during the busy warm months. But no one has told us the benefits (and how good it feels) to stop. Slow down. Rest.

The slow months are a time for internal action. The world around us is no longer simmering with life. Things are not bursting out of the ground, releasing seeds into the air, growing taller to catch more sun. When these things are happening, it is easy for our energies to match, to make us feel like doing more, being more, growing and progressing. Winter is a time when plants and animals start to internalise their energies. They hibernate, rest, building reserves to burst into life again when the temperatures rise. Why don’t we give ourselves permission to do the same?

It might take a while, but aligning your energies with that of your environment makes things so much easier. Try some of these practices for the cooler months:

Slow your movement

Walk outside in the cool air, rug up, really feel the cold, and feel your body warming up. Do yoga/Pilates. Stretch your tired body.

Eat warmer foods

Whilst we naturally crave warmer, heartier foods when it’s cold outside, you will have the added bonus of prioritising the foods that are in season. Seasonal winter fruits and vegetables are typically best served warm, so ditch the salad and make a nourishing soup.

Get back in touch with yourself

Meditate, journal. Figure out how you’ve grown in the summer, which parts of you to prune back, which to nourish. Build a plan of action for when you feel energised enough to expand again, explore where you actually want to be this time next year.

Nest

Build yourself a warm, inviting, safe space to come out of the cold to. Allow yourself to be decadent – treat yourself to a soft blanket or a new rug. Make it home.

In the coming weeks, have gratitude and trust in yourself. Your body will tell you what it wants, you just need to listen. And if the signals are too faint, take note from the trees around you. Study them, mimic them. We are all connected, and if a tree can live for year, patiently experiencing each cycle, see what wonders it will do for you.

Ellen Moran is a practising yoga teacher, artist and writer, currently working at Momentum Media as a relationship manager. This opinion feature was originally posted on her blog, With Intention.