Do you need to embrace rest and regeneration?
How are you feeling after your festive break? Refreshed and ready for the coming year? Or teetering on the edge of January blues?
If you’re leaning towards the latter, it could be time to re-evaluate your relationship with rest.
Listen to the ebb and flow
The full throttle mad scramble of the last few weeks of the year is hard to avoid. ‘Urgent’ deadlines, the sudden need to squash in social events with everyone in your circle, the last minute dash for definitely not forgotten gifts…
We lift our game, raise the fun flags, and then quite naturally when it’s over can hit a wall of numbness, or worse. To put it bluntly, we all probably need a bit of a rest.
And we shouldn’t feel bad about it. It’s not only natural after a bout of festivities, but natural for this time of year. The truth is, winter is a time where we instinctively look to hunker down.
A season of regeneration
Katherine May talks about this beautifully in her book Wintering: The power of rest and retreat in difficult times.
She points out that plants and animals don’t try to resist the challenge of winter. They adapt or hibernate – gathering resources, resting, and regenerating. And when winter passes, they emerge, transformed.
Lessons to learn from Wintering
While it’s not practical to entirely hunker down for a season – tempting as it is – there are useful lessons we can take into our every day.
This is one to bookmark for next Autumn. In Finland where the winter hits hard they employ ‘talvitelat’. There’s no direct translation but essentially it means to get prepared for winter. Getting the snow boots out, chopping firewood, putting on winter tyres. While this might be OTT for the UK, May suggests trying things like baking bread for your freezer, pickling summer vegetables, or stringing up fairy lights to make your house cosy. The work to do these things is part of the process, slowing down and doing mindful work can be restorative and restful.
There’s a reason why in Summer it’s so much easier to jump out of bed. Winter is colder, darker, and an invitation to sleep longer – one we often ignore. But try to resist the urge to fire up the LED alarm clocks and artificial light. Changing your sleeping patterns can help you get more quality rest and reset to the natural rhythms of the season.
On the shortest day of the year druids observe Alban Arthan, the winter solstice, in Scandinavian regions they celebrate St Lucy’s day in mid-December, and of course Christmas marks the end of the month. Winter rituals have a focus on community and solidarity and they give us space and time to pause and reflect. In Wintering, May suggests creating our own rituals – it could be a daily walk or gathering with friends to make dinner on the same night each week. When we are connected, we rest better, and we don’t have to share the darkest moments alone.
We can endure personal winters
A ‘winter’ can come at the most unexpected time. May talks about how ‘wintering’ helped her to endure illness and a change in career. The methods and the lessons we learn from enduring a seasonal winter can be used to ride out personal ones. If you’re exhausted by a challenge and need rest, allow yourself the downtime. Sometimes we need to lie fallow – like fields – and getting back to basics, hunkering down and focus on restoring our strength is vital.
And remember after every harsh winter, there’s always comes a spring.