‘Tis the month to forge ahead, fa-la-la-la-la, la-dah-dee-dah. Yes, I know Christmas was so last week but the impact lingers on. Frankly, I think the narrator of “The Night Before Christmas” had it right.
“And Ma in her kerchief and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.”
Let’s pause the story right there.
When the days are at their shortest and temperatures continue to drop, wouldn’t it make sense that we, like many of our animal friends, would pull in our energy and hunker down? The effort it takes to get up and head outside is tremendous (Southern California and Florida friends being the exception at the moment). You put on the layers, brace against the cold until the car warms up, go out again into the cold, go into a (hopefully) nicely warmed environment, and reverse the process to get home. It takes a lot of energy for a body to continually adjust to temperature changes like that.
Yet, after an entire month of heightened activity associated with the holidays, we in the developed world wake up on January 2nd and enter the year full speed ahead.
- Start recovery diet
- Commit to exercise program
- Launch new business program
- Get more clients or customers
- Do it now, do it now, repeat
Granted, we live in temperature regulated, well-lighted homes so we don’t have to hibernate in the winter to survive. And, yes, businesses run all year round. But what impact does this continual push to be “on” at all times and in all seasons – and especially in winter – do to our psyches and our bodies? It’s no wonder that “the flu and cold season” strikes in winter.
Some people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), otherwise known as the winter blues. I have at times. It’s experienced as a temporary form of depression. Depression does not feel good. All sorts of methods are prescribed to combat SAD, from natural light spectrum boxes to cognitive-behavior therapy. What if there is nothing wrong, though? Rather than fighting an energetic response to changing light and sun patterns, might there be some benefit to slowing down and turning inward during these months?
- Bulbs lie dormant
- Bears hibernate
- Grass stops growing
- Humans get under the covers
A friend confessed that she is often in bed by 7:30. She is also often up at 5:30 but in winter stays in bed the first couple of hours working on her book. It’s not that she’s not being productive – she is – it’s that she’s doing so in a way that is more protective of her health and well-being. The last few nights I, too, have been getting into the bed and under the covers much earlier than usual. It feels really good!
Side note from this native California girl now living in Virginia with question for California readers: Even though it is unquestionably warmer in Southern California – and unseasonably so right now – I do remember feeling the same pull to retract my energy in winter as I do now. My tolerance for cold is famously low, but I would say there is a seasonal response at work, too. Even when it’s warmer, the light is still low and the days are shorter.
Do you notice a similar pull to “hibernate?” Do you fight it or follow it?