I’m an outdoor runner and oh boy, these days, my runs are 1000 fold harder than usual. When the colder weather and shorter days hit, I could literally feel my legs grow heavier and my breath shorter. Known to myself as quite an energized human being, lately, even when I’m up and about, it’s like my morning zip is playing hooky, lingering instead under the warm sheets in my bed.
Do you find yourself more tired than usual, a little sad or lonely, maybe not as interested or hopeful as you might be at other times? Is your concentration not as keen, are you a little more irritable? Do you crave your bad habits or retreat from people and the cold? Don’t be alarmed or feel bad about yourself if any of these ring somewhat, or perhaps very, true for you. The winter months are known to be more difficult physiologically, emotionally and mentally, and for many (10 million Americans in fact) it goes as far as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Even if you don’t clinically suffer from SAD, you might fit in with the milder downward shift that many experience (10-20%), particularly those who live in northern or midwestern climates. Regardless of what our external environment naturally dictates — whether it’s the harsh winter or any other challenge in life — with the right tools, we have the inherent capacity to become the cause of our own well being and happiness — true leaders, if you will. The key is SELF CARE ... that empowers your body, your mind, and your spirit.
Self Care for the Body: Move it, feed it well, chase sunlight as best as you can.
- Move Your Body. This can mean yoga, running, stretching, dancing, swimming, hiking. Don’t set a standard that doesn’t feel genuine to you, but please do move. When you hear your body demand “be still,” now hear it as “move, move, move.”
- Eat Consciously. We are what we eat, as they say. Do your best to be choose foods that make you feel good, in the long term. Restrict (in a balanced way) foods or eating habits that can give you a rush on the front end, but then a crash at the back. Be on the watch for excessive sugar, starchy snacks, alcohol. These not only inflame the body and joints, but in kind, they inflame our ego desire for instant gratification.
- Chase Sunlight and Find Ways to Get Outdoors. As Alfred Wainwright put it, “There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” Some also use light therapy (via a light box or visor) to increase vitamin D, decrease melatonin and increase serotonin. Vitamin D supplements can also help replace the lack in our systems due to spending much time indoors
Self Care for the Mind: Value your small actions, practice tools of thoughts, mind over matter
- Value Your Small Actions. Many of us don’t realize how much we live by the belief system that our small actions don’t count for much, measuring the impact by our actions’ size or grandeur. As Michael Berg teaches, “There is no small day and there is no small action … because of the tremendous Light that exists within us." Furthermore, our smallest positive actions, when we don’t feel inspired, carry great worth, even more than our grander efforts made when feeling excited and certain. It’s about the relative effort that generates the sparks of life.
- Focus on the Fullness. I can’t emphasize enough how vital it is for us all to monitor very carefully the thoughts running through our minds and invest in thoughts that elevate us. We create our reality by way of the thoughts we choose to focus on. Happy Mind, Happy Mankind. Here are my 3 favorite tools of thought to take good care of my mind:
- Radical Appreciation
- Self kindness
- What can I do for someone else
- Choose Mind over Matter. Take that first step and get started with what you normally do when you are on top of your game. Don’t worry if you’re not feelin' it. Use your mind to go above how you feel. Witness the feeling, yes, but step aside from it and respond in the way that your higher mind knows is best for you.
Self Care for the Spirit
I like to call this SOUL CARE — and can vary for each person, depending on awakens the awe of being alive and inspires you. Create your personal list of go-tos for awakening joy and inspiration while amidst a challenging time or a dip in energy. Knowing these ahead of time puts you in ready mode (from a low place, it's is a lot harder).
For some ideas, when in emotional pain or feeling uninspired, I’ve learned that I must:
- Increase my reading of wisdom that inspires me and helps me see the bigger picture.
- Do or start something creative and joyful, especially when it can benefit others.
- Do something kind for people in my life who need care; volunteer.
- Meet with my spiritual mentor
- Listen to beautiful music
- Clean a closet or two ;)
How do you care for you soul?