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Mental health

By Hashan chamaraPublished 2 years ago 6 min read

For me, winter has always been a challenge. It'll be a hard haul, but it'll be worth it. My mental health deteriorates as soon as October arrives. In December, with its warm holiday emotions, I feel better, but once the calendar turns to January, my mental health takes a knock. I'm counting down the days till March and wishing time would hurry up.

But I've recently learned how difficult this is for me. Not only does my mental health suffer, but my relationships suffer as well as my mental health. With my family, I'm shorter. My motivation is waning, which leads to feelings of shame and guilt, which further reduces motivation. Rinse and repeat as needed.

I've been making a concerted effort to take care of my mental health amid these seasonal shifts for the past few years. Hygge is my jam as an introvert at heart. Snuggling under a blanket with a steaming cup of tea? Please accept my request.

The concept of wintering, on the other hand, has completely changed my perspective on winter and aided my mental health in the process. Wintering, made popular by Katherine May in her book of the same name –Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times – has revolutionized the way I think about not only this season on the calendar, but also other seasons of life.

Adjusting our perception of winter – whether literal or metaphorical – from one of bleakness to one of regeneration is central to May's book and the concept of wintering. Winters are, after all, necessary for renewal.

"Winter brings about some of the most profound and enlightening times of our human existence," May writes, "and wisdom exists in those who have wintered."

Last year, hearing these lines offered consolation in the midst of a terrible winter in the Upper Midwest, where cold isn't simply cold but downright brutal. Winter began to feel almost dignified, rather than something to endure and wish away. And my newly acquired acceptance began to feel radical and rebellious. Instead of feeling like there was anything wrong with me for being a little sluggish, anxious, and depressed, I felt almost giddy with relief, as if I was in on a secret that these sensations were not only good, but necessary.

Wintering is, at its core – at least for me – about shifting my perspective and paying attention. May writes, "When you start tuning in to winter, you realize that we go through a thousand winters in our lives — some enormous, some minor." While this may appear to be a negative outlook, there is solace in knowing that we've survived lean, hard, lonely times before and can do so again.

Winters in our lives don't have to be feared or avoided; instead, they should be treated with care and respect. Many of us, I believe, have felt like we've been stuck in a never-ending winter over the past couple of years. There's a heaviness to my psyche that exists even when things appear to be "fine." I'm stuck and perplexed, drowsy and agitated all at the same time. I want to get better.

Don't get me wrong: wintering didn't "fix" anything, but it did cause a subtle shift in me that snowballed (pardon the pun) into something more comfortable. Or at the very least, less ruthless.

So, exactly does wintering for me look like, and how does it benefit my mental health?

So, here are a few things I've attempted to incorporate into my life during the winter months, whether they occur between December and February or at any other time of the year:

Trust my gut instincts and go with the flow. I was able to tolerate winters more easily after I embraced them as an essential, if not even beneficial, part of life. If I'm sad or lonely, I allow myself to be sad or lonely. The same can be said about happiness and comfort. We don't have to hide our melancholy or pretend it doesn't exist; we also don't have to mess with our joy and contentment. All we have to do now is trust ourselves. "Winter is a moment of awareness," May says, "our genuine needs felt vividly as a knife."

Allow myself to take a break - really, truly take a break. Resting isn't lying on the couch as my mind races with all the things I "should" be doing. It's also not resting if I'm resentful of how or when you sleep. Wintering allows us to rest whenever and however we want. There were no questions asked. That also means more sleep. We may sense an almost circadian drive to sleep more now that darkness has engulfed our home earlier. This is both normal and beneficial.

Winter is a great time to get in some exercise. May shares the story of cold water swimming in her book (and by cold, I mean 37 degrees Fahrenheit cold). Reading about it made me almost shudder, yet there was also something invigorating about it.

May writes in the book that "immersion in cold water has been found to enhance levels of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that stimulates the brain's reward and pleasure regions, by 250 percent." "According to a recent study, regular winter swimming considerably reduced tension and exhaustion, as well as negative memory and mood states, and enhanced swimmers' overall wellbeing."

Although I will not begin swimming in Lake Michigan in the middle of January, this thought has altered my outlook. I'm more inclined to turn on the cold water at the end of a shower, and instead of relaxing on the rocky coast on vacation this summer, I was more ready to walk out into a chilly alpine lake. I'm energetic and calm at the same moment, and I'm getting a sense of clarity that I can't quite place. In the end, it feels good, even if it is unsettling.

Don't feel embarrassed or ashamed of the dark and tough times you've been through. "Everyone winters at one time or another," May writes, "some winter over and over again." It's easy to believe that we're alone in our troubles, mental health challenges, and terrible times in our glossy and manicured social media society. But that isn't the case.

Our failure to accept, hold space for, and even nurture our sorrow isn't a personality flaw or a weakness; it's simply a result of not being given the means to do so. "We're not raised to notice wintering or acknowledge its inevitability," May argues. Instead, we perceive it as a shame, something that should be kept from public view to avoid shocking the world too much."

I've always been honest about my mental health issues, but the concept of wintering has made it easier for me to be more open about them in real time. Instead of waiting until I "feel better," I'm considerably more likely to express, "I'm struggling" or "I'm dealing with a touch of sadness right now." And it's because of this distinction that I've been able to seek the aid and support I need to feel well.

Winter isn't simply about warm socks, flickering candles, and knitting under a comforter. It could, however, be any of those things. It's mostly about viewing winter, and any other difficult or gloomy period in our lives, for what they are: necessary. Wintering is about turning off the continual hum of our life, which we sometimes use to hide our sorrow, anxiety, or despair, in order to recoup.

mental health

About the Creator

Hashan chamara

In Sri Lanka's best fitness club, I work as a fitness trainer. As a result, I can provide you with the skills and assistance you need to achieve your health and fitness goals.

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