Lessons of Winter
Lesson from the Fresh Snowfall: Make Your Mark
Fresh blankets of snow beckon new experiences in our daily lives. Being the first to make a footprint can be scary; you might even sink into the deep cold at first, but each step will become a little easier as you begin to know what to expect. Look back every now and then at your footprints behind you and the path you have created, and consider how you are making a difference for the next person to walk in your tracks. Approach new opportunities in life as you would run through an untouched path of snow — with excitement, balance, and trust.
Lesson from the Trees: Be Vulnerable and Stay True
As deciduous trees transition into the winter months, they are left with twisted branches, aged bark, and the remains of leaves left behind by the fall breeze. It is when the branches are bare that we are able to see beyond where the lush greenery would have limited our view. We are able to look past them and see the landscape beyond that opens our eyes up to a whole new perspective. Without the vulnerability of the bare branches, our perspective would never reach its full potential or see the story beyond the leaves. Allow your leaves to come down off of your own branches every now and then. Open up your story to someone, or take a leap of faith that leaves you feeling a little unsure or exposed.
Evergreen trees are known for being able to brave the cold temperatures and keep their foliage year round. No matter the weather conditions or how low the temperature drops, these trees stand tall and resilient to change. Stay true to your roots in times of stress or hardship. Embrace change, but hold onto your core values and truths. These will keep you grounded through even the harshest weather.
Lesson from the Snowflakes: Be Gentle and Resilient
Snowflakes are ice crystals falling through the sky. They fall gently and are solid as they stay in their unique design. Float gracefully through your days. Be soft and kind while also holding onto your strength and confidence. You are an original, a unique pattern floating through life surrounded by others who are also trying to stay true to their own blueprint. Respect the journey of those around you as you drift with purpose of your own. Just like that snowflake, you are distinct and one of a kind. Take the quiet, peaceful season of winter as a time to self-reflect and also recognize the transience of your thoughts. Like every snowflake eventually melts, let those thoughts disappear.
Lesson from Hibernation: Be Prepared
As the months become colder, preparation begins for the long winter ahead as animals gather food and prepare their bodies for the long season of dormancy ahead. Survival through this change in weather is reliant on preparation and instinct. While we don’t have to prepare for these months quite like animals do, we do have other changes in our lives that we must prepare to embrace. Understand that change is constant, and prepare your heart and your mind to roll with any changes that enter your life.
Lesson from the Icicles: Trust in Your Process
In order for an icicle to form, weather conditions and temperatures have to be just right. These natural wonders prove that a combination of conditions accompanied with a process goes into their beautiful creation. Trust in your own process in life, whatever that may be. What are you working to put into place? If you’re not reaching a particular goal, what one thing is missing? Trust that everything that you’re doing is leading to something extraordinary in the end, and that one day everything you’re doing will align, and the icicle meant for you will form.
Lesson from the Short Days: Work Hard, Rest Harder
As daylight become shorter, it almost seems as if there is less time in the day to be productive. The winter seems to encourage us to slow down earlier in the day and make time for rest. Keep productivity high during the daylight hours, but take the time to rejuvenate your body and soul when the sun goes down. This could be in the form of exercise, reading that book you’ve had on your nightstand, journaling, or just being with the people who are important to you. Winter lends itself to being a season of reflection and self-care. Give yourself permission to do these things when your body and mind are telling you that they are needed.
Winter is hard. And it’s essential. If we wish it to be summer, we lose this necessary opportunity to learn and grow. This is the time to reflect, examine, and restore. To gather and heal. To clear out what’s not working and make room for new life and new connections. This is the time to prepare the soil so spring can come.
Give yourself permission to bring yourself back in alignment with what is true and right for you.
- What emotions am I noticing today?
- What sensations am I experiencing?
- What angers me?
- What saddens me?
- What drives me?
- What repels me?
- What conversations am I having with myself?
- What are the thoughts I am telling myself over and over again?
Self-reflection exercises are best done over the course of a two to three week period in order to determine similarities. Review your notes after each week to see if you can find patterns beginning to emerge. What are those common themes that keep coming up?
Understanding and Recognizing Seasonal Affective Disorder
The reduced light, warmth, and color of winter leaves lots of people feeling a little more melancholy or tired, which isn’t necessarily something to worry about. But if your symptoms crop up around the same time each year, have a real impact on your quality of life, and improve when the seasons change, you may have seasonal affective disorder.
The signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are the same as those for major depression. SAD is distinguished from depression by the remission of symptoms in the spring and summer months (or winter and fall in the case of summer SAD).
Common symptoms include:
- Depressed mood, low self-esteem
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you typically enjoy
- Appetite and weight changes
- Feeling angry, irritable, stressed, or anxious
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Changes in sleeping pattern
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Use of drugs or alcohol for comfort
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair
As with depression, the severity of SAD symptoms can vary from person to person—often depending on genetic vulnerability and geographic location. For many, the symptoms usually begin mildly at the start of fall and get progressively worse through the darkest days of winter. Then, by spring or early summer, the symptoms lift until you’re in remission and feel normal and healthy again. Regardless of the timing or persistence of your symptoms, if your depression feels overwhelming and is adversely affecting your life, it’s time to seek help.