Seasons? What have they got to do with self-care?! Well actually quite a lot. Ever noticed how as autumn draws in, we stop wanting to go out as much, want to sleep more, and generally make like a hedgehog and hibernate? In today’s modern technology based world, where we live most of our lives indoors and often see a change in seasons as nothing more than an opportunity to change up our wardrobe and adjust the central heating, it’s easy to lose touch with the seasons and nature. We may vaguely notice the natural pulls I mentioned earlier, but not pay them much attention.
This is a mistake. Life is full of cycles, of peak points and troughs, of highs and lows in energy and mood. A recent medical study highlighted the decreased risk to heart surgery patients who had their operations in the afternoon, and this was attributed to our body's circadian clock, the rhythm that our body follows, which is such a new discovery that it’s fundamental to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Post industrialisation, we have sought as a society to control the natural order and rhythm of life, regulating and ordering time into easily managed continuity and uniformity, but are slowly learning that isn’t always possible or wise. Ancient traditions knew the importance of the seasons, from the Wheel of the Year in Paganism, to the seasonal dosha cycles of Ayurveda, to Christianity; “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”( Ecclesiastes 3). The rise in awareness of Seasonal Affective Disorder, with every man and his dog buying a SAD lamp, proves what an impact seasons have on us and our mood.
So what can we do about it? How is it relevant to our lives now?
To start with we can start to deliberately pay attention to the changes in energy and mood we feel as the seasons transition.
I personally feel like I need to sleep more as the nights draw in, so I do. I like to feel cosy, safe and protected, so I light candles, drink hot drinks and cuddle up with a hot water bottle. I may not be cool or stylish, but I love nothing more than putting my pyjamas on (what do you mean it’s only 2pm? It’s a Sunday I’m not going out again!) and getting on my sofa (pimped out with an electric blanket under a throw over- BEST IDEA EVER) and reading a book. There’s no right or wrong way to embrace the seasons, it’s all about what suits you.
If you’re a bit lost, or need a place to start, seasonal celebrations are a great place to begin. As Roz so brilliantly pointed out last week the festive season gives us opportunities to indulge ourselves and have fun, if we let that happen. Today is one such occasion, and my personal favourite, Bonfire Night. Is there anything better?! Bonfire night is like the ultimate hygge experience ever. (For anyone who was living under a rock last year, hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word which can be described as a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being) If you look hygge up in the dictionary you find Bonfire Night. For reals. Apparently, the Danish disagree, but no bother, it’s not like it’ their concept or anything. So what makes Bonfire Night the ultimate in seasonal self-care?
Seeing the fireworks means you have to get outside in the cold and dark. It’s all about the scarves and hats and wrapping up warm. You get to feel all cosy and refreshed by walking in the cold air, and then get that virtuous just in from the cold glow when you get back inside. I vividly remember one year when it was actually quite warm. It did not feel like proper bonfire night. I was ANGRY.
Fire is magical. It has that ability to totally mesmerize anyone from a baby to a ninety year old. Think of it as a mindfulness exercise! The bigger the better in my book.
It’s a great opportunity to eat warm filling autumn food, like baked potatoes and soup. And being out in the cold increases your appetite, officially making it taste even better. It’s a like a big food hug.
It encourages us to spend time with family and friends, and that’s always a good thing. See here for why it’s actually REALLY important to prioritise relationships for our physical and emotional wellbeing.
In all seriousness, taking time to check in with the seasons and how they make us feel is really useful when we’re trying to look after ourselves. Small tweaks can make a big difference- swapping that night out for a girls night in when the weather turns, or having a baking day rather than feeling the need to go out . Share how you self-care this autumn by commenting below or using #selfcaresquad: I’d love some more ideas!
Kate Collier is a Co-Founder here at Self Care Psychology. She has worked with women, helping them improve their lives, in various roles, for over a decade. She manages our Instagram, you can read her bio to find out more about her here, and find her on her twitter @LuckyLuckyKateC and her Instagram @luckyluckykate.