We are almost at the exact halfway point between the fall Equinox and the Winter Solstice. Today marks daylight savings time here in the US. As the time changes, I always seem to notice the earths shift towards darkness even more profoundly after this day. This time of year I often find myself sleeping longer, more drawn to fatty and rich foods, as well as more prone to feeling sad, lethargic, or generally unmotivated. The cold and the rains often push me indoors which leads to less exercise and less energy.
Sound familiar? I have been having conversation after conversation with clients and folks in the community to describe a similar shift in their energy as the earth turns towards darkness in the fall and winter. Holiday gatherings don’t tend to help. We receive a lot of cultural messages that this is supposed to be a happy time *cue “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” and/or some other holiday carol of a similar vein. I’ll go more into self care strategies around the holidays in a post later this month. Today I’m going to focus on ways to take care of yourself as the season shifts.
First of all, the energy of winter is the energy of quiet and stillness. Look at the plants around you and the land for guidance around how to approach this season. Most of the plants have released their seeds and are releasing their life that exists above the earth. The trees are releasing their leaves and drawing their energy back down into the earth. Remember it is completely normal to draw your energy inwards, sleep more, and gain a little weight. This is the energy of the season. Accepting this and leaning into the inclination to nest and hibernate can go a long way in having a sweet and sustainable winter.
All of this being said, it is not unusual to feel gloomy as the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer. According to the National Institute of Health 6% of Americans suffer severe Seasonal Affective Disorder. A larger 14% suffer from a lesser form of this disorder. There is a lot that I could say about SAD and it’s treatment but I’m going to focus on a few suggestions that I have seen be very helpful.
Full Spectrum Lights
Light therapy has been shown to be a highly effective treatment for seasonal depression. There are lights that are sold specifically for SAD–I like the full spectrum bulbs. Light treatment in the morning seems to be more effective than later in the day. I suggest sitting under the light for at least 30 mins. If you live somewhere where there is sun in the winter, try to get out and sit in the sun for at least a half an hour on days when you can.
Flower and Plant Essences
There are a number of different flower and environmental essences that can be very helpful in shifting away from the winter blues. I love to use Calendula with my clients for this purpose. I have some wonderful Calendula medicine that was made on the summer solstice so it has some extra sunny magic in there. My favorite environmental essence is “Solstice Sun” by Alaska Essences. This essence was made on the Summer solstice far enough north that it was created during a full 24 hour cycle of sunlight. I can’t speak highly enough of this essence. If you know that you suffer from seasonal depression regularly, I invite you to consider making some medicine during this next summer solstice with the intention of bringing that sunshine of the solstice into your spirit during the winter months.
Keeping your body moving and staying physical when you are feeling depressed can be one of the most difficult things to do. However, if you can will yourself into a regular routine of moving your body for 30 mins or more 3 times a week, you will likely experience significant improvements in your emotional state within a few weeks. Multiple studies have shown that exercise can be as effective if not more effective in treating depression. Figure out what you need to make it happen–a gym buddy? Maybe a committment to ride your bike to work 3 times a week? Maybe a weekly hike and twice a week 30 min walk around your neighborhood? You won’t regret it.
Take on that personal work you’ve been postponing.
Is there a new spiritual practice you have been wanting to explore? Start journaling, drawing, knitting, or reinvigorate another creative practice that opens up room for that energy of pulling in to blossom. Are there books you have been putting off reading? Now is a great time to pick them up again. The energy of winter is slow and deep. Lean into the season and don’t be afraid to dive into your shadows. The spirits of the land are opening to support that deep and slow growth process within.
Connection with the land
I believe that part of what makes this time difficult is it is easier to disconnect from our connection with the land because we are indoors more. Setting an intention to connect with the land 2-3 times a week can help you stay tuned in with the earths energy of turning inward during this time of year. This can be profoundly validating and sustaining during the winter months. If you go for a hike, you can exercise while cultivating your connection with the land. I invite you to consider ways that you can care for the land during this winter season. Does it make sense to commit to picking up trash in a certain area? Perhaps involvement with local efforts to restore the land or protect a first nations sacred site will help you deepen in that connection.
The winter months can be very hard for many of us. The stress of the holidays doesn’t help either. If you suspect you may be suffering from a more severe form of SAD, I encourage you to seek professional support from an herbalist or another emotional care provider. Consider reaching out to a healer to develop strategies to get through the winter.
Until the Winter Solstice, contact me for a free 30 min consultation. We can discuss strategies to sustain your spirit this season that make sense for your lifestyle. You also might be interested in my upcoming workshop “Surviving the Holidays” on Saturday November 16 from 1-4pm. We will focus on plants and practices to get you through the holiday season this year. This workshop is by Dana or by donation and will be held in Oakland. Please join us!