20 Ideas for Winter Self Care (fight the blues + prepare for spring)

Winter in Minnesota can be brutal. We are currently enjoying a short break from the bitter cold but it almost makes it harder – because we know very well that winter can last until June so it’s going to get cold again soon.

That being said, winter is also an opportunity. And I kind of love that it’s in the midst of winter when the New Year comes with all the looking at our progress and the freshness of resolutions. Winter is the perfect time to let go of all the stuff that was draining us dry. Summer and fall often bring lots of commitments and late nights but winter draws us inside where we slow down, cultivate our meaningful relationships, and get more sleep.

Ahhh, I love the rhythm of the seasons.

20 practical ideas for self care during the winter months - action steps for your mental health, relationships, fitness, nutrition, personal development, and home life. Read more: http://alisanelson.co

 

We need to tailor our self-care to honor the pulling in of winter. I’ve said it many times but it’s always worth reviewing – self-care is about taking the actions that will help you do good work. No matter what occupies the bulk of your time – be it raising children, teaching students, health care, business-building, public service, etc – you need your “down time” to be about replenishing your energy stores and pointing you to your values + intentions. The categories I consider when I brainstorm ways to practice self-care include: general health (including mental health), nutrition, movement, self-development, relationships, and cultivating a life-giving environment.

 

20 Ideas for winter self-care

General Health (including mental health)

  • Start a bedtime ritualArianna Huffington talks bedtime practices in this Business Insider article and her most recent book, The Sleep Revolution.
  • Start a simple morning ritual – include light movement (yoga, stretching, bodyweight circuit), meditation (use Headspace to get started!) and drinking water.
  • Keep a houseplant (or 10) – select from this list for plants that can help purify your air.
  • Find a conservatory or zoo with indoor exhibits – the rainforest room and Koi pond at Como Zoo and Conservatory are frequent haunts for us as we start itching for spring! Seriously, it’s my therapy.
  • Say “no” to more commitments – practice filtering social engagements and opportunities through your values and goals before committing. Is it a relationship you are purposefully cultivating? Is it a cause that’s important to you? Is FOMO or guilt behind your “yes”? I recommend The Best Yes by Lisa TerKeurst to read more about this idea. Ultimately if you pack all of your down time with obligations (that don’t reenergize you) you are choosing the road to burn out.

Nutrition

  • Shake up your breakfast with nutrient dense + delicious foods I’ve pinned some make-ahead breakfast ideas that will give you a great energy boost as you step into your morning.
  • Increase your greens intake – Like this Kale-Pineapple green smoothie from Lindsey at Nourish Move Love.
  • Take a break from the sweets so you can better tune in to what your body is really craving. Whether you go so far as to do a Whole30 or 21 day sugar detox or not, creating new habits in place of the 2pm sugar-fix can help you with mental clarity, consistent energy levels, and boost your immune system.

Movement

  • Try a new workout style or class – keep your interest high by changing things up when the weather outside can make you want to skip everything.
  • Start a Saturday morning movement ritual with a friend! Hold each other accountable to fitness goals with a joint workout then spend a slow morning over coffee + breakfast! Fellow fitness-lover + coach Britany of Define Fettle has an awesome tradition of “burpees then brunch” (she even made a tank about it!). That’s a tradition worth stealing!

Self-development

  • Say “yes” to more quiet reading – try a new genre or re-read a favorite fiction series instead of watching Netflix.
  • Learn a new skill just because you can – guitar, knitting, painting, your personal style, how to cook Indian food, mastering a new coffee brewing method, etc.
  • Pick an everyday task and turn it into a ritual – washing dishes becomes 10-20 minutes of listing everything you are grateful for, work commute becomes mindful preparation for your day, evening Netflix with roommates or significant other becomes an intentional point of connection before hitting “play.”

Relationships

  • Initiate a weekly or monthly gathering with friends – trade off hosting – with emphasis on hospitality and deep connection – Shauna Niequist wrote a great book to both inspire + equip you in this area.
  • Start saving money for a summer vacation with friends – give yourself something to look forward to that doubles as incentive to be more thoughtful about your spending.

Life-giving environment

  • Declutter your spaceslet your mantels, corners, and countertops breathe (it doesn’t have to be forever)!
  • Try your chemistry skills: make your own household cleaners, makeup remover, body scrub, etc.
  • Buy fresh cut flowers – one of the beautiful things about our modern culture is a bouquet from California sitting on your kitchen table when it’s snowing outside.
  • Diffuse essential oils into your home – the olfactory nerves make your sense of smell the only sensory input that goes straight to the brain, making it the fastest physical sense to calm or energize!
  • Plan a garden for spring – we’re all thinking about the changing weather anyway so make use of it! Try planting some greens from seed or growing herbs in your kitchen window!
  • Get a head start on spring cleaning – tackle a room per week (or biweekly!) with deep cleaning. No doubt it will give you fresh eyes for your spaces! It may be “work” but it’s also very therapeutic to get rid of dust bunnies. Trust me.

 

As you can see, I consider a wide-range of activities to be self-care. I mean fresh cut flowers and spring cleaning in the same list?? But after 5 years of shouldering a start up business, becoming a mom, dealing with depression, anxiety, and general low energy – I’ve found that self-care is not the obvious things you think of when you’re on the cusp of burn out. Yes, a massage or weekend away can be helpful but it’s the stuff you do every day to align your life with what really matters that keeps you moving forward despite the responsibilities, stress, and fear. These are what fight against the winter blues, loneliness, and cravings most effectively.

The main roles we play in our lives require us to show up. Solving problems, nurturing people, making wise decisions – they can’t be done well when your time spent alone / away from work is a hodge podge of poor habits and trying to escape stress. Any one of the ideas up there can act as a catalyst for becoming a stronger, more capable woman.

 

I would love to hear about where you begin. Comment below with one thing (on or off the list) you are going to incorporate into your life in 2017 for better self-care.

 

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