Your guide to treating yourself well in the long second half of winter – and why it’s important.
10 ways to find your balance during the second half of winter
Happy New Year! 2021 is finally here. I’m sure nobody’s sad to see the back of 2020, but as we enter a new year, how are you feeling? Are you raring to go with a whole list of goals for the next 12 months, a new fitness regime and a strict diet plan? Or are you hiding under a blanket in your dressing gown waiting for Spring? I’m definitely more towards the second scenario.
However you’re doing, remember to be kind to yourself at this time of year. The second half of winter usually feels so much longer than the first, and our reserves for dealing with the dark and the cold are pretty depleted by now. But before you rush into a frenzy of New Year’s Resolutions, think about how you’re actually feeling and how many demands you want to place on yourself.
January is Hard. Don’t Make it Harder.
Let’s be realistic: January starts just a week after the winter solstice, i.e. the coldest, darkest time of the year. It’s still midwinter out there but the Christmas cheer is over, the twinkly lights are gone, and it’s sadly no longer acceptable to survive solely on the festive food groups of chocolate, cheese and Baileys.
But somehow January has become a time when we feel pressured to switch cold turkey from Christmas fun and indulgence to a harsh programme of self-improvement, punishing exercise, strict diets, and learning new skills – all while cleaning the house, spending no money, and steering clear of treats. Sounds totally exhausting, and a bit miserable to be honest.
If you’re a natural at doing January, and thrive on this kind of extreme regime, then you don’t need to read any further. Keep doing what you’re doing and enjoy it. For the rest of us, what can we do to make a positive fresh start to the year while still being kind to ourselves?
Make A Different Kind of New Year’s Resolution
This year especially, we all deserve to cut ourselves some slack as we navigate the second half of winter. It’s been quite the year, and as we come up to the anniversary of the first of the 2020 lockdowns, most of us are pretty tired. Emotions are running high, and morale is running low.
In the UK we’ve been in a winter lockdown since late December it’s likely to continue for several more weeks to come. Schools are closed (actually everything is closed) and we’re at home. Again. Except this time it’s winter and we’re locked up indoors.
So I won’t be making any drastic new year’s resolutions. Honestly I’ll just be trying to survive.
But I still want to make a positive start to the year and build in a few healthier choices while allowing myself some grace. And so really it’s all about balance.
Finding a Balance: Tips for January and February
Striking a balance between making some changes to make yourself feel better after all that festive indulgence, without being hard on yourself in this lowest point of the winter sounds like a plan. So here are some practical tips to make that happen.
Think of Some Aims, Rather Than Setting Goals
If you’re feeling a bit tired and worn out by pandemic life (and who isn’t?), then the idea of goal-setting can actually be quite discouraging rather than motivating. Instead, try setting some basic aims for the year (or even just the month) ahead. An aim feels like something you slowly work towards, rather than bust a gut to achieve. That sounds about right for now.
Get Some Gentle Exercise and Take Your Vitamins
Don’t go from 0-60 on a new year’s exercise regime. This is not about running in the early-morning dark until you feel sick. If you need a starting point, start by trying to reach a certain number of steps each day, and gradually increase the number each week. Get up from your desk every 30 minutes. Anything to up your movement and lower your sitting time. Stretch. Breathe deeply.
Taking some appropriate supplements every day is such an easy, achievable way to boost your health and immunity. If, like me, you always forget, then try decanting them into a daily pill reminder box.
Plan a Trip or Project
I think we all need to remind ourselves that brighter days are coming. Actively making lists of things you’re looking forward to, or researching a trip or project for later in the year, can be a real mood-boosting activity.
Allow Yourself to Hibernate
It’s ok to channel your inner bear at this time of year. Of course, if you’re under a stay-at-home order, it’s basically enforced hibernation. But work and family commitments aside, don’t feel guilty about pulling up the drawbridge, bingeing on books or boxsets, and not emerging until Spring.
Get As Much Daylight As You Can
Even if you’re hibernating like Yogi and Booboo, try to get outside whenever you get the chance. Getting a decent amount of daylight will boost your mental health and help you sleep, so even if you just take a short daily walk it will always be worth it.
Cut Everyone Some Slack
As well as being kind to yourself, take it easy on others too. This is especially important if you’re enduring the madness of home-schooling and working from home. If the kids are busy building a fort under the living room cushions or are happy playing out in the garden all morning, then I say just let them. You can catch up enough later. Being flexible wherever the schedule allows can really take the pressure off.
Eat Well, Not Restrictively
If you want to do Veganuary or Dry January, then great! By all means do them if you want – but if you had perhaps planned to and now really don’t feel like it, then DON’T. The unrestricted treats of Christmas might be over, but you still need to enjoy your food to make a healthy eating plan sustainable. Aiming for simplicity: uncomplicated nutritious meals, eating seasonally, trying for 5 a day, drinking more water. Treats shouldn’t be banned. Hopefully, you’ll feel better for it but not full of resentment at a restricted diet plan.
Keep Some Light In The Darkness
I always put away my Christmas decorations early in the new year, but try to leave out some twinkly lights for the remainder of winter. It’s dark here in Scotland from 4pm to 8am in early January, so a bit of cosy light in the darkness is very much required! Try a string of clear-cable fairy lights in a glass vase or jar, a battery-candle lantern, or some outdoor lights in a tree outside your window. Lighting up dark corners cheers up a space so much.
As February approaches, keep an eye out for the first signs of spring. Snowdrops and crocuses will start emerging. Or buy some cut flowers for your home.
Make Small Improvements To Your Environment
Even in those long lost days pre-COVID, we were home a lot at this time of year. These days we’re using our homes so much more. They’re workplaces and schools as well, and they are working hard. So take some time to make a few small adjustments to your space.
You don’t need to Marie Kondo your house (unless you want to), but think of some little changes to make you feel good. Rearrange a room: nothing revamps a space more easily than simply moving the furniture around. Change the lighting by switching out some lamps from room to room, or swap some artwork and move pieces to a different wall. If you have a desk where you’re working from home, add a plant, some pictures or a scented candle. Little changes can be just enough to add a sense of novelty.
On the other hand, if you’re raring to go with spring cleaning, here’s how to spring clean in a weekend.
Prioritise Some Self-Care Time
Honestly I’m usually not a fan of the term self-care, but if there was ever a time for it, the time is now! Again, this doesn’t need to take a lot of effort, it’s just about making the time for it – and recognising that you deserve that time.
Reading a book, taking a hot bath with a podcast playing, chatting with a friend, ditching the housework to get an early night – these things are all very much a good idea, especially if you’re struggling with homeschooling, winter low mood, or general pandemic anxiety.
Allow yourself – no, actively give yourself – some treats. Life feels pretty small at the moment with so many restrictions on our lives. So make sure you’re enjoying some indulgences. They don’t need to be extravagant. Buy some new books, a scented candle, or a perfumed body lotion to counteract the winter weather. Or bake some fresh bread, open a bottle of wine you’ve been saving, or order food from somewhere new.
I hope this post has given you some ideas for how to be kind to yourself this January and February and find some balance for the start of the new year.