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How to Practice Wintering to Restore and Revitalize Your Mind, Body, and Soul



It’s that time of the year again, in South Africa, when many of us hunker down and brace ourselves for colder days. While I appreciate that our winter is nothing like what some of my readers abroad experience, it’s still too cold for my liking!


Whether I like it or not, I slow down and almost hibernate during June and July.

 

Every year I attempt to embrace the winter months, without letting the cold stop me from pursuing goals, creative ideas, and growing my business. But, my soul always has other plans for me, and as the temperature drops, I know It’s time to retreat, restore, and revitalize myself for a rebirth in spring.

 

Wintering is a beautiful word that describes a time of rest and retreat or hibernation. While it sounds attractive, and at times, is an essential part of maintaining your well-being, how do you practice it while the world goes on?

 

Keep reading as I share my tips for practicing a spiritual winter and discover how you can retreat without it becoming a form of escapism. 

 

What is Wintering?

The natural world embraces wintering, with many plants and animals changing and adapting to colder days in preparation for the summer months. They slow down to cope with fewer resources, with many plants losing their leaves and creatures, like the bear, hibernating.

 

The natural world accepts the seasons' flow and intuitively knows that resistance is destructive!

 

Humans can learn from observing the processes of nature. We fear losing our spot in life if we slow down and instead, continue to let busyness drive our actions to ensure we stay ahead of the crowd. However, this is detrimental to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

 

Wintering, which some call the spiritual winter, is a time of self-reflection. It’s a time of going inwards while embracing the darkness and quietness of colder days (if only you would slow down and listen.)

 

It’s the season for leaning into yourself and letting the magic unfold as only the universe knows how.

 

Katherine May, the author of the phenomenal book, ‘Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times” says this:

 

“Wintering brings about some of the most profound and insightful moments of our human experience, and wisdom resides in those who have wintered.”

 

Wintering doesn’t always happen in the winter season. It can come about when you’re facing challenges such as loss, grief, retrenchment, relationship breakups, and other difficult times.


However, my soul automatically knows that when winter comes around (as it tends to do!), I need to retreat, reflect, and restore my body to allow its full transformation when spring arrives.

 

3 Ways to Practice Wintering

My spiritual winter started earlier than usual this year. For a long while, I’ve ignored feelings of fatigue, mental exhaustion, and emotional exhaustion. My body was telling me to pay attention and slow down, but my EGO was telling me to keep pushing on!

 

When some cold snaps hit us in late May I heard my body and my soul telling me, “Slowly, slowly now. You need to rest, hibernate if necessary, but you need to slow down.” It was time to start my wintering process and this is how I practice it.

 

1. Practicing the Art of Acceptance

One of the scariest things about choosing a spiritual winter is losing your grip on “reality” and getting left behind by the world. As a self-employed entrepreneur, the prospect of “slowing down” and becoming dormant feels counterproductive and yet, running myself into the ground is equally destructive.

 

Over the years, I have learned the art of acceptance when winter settles in although, admittedly, there’s always some resistance at the start of the season!

 

Practicing acceptance involves the following:

  • No self-judgment: Wintering is what it is and should be honored as a time of restoration and revitalization, rather than something that hinders your progress through life. Criticizing yourself because you need to rest and retreat is a form of self-judgement and that’s soul-destroying.

  • Acknowledging where you are right now: Wintering doesn’t mean you’re quitting life. Instead, it’s about acknowledging where you are right now and respecting the process, while knowing it’s a temporary part of your transformation cycle.

  • Gratitude: Counting my blessings allows me to embrace spiritual winters while nurturing my mind, body, and soul. It keeps me present and thankful that I can step out of life for a while and prepare myself for busier times during the warmer months.

  • Letting go of expectations: Trying to control outcomes is disastrous and results in disappointment and emotional turmoil. I have accepted that spiritual winters are essential for my overall wellness BUT I avoid expectations. It is what it is and my Higher Power will steer me in the direction that’s right for me.

 

Practicing acceptance is vital if you want to get the full benefit of wintering. Through acceptance, you can embrace change (even when it happens slowly) and grow into the wholehearted person you’re meant to be.



 

2. Boosting Self-Care

During wintering, I step up my self-care routine. While it doesn’t differ much from my year-round self-care practice, I tweak it to make it easier to cope with colder weather (or challenging times.)

 

Boosting my self-care routine includes:

  • Getting enough sleep: A good night’s rest is essential for mental and physical health, even more so when you’re going through difficult times. Getting enough sleep gives you more resilience to accept when you need to slow down and retreat.

  • Staying hydrated: Whether you’re wintering in the winter season or during a hard life experience, you need to stay hydrated. Adequate hydration keeps your joints lubricated, reduces infections, and improves your moods. In winter, I aim to drink three liters of warm lemon water daily, plus a few cups of Sutherlandia tea.

  • Daily doses of sunlight: We’re fortunate in South Africa to have plenty of sunshine during winter. I make sure I go outside and soak up as much sunlight as possible in between work tasks. This is vital for sufficient Vitamin D and for keeping my spirits up while warming on cold days.

  • Practicing yoga: While I’m not particularly good at sticking to my yoga routine, I recognize how important it is to start my day with some gentle body movements. I try to incorporate 20 to 30 minutes of yoga every morning before starting my work day.

  • Daily walks in nature: I'm truly blessed to be living on one of the most beautiful farms in Johannesburg! This winter, I take our dog for a quick 10-minute walk in the early morning and then I try to do a longer walk in the afternoons. Walking in nature rejuvenates my soul while helping me to stay mindful of the changing seasons and what my body needs.

  • Eating nourishing food: Think heartwarming soups, soulful casseroles, and the occasional square of dark chocolate! Eating nourishing food protects your immune system during dark times while giving you the energy to deal with the wintering experience.

 

My wintering self-care routine includes reading soul-restoring books, permitting myself to sleep in a bit later on weekends, and keeping up with my meditation practice.

 

3. Identifying the Best Rest for the Day

Wintering is a time of rest but there are numerous ways of doing this. Knowing what kind of rest I need, on any particular day, requires being present and listening to my body. While I try to stick to a daily routine that incorporates my work and personal tasks, I allow myself some flexibility so that I can integrate the rest required to restore my mind, body, and soul.

 

I acknowledge that it’s easier to fully embrace rest when I have the freedom to manage my daily diary. If you’re in employment, you may have to take the occasional day off from work or ensure you incorporate rest during your lunch break or when you get home in the evenings.

 

Here are the different types of rest you can consider during your wintering periods:

  • Mental breaks: Journaling, taking mindful walks, and meditating are perfect ways you can switch off and give your mind a rest.

  • Physical breaks: Incorporating gentle body movements and naps into your daily life allows you to slow down and recover from heavy periods of physical activity.

  • Emotional breaks: Installing healthy boundaries reduces triggers and energy vampires from depleting your well-being.

  • Sensory breaks: Sitting in silence, turning off the car radio or television, and unplugging from social media all help to prevent sensory overload which can exhaust you without you realizing it.

  • Creative breaks: Coloring books, making a smudge stick, or indulging in your favorite creative hobby are wonderful ways to restore your mental and emotional well-being.

  • Spiritual breaks: Connecting with your Higher Power brings you a sense of love, acceptance, and belonging while instilling peace and harmony within yourself.

  • Social breaks: Choosing who you connect with during your wintering is vital and connecting with those you hold close and dear and who respect and love you back is essential.

 

Some days I need to connect with a special friend, other times I choose to blog, journal, or color in a mandala. Picking the type of break I need every day ensures that I do what's right for my body at that moment. It allows me to drop the resistance and go with the flow, letting my body guide me in the right direction as I transition through winter.



 

Final Thoughts

Guilt is one of the biggest killers of the wintering process! Full acceptance is the key to releasing the guilt as is the self-awareness that you need to slow down before something as drastic as emotional burnout happens.

 

There’s no timeline as to how long a spiritual winter takes place although most of us do re-emerge when spring comes. If you’re wintering because of a challenging life experience, your spring season may only come when the time is right for you. Forcing a deadline is harmful and letting go of expectations will help you to drop the reigns and go with the flow.

 

Embracing a spiritual winter is a transformative and in most cases, a life-changing experience. Whether you choose to do it every year (like me) because your body intuitively knows what is right for you or you’re facing a difficult time, lean into the experience. You will emerge stronger, alive, and beautiful like any creature who undergoes a metamorphosis.

 

I assure you that the world will still be there BUT this time around, you’re equipped to cope with it and to thrive within it while living a deep and meaningful life.

 

 

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