Many people find that it is easier to take care of themselves during the warm summer months than during the harsh winters. It can be particularly hard to meet our needs for physical activity during the colder months. In the summer, the weather is beautiful and inviting, and there are so many options for activities to do outside. It doesn't feel that way in winter. But for many of us, winter probably holds more opportunities for physical self care than we give it credit for.
John,* a client I’ve been working with for the last several months, came into therapy feeling confused about self care. Not because of a change in season, but because of another huge change. A recent college grad, John felt that he had lost his identity AND his ability to care for himself in the midst of this big transition into the working world. He explained that he had had a self care routine in college that worked well for him but, after graduating, John felt it slip away.
Together, John and I explored what his routine had looked like at school. What had been helpful about it? What kinds of activities had he done, and with whom? We learned that John had met his physical, social, and emotional needs by sticking to a specific schedule of a few limited activities that were very tied to the physical location and the community of the college. After graduating, it became necessary for him to build up his toolbox of self care options. So we worked for several months on compiling an extensive list of activities that John either knew he enjoyed or had always wanted to try. We made sure that this list covered enough activities to meet all his physical, social, and emotional needs.
Although seasonal changes are usually not quite as life altering as milestones like graduating from college, I would imagine that when the earth spins us into winter, we all experience a bit of the loss of self care that John described. Suddenly the warm weather activities we relied on are gone, and we’re left feeling lost and directionless. John found that it took a bit more thought and initiative to make sure he was getting what he needed after graduating from college, but he was able to adjust and figure out how to make it work.
We can do the same with winter.
Oftentimes, the cold weather makes it harder for us to get outside and get moving. Here are some suggestions for taking care of yourself and your body this winter:
go skiing or snowboarding (there are lots of deals on groupon to make this activity more affordable)
try snow shoeing (you can find snow shoes for as low as $50 on Amazon)
bundle up and take a thermos of hot coffee or cocoa on a moonlit winter walk
track down some ice skates and head to a local rink or pond
build a snowman
find the biggest hill you can and go sledding (you can use a laundry basket or cardboard if you don’t have a sled)
instigate a snowball fight
build an epic snow fort
Think about using these ideas as a springboard as you compile and expand your own list of cold weather activities to help you meet your needs for physical self care. Bundle up and brave the cold!
How do you stay active and get outside during the winter months? Is there anything from the list above that you would consider adding to your cold weather self care routine?
*I have changed John’s name and identifying features in order to respect the privacy of my clients.