I used to tolerate winter. I grew up with huge snowstorms in New York City (we walked for MILES in the snow to the subway station), and most of my family lived like polar bears in upstate New York, where it seemed to snow about seven months out of twelve. Enjoying the snow, skiing, traveling to wintry places on purpose (just WHY?), people rhapsodizing poetically about snow and snow activities. It left me cold (see what I did there?). I shrugged my shoulders and managed to survive. Not liking winter, just muddling through.
Later on, within the last decade or so, I started to develop a deep-seated fear of winter coming. I would start feeling anxious around Labor Day, with it deepening as we hurtled towards the end of the year. I would spend days in bed, just wanting to sleep the whole season away. I could never get warm enough, and I would plan elaborate escapes to tropical climes that would never happen. I would feel lethargic, alternating between the anxiety and fear.
Once I began my spiritual journey, I met many people who were intuitive and empathic, and I would mention my increasing fear. There were several theories and ideas that were told to me, until I met a British friend who shrugged her shoulders and said, “Oh that’s easy. You died in the snow in a past life, looking for firewood.” Well, that made sense, and I could envision myself dramatically dying in the snow, looking a bit like Snow White, as all the wee woodland animals mourned around me. That worked for about a week.
Next, I decided to move to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. Makes sense, right? What is hilarious is that I came THIS CLOSE to moving to the beach, but something here called to me (a story similar to many who move here). I grew up going to the mountains and the beach, so it wasn’t a huge stretch, honestly.. Until the first snowstorm hit. In October. That was way too early for me. I remember looking out the window, shivering. Then the strangest thing happened: I realized I wasn’t terrified anymore. In fact, I was looking forward to winter! How on earth did that happen? Well, a few steps happened before then and I discovered that my new way of life had contributed to my new sense of ease. I won’t go as far as saying I cured myself of SAD, but I have definitely found ways to cope with it more effectively.
Here are a few things that worked:
Connecting with Nature: this is huge, and I had no idea I was nature starved until I headed into a forest and began to feel centered and calm. Fortunately, I live near a lake and the Blue Ridge Parkway, so I can head out and just breathe in huge gulps of air, look at expansive views and get out of my own monkey brain. No matter where you live, there is nature nearby. Go visit it. Yes, it’s a huge pain to get there sometimes, but the results are so worth it.
Community: I love learning, and there are a multitude of workshops out there. I love going and learning, and don’t really care if I have my goth girl, all black, sleepy-eyed self in attendance. I am there for me, and having my brain stimulated goes a long way to energizing me. From there, I have met so many lovely people, who attend the workshops with me, invite me out for coffee, message me or just have long, soul-searching chats. Being in community during rituals is also soul-satisfying, even if I started the day not wanting to talk with or be with anyone.Crystals and Herbs: Whether making an offering, burning them or creating small mojo bags to carry with me, I found distraction and solace in adding to my knowledge of herbs and crystals. Not only can you learn something new, you are doing something concrete, which makes you feel a bit more control of your life. It’s satisfying and useful.
Be your own study group: I love books, so it’s been a joy to stockpile a few and reserve them for long winter nights. I usually find something I want to learn and there are plenty of online courses out there to attract your attention. Find a new hobby, learn more about something puzzling you, or rediscover old favorites.
Hibernate: If you want to hibernate, please do go ahead. But know the difference between cozy hibernating and depression. For the latter, do seek professional help. And know it’s also okay to spend the whole day in your pajamas, drinking hot chocolate or Irish coffees, reading, contemplating or napping intermittently. Nature sets us up to do so, no guilt involved.
Vision Boards: Winter is a great time to plan ahead, so think about what you want your life to look like in the coming year. If that is too overwhelming, focus on a few little things. Want to travel more, take up a new hobby, change jobs? Start planning now. Vision boards can be a fun collage or just a collection of words and/or pictures. Put it somewhere you see it every day (I keep mine by my hair dryer) so it becomes part of your day. Think of the power you have to create the life you want, and take it from there. Baby steps if needed, or dream really big and see what happens.
Enjoy the Silence: Enjoy the silence of the world. It can be found, even if you live in a noisy urban setting. Light a candle in your home and gaze into the flames. It’s a great form of relaxation, and even better if you have a fireplace. Learn about fire scrying and explore what you see.
Dance: I tend to dance more in the winter, mostly as an antidote to all the craziness out there in December. Play your favorite playlist, explore different types of music (my younger son finds the best, obscure Eastern European disco songs, always a treat) Car dance with abandon (and safety). It gets your blood moving, and it always a great way to move your body through the day.
Clothing: In the summer, I obsess over sunglasses, and in the winter, I can never have enough scarves. They warm you, are functional, and are a relatively inexpensive way to change up the same old winter clothes you have. I also have a new appreciation for fingerless winter gloves.
Ritual: Are you working your magic? There is nothing like performing ritual under the cold, stunning moon. There is a power inherent in doing a spell or working, so do some reading, and create magic in your life. After all, that is our gift, so don’t let it lay dormant during the winter. From there, you may develop an interest in herbs or crystals, or different kinds of magic.
And finally, give thanks to our ancestors for the Wheel of the Year. They knew what they were doing, following the seasons of the year, spacing out celebrations with a focus. The Wheel keeps us going, even as it may seem to move ever so slowly. Hope this helps. Enjoy your winter!