Growing up on the equator in Kenya, I didn’t really have seasons. Moving to the UK and getting used to living with seasons was a bit of a shock to my system, especially when it was so cold and dark, and winter seemed to drag on for ages! It took me a while to realise how to care for myself and that what I needed in the summertime was totally different to what I needed in the winter.
In my early days I would try and make myself eat salads and go to the gym all year around, and then I’d get frustrated with myself when I went off-track or found it hard to stick to. I didn’t realise that it was natural to feel more inward and inclined towards gentle activities during the darker colder days, whereas in the summer I’d feel much more energised.
As I started paying more attention to how I felt and what I needed throughout the year, I also started to realise the fluctuations and varying needs I felt within a month coincided with my monthly cycle. I found that one week I was totally up for going out and could get so much done in a day, and a week later all I wanted to do was spend the day indoors watching a good series.
It felt weird to have all these contrasting needs in a month and I tried to push through and ignore my body if it wanted rest, feeling guilty for wanting to take it easy at the beginning of my monthly cycle. I also felt the added societal pressure where it’s seen as weak to take days off and it’s almost a badge of honour to pop a painkiller and push through pain, achieve and strive even when our bodies are screaming at us to stop or slow down.
Over the years I started listening to my body honouring what it needs, so that my self-care varies throughout the month and year. There’s no fixed plan and after a few years of experimenting and getting to know myself better it’s much more intuitive. Of course, there are exceptions and times when I have commitments, or things I must get done but, on the whole, this is how I have adapted my self-care.
I find that in the autumn and winter seasons I want to go more inwards and need more rest and nurturing, nourishing activities. This generally corresponds to when I am pre-menstrual and menstruating in my cycle. Whereas in spring and summer I have more energy and can do more active, outward activities. This time mostly corresponds to when I have finished menstruating and am ovulating.
Having lived like this for a while and noticing the effects it has on my overall wellbeing, I really recommend taking the seasons (internal and external) into consideration when choosing what self-care actions will work best for you. There will be things that will likely feel good at all times, such as sleep, eating well and getting fresh air. However, you may notice slight variations in how you practice these actions as the seasons change. Additionally, I encourage eating seasonal foods as much as possible as you’ll find they nourish you on a deeper level than having something that has been shipped halfway across the world.
We are cyclical beings and what works for one person may be totally different for another. I encourage you to start to notice how YOU feel at different times in the month and year and what activities feel good for you, in conjunction with your own cycle (if relevant). You may even notice that you feel energised and more connected overall as you work with your body and not against it.
What can you begin to do to start honouring the seasons, inner and outer? I have some resources at the end which may support you here.
This blog post is a snippet from my book, Embodied. You can get your own copy here or anywhere you buy your books online.
Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash.
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