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Have We Forgotten How to Embrace Winter?

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it often feels like we’re expected to operate at full throttle. From the moment January rolls around, we’re bombarded with messages to “hit the ground running,” to be as productive as possible, and to chase our goals with unwavering determination. But, what if we’re forgetting a fundamental truth about ourselves? What if, in the race to achieve and succeed, we’re denying ourselves the much-needed respite that winter brings?

Our fast-paced, capitalist society often pressures us to act as though it’s summer all year round. The concept of “Eternal Summer Syndrome” manifests as the relentless pursuit of productivity, achievement, and constant activity. It’s the mindset that tells us we should always be in peak performance mode, pushing ourselves to the limit. It’s as if we’re in a never-ending summer: chasing one goal after another without pause.

This has been exacerbated by the prevailing “hustle culture,” especially popular among younger generations. In today’s world, hustle culture glorifies busyness, valuing the non-stop pursuit of success, wealth, and personal growth. It feeds into the idea that the path to success is paved with hustle and determination. For many young individuals, the allure of hustle culture can be compelling, as it promises a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and recognition in a highly competitive world.

Ironically, the holiday season that falls at the start of the year often exacerbates the Eternal Summer Syndrome. We’re expected to be cheerful and active, caught up in the holiday frenzy. Yet, many of us find ourselves busy, overwhelmed, and sometimes triggered by family dynamics during this time (check out Mira’s article relating to this here). The pressure to be “on” even during the holiday season perpetuates the denial of winter.

In contrast to this perpetual summer mentality, our bodies and minds follow a natural rhythm, akin to the changing seasons. Just as nature enters a period of hibernation and rest during winter, so too should we. Winter, in the metaphorical sense, represents a time for introspection, self-care, and slowing down. It’s the season when we should turn inward, reevaluate our priorities, and focus on our well-being. Looking back at our evolutionary history, we find that our ancestors did just that. When resources were scarce and temperatures plummeted, they adapted by slowing down their activities. They conserved energy, huddled around fires, and shared stories within the safety of their communities. Winter was a time of rest, reflection, and deeper connection with loved ones. It was a natural response to the challenges of the season, allowing them to emerge in the spring with renewed vigour. In our modern world, we may not face the same physical hardships, but I believe that the wisdom of our ancestors still holds true.

So, as we find ourselves in the heart of winter, instead of succumbing to the external pressures, what can we do to ensure that our bodies and minds get the rest and introspection that they need? Here are a few tips:

  • Prioritize Self-Care: Dedicate time for self-care activities that nourish your mind and body, such as meditation, reading, or long walks in nature.
  • Avoid Overcommitment: Say no when necessary and resist the urge to overcommit to obligations and projects so that you have more time to rest and recharge.
  • Reflect and Set Intentions: Use this introspective time to reflect on the past year, set new intentions, and make conscious choices about the year ahead. Check out these journal prompts for doing just that.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Be present in the moment and savour the beauty of winter, both externally in nature and internally in your thoughts.

Winter, both literally and metaphorically, has its own unique purpose in our lives. It’s the season for rest, reflection, and rejuvenation. By embracing it, we can find the balance and well-being we so desperately need in this world which never stops. So, as we embark on this new year, let’s pause, take a breath, and let our inner winter guide us toward a healthier, more balanced life.

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