I recently read the book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. I happen to read this during winter (though can you even call it that in San Diego?) and while on a six week medical leave while recovering from surgery. In the book, the author and her husband both struggle through some serious medical concerns, she has to take a leave from work, and then her son struggles with anxiety. Throughout those challenges, May shares ideas on what “wintering” or rest or retreat or even hygge look like to different people and different cultures. Science and modern day stress levels tell us that many of us are working too hard, too many hours, and at unsustainable paces. Too many people are getting too little rest.
I have always been a hard worker who is always walking, talking, reading and working very fast. However, since my year of mindfulness (the first year I picked a word of the year), I have made more conscientious efforts to create better balance in my life. I make time for friends, family, travel, and rest. Everyone close to me knows never to call me in the evening because I am guaranteed to be in bed by 9 PM, but sometimes even sooner. Sleep has always been important to me. I have learned this over time, because I have lived through stress cycles: stress, sleep less, stop exercising, begin eating more junk food, stress more, and repeat. Whenever I begin to feel stressed, I first ensure I am getting enough sleep, and then I build in a schedule to exercise more and make a plan for drinking more water and eating real meals (mostly cooked by my brother!).
As I was home for this extended leave, I rested even more than normal, because that was what I body needed. During this time I was able to read more than ever, connect with family members in small visits, drink more water and tea than I ever thought possible, and enjoy the comforts of being in my home, resting. I want to capture a few lessons to take away from this as I return to work and re-enter the “real world”.
- Prioritize rest – Rest doesn’t just mean 8 hours of sleep a night, but also slow down times within each day and across a week.
- Hydrate – I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember to drink more water during a work day, but it often is. I know that this helps me look and feel better and I want to continue to drink enough water each day.
- Meditate – Early in November I realized that the Calm app tracks how many days in a row you meditate. I love to compete against myself, and when I realized that I had never had a streak longer than 3 days, I challenged myself. I meditated 42 days in a row before I missed one, but then started again the next day! I am determined to maintain this habit for my mental health and wellbeing.
- Connect – During my leave, I was able to have some specific connections with people, either in person or through phone calls. Because life had slowed down for me, I felt like my time spent with the people I care about was more meaningful. I crave these connections and want to make the most of them in the future. Of course, connection is also my word of 2022 so I plan to prioritize it!
- Get outside – Though my extended rest didn’t allow for long walks outside, that is what I am craving now. Nature has always soothed me. I can’t wait for the days to be longer and to be able to take long walks after work on the beach.
- Avoid the need to appear busy – Our culture seems to be driven by the need for people to prove they are busy. I don’t usually feel the need to show that I am busy, but it’s a good reminder. Similarly, this is a reminder that mindless scrolling through social media isn’t the best use of my time, whether I’m busy or not!
What lessons would you add to this list?