“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths. “ – Etty Hillesum
Winter comes with a certain calm. There is a stillness. A yearning to linger a little while longer beside the crackling fire, to snuggle just a bit more with that sweet, little sleepy head nestled under your chin.
But too often it seems we are pulled away from these precious moments, finding ourselves caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. There are so many activities, yummy treats, and crafting projects to try with the family. There hardly seems to be enough time to fit it all in.
But to make these moments with your family ones that they will enjoy and remember for years to come, it is essential to make the time to nourish yourself.
This is especially true if you’re an introvert, like me. An extrovert, like my husband, can get recharged at crossfit. But an introvert needs some quiet time to recharge after a long day.
I always try to think of my motivations for making the time for self care before I start to feel rundown. My primary reason is that I want to be a positive role model for my children. I want my children to remember me with a smile on my face, enjoying their company, not running around in a bedraggled frenzy. I want them to remember me actually looking at them, not being distracted by all of the ‘important things’ I think I should be doing. And I want to model, through my actions, that it’s wise to incorporate nourishing practices into your daily life, so you have the energy to make those precious memories together. These are the memories you and your family will remember fondly and find truly fulfilling.
If you are looking for some ways to ‘fill your bucket’ this winter, here are a few easy suggestions to help get you started:
–Warming Liquids: One of the best things about hot drinks and soups is that you can’t just gulp them down. It basically causes you to slow down and savor. I start my day with hot lemon water every single morning, even in the summer. But it’s especially satisfying on those chilly winter mornings. I continue with warm herbal teas throughout the day. My current favorite is tulsi tea with ginger. In the evening, I like to pour hot water over freshly grated ginger and turmeric and add honey and lemon.
We also really enjoy hot soup around here! Having some hot soup with homemade bread or half of a sandwich is pretty much my idea of the perfect lunch or dinner. And it’s so comforting! I espicailly like to have the heartier soups in winter, like chili or potato soup. Yum!
–Aromatherapy: It only takes a second to turn my aromatherapy diffuser on and it’s the first thing I do in the morning after straightening the bed. During the holidays I like to diffuse peppermint or citrus. And I use lavender essential oil all year around in the evenings to help everyone relax before bed. But you don’t need a diffuser or a cabinet full of oils to experience the benefits of aromatherapy. Lavender essential oil is a great place to start. You can simply apply the oil to a cotton cloth for an aromatherapy shower or add essential oils to a carrier such as distilled water, lotion, oil, or shower gel. One of my favorite things to do for the kids is add lavender essential oil to distilled water for a calming spray at those nap and bedtimes.
–Moisture: Cooler temperatures can leave winter skin incredibly dry. I try to moisturize every evening before bed and right after showering, to lock in the moisture. I like to spend at least 5 minutes and make it a mini massage. And I focus extra on the hands, cuticles, and feet. My scalp likes attention too and I’ll do a quick scalp massage when I know I’ll be showering the next morning. I just use a simple carrier oil, like sweet almond oil, and add whatever essential oil I prefer. Sesame oil is also really nice in winter.
My hands especially need some extra moisture come winter. Using a super emollient hand and cuticle cream just before bed has helped keep my hands and nails from getting overly dry or cracked.
Making sure the humidifier is full and clean has also really helped keep everyone in the house happy in their winter skin.
–Fire Light: We try to light a candle several times a day in winter and have as many fires as possible. I’ve always thought that candles make the everyday things feel extra special. The beeswax ones are my favorite and they are clean burning and long lasting! I try to pick them up several times a year at our local folk center. There are also many lovely soy candles that our family enjoys. I find them all the time in the clearance section at Homegoods.
I always light a candle in the morning, before the little ones are awake, while going about my morning routine and reading my devotional. And we like to light a candle and say a blessing before our meals. Plus, the kids enjoy blowing out the candle and it’s a great way to end the meal. Additionally, lighting a candle at bath time is a calming way to bring the day to a close, for children and adults alike.
Everyone in the family enjoys having a fire in the fireplace, even our cat, Primrose. She can always be found lounging near the fireplace whenever there’s a fire going. And it’s especially fun to get everyone bundled up for a fire in our outdoor fire pit! The s’mores are an added bonus!
–Reading/Writing: When I really want to slow down and relax, nothing beats curling up in my favorite cozy chair to read and write. In the evening, I love slipping on some fluffy socks or my shearling slippers and wrapping up in my favorite sweater blanket to gather my books, journals, planner, and my favorite pens and stationary. It immediately puts my brain in ‘happy mode’!
Even just making a to do list and being able to get those extra holiday things out of my head and onto paper can be a major source of comfort. This is part of my regular schedule after the kids are asleep but in winter I really enjoy the cozy aspect of this routine. Before bed, I do a bit of journaling. Right now I’m doing a 5 year one sentence journal. It’s so easy and fun! Then, I add to my gratitude list with at least 3 things I’m grateful for. For an added treat on cold nights, I’ll wear the neck and foot warmers my sweet husband gave me for my birthday while I’m working. It really helps set me up for a great nights sleep!
–Movement: It can be tempting to stay curled up under those warm blankets in the morning but I always enjoy the movement once I get started! I try to go for a daily walk to get my body warmed up. I resort to the treadmill if it’s freezing outside but I prefer being out in the fresh air.
I also enjoy stretching. I like to stretch my body all year long but I find myself using stretching guides even more in the winter, as the cold keeps us from venturing out for those hikes and the other outdoor activities we usually enjoy. My favorite program by far is Classical Stretch by Essentrics. I’ve used this program for several years. And the best part is that it’s free on public television! I always feel so energized and refreshed after Classical Stretch and I don’t have to travel across town to do it!
–Treats: I find it comforting to have little treats ‘just because’. Gretchen Rubin says, “when we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command- and self-command helps us maintain our healthy habits’. Such a wise woman! Treats actually help us stay on track with our good habits!
In winter, I try to have some treats around that aren’t too splurgy but that give me an extra boost when I need one. My favorites are dark chocolate and almonds. When I want something sweet, but don’t want to eat a bunch of cookies, I reach for a square of the dark chocolate. When I want something salty, I reach for a little bag of almonds. Then, I make myself a cup of herbal tea and I’m happy as can be!
We also enjoy drinking lots of healthy hot coco in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I heat almond milk on the stove and add raw cacao powder, raw coconut nectar, a couple small squares of organic dark chocolate, and stevia. It’s so yummy!
Well, that’s my current list for winter self care. Hope you are staying cozy!
Do you catch yourself before you or your family get run down? What motivates you to fill your bucket/the family bucket? How do you nourish your family/yourself during these winter months? What special treats do you find particularly comforting this time of year?