That fall to winter space can be tough for me: my Ayurvedic type is vata (ruled by wind and space elements), and I experience seasonal affective disorder. It can be a challenge to move into darker days, colder weather, and the stress of the holidays. These are my very best practices for how I support myself (emotionally, physically, spiritually) through this time of year. They will calm your immune system, support your nervous system, and generally help to chill you out.
In a time of year that can be hectic, dark, and cold (not to mention, a doozy for our immune systems), there are still plenty of ways to find meaningful moments, create joy, and offer ourselves a little more care. Try some of these tips, or let them inspire your own practice. My general rule of thumb at this time of year is to aim for warm, still, soft, and quiet.
One of the first ways that my body responds to the turn from summer to fall is by asking for a slower yoga practice. I’m drawn to floor poses more, and crave longer savasana. I particularly enjoy the benefits of restorative poses at this time of year as they provide a nice counter-balance to the effects of the season on my nervous system. Legs up the wall is a great pose for this.
This doesn’t necessarily mean a less rigorous practice, though: longer-held standing poses and slow core work will still allow you to build strength, but without the brisk practice that might be wearing at this time of year.
Try this mini-sequence to begin slowing down and centering yourself.
I’ll admit: I’m a naturally cold person — something to do with circulation and that vata nature I mentioned earlier. So I cannot get enough of anything hot water-related in the winter time. When I learned that the blend of heat and water is tremendously effective in balancing vata in colder months? Well, I was delighted.
Hot tubs, hot springs, a hot water bottle by your feet in bed, even a simple epsom salt bath — all of these can support the circulatory system, as well as the quality of sleep. So it’s not an indulgence; it’s a way to support your health.
Looking to take your bath to the next level? One of these could be just the trick.
While tea could technically fit into the category above (as it’s mostly warm water), I see it as serving a different function. By choosing seasonally appropriate teas, we can create delicious results. For instance, teas with ginger, clove, and cinnamon are a good choice, as they are naturally warming for the body. Deluxe Pumpkin Spice Tea could be perfect for this: it won’t amp you up, but it offers a lovely dose of those cozy flavors.
There’s an emotional component to tea, also. When we incorporate flavors that are familiar, remind us of childhood or certain times of year, we can more easily access those emotions in the moment — even if we’re not surrounded by twinkly lights or sitting in a ski lodge.
I generally dislike overhead light, but at the turning of the seasons, I’m particularly sensitive to harsh glare. Instead, I like to embrace the darkening of the season by utilizing softer light sources, like candles or my Himalayan salt lamp. Here are a few more tips to optimize the light in your home.
If you’re feeling taxed by the hustle and bustle of the changing seasons, I highly recommend putting your cell phone down and getting some screen-free time. These devices can stir up our nervous systems like crazy, so put your phone and computer away at least an hour before bed.
A couple of years ago, I started hosting what I call crafter-noons. It’s a chance for friends to get together and work on crafts or art projects together. When it’s cold or dark or rainy, sometimes it can be challenging to pry oneself out of the house, so this served as a great chance for people to get together and connect. It’s the perfect blend of introvert/extrovert activities: a little chatting, a little art-making. And, of course, we had plenty of snacks.
These events highlighted something else for me: this time of year can be so generative in our creative lives. It’s a time to feather our nests, to begin reflecting on our year, to turn inward and stoke our inner fires. Whether you find creative juice from writing poetry, knitting, art journaling, making music, or something else entirely, diving into your creativity may help to support this seasonal shift.
I don’t mean that you need to start crossing essential tasks off your to-do list willy-nilly. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to have a serious chat with your calendar. Look at what you’ve put there because you think you “should.” Then think about what you’re actually being called to do at this time of year: Is it more errands? A bunch of complicated projects? Or is it more time with your partner? A walk in your neighborhood? One of the ideas above?
If you’re called to cut some of the “shoulds,” now is a great time to do that.
All photos courtesy of the author.