As the days shortened with the coming of December’s Solstice, we began to feel the draw of hibernation. For many of us, the bustling of Christmas preparations, socialising and festivities can feel directly at odds with the natural pull towards quiet and stillness. Like the birds and squirrels busily gathering the last of the nuts and seeds to see them through, we too run around tying up loose ends, preparing our homes, visiting, to-ing and fro-ing, ticking off the last of our to-do’s. In our hurriedness to complete tasks and make it to social events, we can easily ignore the body and mind’s natural calling toward hibernation.
But with the festivities over and the New Year celebrations behind us, we can finally allow ourselves this much needed time of rest and retreat. Consider a month in direct opposition to the hustle bustle and extroversion of the festive season. What might this look like for you? When we have been so conditioned to believe that we are at our best when we are most industrious, the idea of slowing down and minimising our output, can be difficult to envision. Perhaps it even elicits feelings of anxiety or self-criticism. “If I don’t kick off the year in a flurry of new-me activity and determination, I’ll feel like a failure”. But what if the social media and marketing pressures of new year resolutions of running everyday, joining the gym, or learning a new skill, were setting you up to fail?
When the external forces of nature around you, and the forces of nature within you, are concentrating on conserving energy, how realistic is it to expect ourselves to take on a new challenge with the verve and vigour it deserves?
Traditionally, our ancestors knew that by following the seasonal rhythms that nature provides and tuning into what our natural bodies and minds require, we could use this time of deep winter to allow for deep rest. Gardeners and farmers alike know the importance of mulching and allowing the land to also rest and that after the exertion of tremendous amounts of energy toward bearing fruit and produce, the soil needs time to take in new nutrients and regenerate.
Nature offers us examples of rest and restoration again and again. Like when a tree begins the process of changing its leaves from green to brown, it is calling in the last of its energy reserves (chlorophyll) towards its trunk and roots, pausing over winter, all the while knowing that in the Spring it will be able to send large quantities back out to its new leaves.[i]
There is deep wisdom in knowing that rest can be productive, furthermore, that rest improves production[ii]. As much as it seems counter intuitive to allow ourselves to follow nature’s lead and slow down and restore ourselves, by embracing this practice, we are acting on behalf of our own sustained longevity while minimising the risk of burnout. Just as daily napping[iii] has been proven to enhance mind-body connection and therefore our capacity for focus and engagement, embracing a wintery of rest and restoration can give us the crucial reset we need to see in a new year with clarity of mind and physical vitality.
Counsellor and Manager of Nature Based Services
We Hear You
[i] The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben (2016)
[ii] ‘Radical Rest’ by Richard Lister (2021)
[iii] ‘Nap Ministry’ ‘Rest is Resistance’ by Tricia Hersey (2022)