3 ways to slow down and relax into winter
Slowing down is tough. I know that. When I let myself slow down, often my mind drops into action, reminding me of all the tasks to be completed and projects to be started. Being self-employed is my mind’s top motivation tool for getting me into action, but in all honesty even when I was employed I found it really difficult to rest.
Forced to rest
As many of you know, my current project is writing a book, Rest Is Radical. One of the hardest things about this (apart from actually doing the writing!) is trying to really and truly rest. It’s not as easy as it sounds, because resting doesn’t just involve slumping on the couch with a glass of wine and bar of chocolate, or sleeping more. No, true rest is something we must learn how to do consciously, that is, with the intention of resting, in order for it to benefit our mind, body and soul.
The intention of resting comes when we recognise our needs to stop doing, and to start being. As trite as that sounds, it really is the simple truth. Many of us - myself included - aren’t very good at doing (or being!) this, and sometimes what can happen is that our bodies get ill as a way of forcing us to rest.
This is something I have experienced recently, as a bout of severe fatigue forced me to slow right down, reflect on my actions and activity, and begin to make some positive changes. My work both personally and professionally has been to understand, practice and share exactly what resting means, and how to do it.
What’s in your toolbox?
Once we get focused about our intention to rest, we must also have the tools to help us do us, and without these tools, this might be the moment that the mind jumps in and starts reminding us of the stack of tasks to complete or start. Without the tools to deeply relax, we simply don’t know to let go of the worries and tension, and relax, and so it can be easier to try and keep going.
In a moment I will share three top tips that can help you slow down and relax this autumn. But first of all, let’s look a brief bit of history.
How did we get here?
As the rise of patriarchal religions grew more powerful, the nature- and goddess-worshiping practices of earth-centred religions gradually lost their place in our world. We became more aware of an external God, rather than seeing the idea of God in everything around us such as our land, our sky, and even our bodies.
The rise of Industrialisation saw us lose our connection of living by cycle of the moon in favour of a more mechanised way of working. Slowly we replaced our ways of working and living from a cyclical and seasonal awareness with the external pressures of clocking in and clocking out.
The impact of this is that the way we live today is often controlled entirely from external forces. From being told when to get to work, to squeezing our ‘downtime’ into a weekend or annual leave, we have increasingly tighter diaries (and higher blood pressure!). Our circadian circles are ignored as we push through our afternoon slumps with caffeine and sugar, and struggle for the unattainable goal of constant productivity by ignoring our internal signals of when to rest.
At this time of year particularly, when it gets dark earlier, we may find the urge to hibernate becomes more strong, but many of us still of course have to get the kids to school, get to work on time, and ‘deliver’ the same ‘results’ day in and day out. In the real world we can’t all adjust our working schedules to the change of the seasons in perhaps the way we long to, but there is positive action we can take.
Here are some tips that help me manage my shifting energy levels. It’s important to note here that none of the below tips will work unless we recognise ourselves as vulnerable human beings with a need to rest. Feeling guilty, depressed or weak because you need to rest actually prevents us from resting. The tips below are designed purposely to be easy, simply and practical, so that you can make small but sometimes radical shifts in your lifestyle and way of thinking.
Go to bed earlier. We all know that TV, phones and laptops all emanate a blue light which keeps us awake. Trying switching off all devices at least an hour before you plan to go to bed, and you may find you’re more tired than you realised.
Allow your exercise routine to change. OK, so autumn and winter are not an excuse to turn into a couch potato, but if you’re the sort of person to push yourself hard, simply recognise that the inclination to slow down in autumn is a positive one. Resting is as vital to our well-being as physical activity. Try taking your exercise outdoors - even if it’s just a walk in the park - so you’re getting as much natural light as you can in these shortening days.
Relaxation is key, especially for those of us dealing with depression, anxiety or stress. Learning to relax is a great way to release physical tension, and importantly, work towards greater self-compassion. Relaxation can be done in a myriad of ways - yoga of course is an excellent de-stresser, but we can also relax through spending time with good friends, reading a book, taking a bath, even doing a jigsaw can relax the frazzled mind. There are of course therapeutic ways to relax, including yoga nidra, TRE and more, but these few simple tips can also make a big difference.
I am sure we’ve all heard this sort of advice before - but a reminder to actually put them into action is always a good thing! Please share with me any tips or methods you have for helping your mind, body and soul to find deep and radical rest.
P.S. I have recovered fully from my fatigue with a combination of body work, rest, study, and nutrition. It amazes me how when we unite with spirit, how so much healing takes care of itself.