We have always been told about animals hibernating; hunkering down in their warm habitats while the colder weather rages outside, snuggling up to their loved ones and snoozing it out, waiting for the warmer weather to arrive in Spring.

I know myself that in Winter, my energy levels drop drastically. The shorter hours of sunlight make the mornings tough, having to force myself out of bed when all my body wants to do is to stay within the warm sheets. The evenings drag after sunset, waiting for bedtime to roll round again. Winter 2020 we find ourselves in a strange and uncertain time. A virus threatens the stability of everything we have ever known. We have been told to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus and therefore, save lives.

In contrast to the first time we were asked to do this back in March, the weather is mostly awful. When it is cold, wet and windy outside, the warmth of home feels much more inviting, so let’s embrace it.

I appreciate we can’t sleep for months on end, like a bear would, emerging fresh and renewed in the Spring sunshine, but we can take inspiration from nature and use this time to do less and look after ourselves. Get the blankets out of the cupboard; fill that hot water bottle and stock up on warm tea. This Winter, and every Winter, is the perfect opportunity for self-care.

Lockdown has been filled with frustrations. Being told to stay at home has meant many people have lost their jobs and livelihoods, businesses have been taken out overnight, with only the lucky of us being able to work from home. Being at home has for some meant plenty of free time and new hobbies have taken hold. Instagram is filled with new master bakers, skilled sewers and talented illustrators all released from the shackles of the daily commute. This Christmas will see bookshops filled with books celebrities wrote in lockdown, their publishers finally able to get them to sit still long enough to jot down some memories. For some, lockdown has been incredibly productive, but I would say for most of us the constant bad news has been overwhelming and saddening, any motivation zapped out of us. This is a completely understandable reaction to these uncertain times and I think, in fact, the lack of productivity shouldn’t be shameful, it should be encouraged.

Winter is a period of rest. In nature’s cycles Winter is the pause in the year. Animals hibernate, trees lie dormant and flowers hide away. In my thirties now, I feel like I finally understand my own body’s cycles. With menstruation and ovulation come ebbs and flows of energy and, therefore, productivity. I have come to accept that some weeks I am more productive than others, and that some weeks I don’t have much inclination to do anything at all.

In life, productivity isn’t a linear progression as we would like to believe. We don’t get more and more productive as we get older, getting increasingly efficient and therefore getting more work done until we reach some sort of peak before retirement. There are times when we have to pause and slow down. An example of this would be having a new baby. Tiny babies take a while to understand day and night and for the first few weeks, the days are blurred into one another for the parents too. Putting the needs of the baby first means slowing down and stepping out of busy modern lives and we do this without question.

Lockdown has in some ways forced us out of modern life. We don’t have a choice. We can’t go anywhere or meet anyone. Whilst it is disconcerting and worrying it can also be seen as an opportunity to embrace a time of rest. It could be a relief, for example, to not have to make excuses this year to avoid the onslaught of Christmas drinks and parties. This year we can listen to our bodies as they crave rest and renewal in the colder months and use this opportunity for self-care. So please, if you haven’t found that lockdown hobby baking bread or you haven’t written that life-affirming novel, don’t worry. Getting through this Winter one day at a time is enough, looking after ourselves and each other.

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Forget Summer with its sun beaming down on roasting skin, sizzling in the heat. It has never been my favourite season.

Stark shadows mark the ground like a warning sign. The sun: a danger to delicate skin. Fair and freckled, I hide under the canopy of trees; their shade is my safety.

I sense relief as the leaves fall to mark the sun’s retreat. Slowly the days draw in. Anticipation builds as the greens radiate into oranges, reds…

Eager to move through the seasons I remind myself to cherish the glow of early mornings. To catch the sunrises through the window, misty from the outside chill, before they disappear into the months of darkness ahead.

Winter is long and equally relentless. The absence of the sun’s warmth is as much of a challenge to me as its presence. I hide wrapped inside blankets, relying on the comfort of warm cups of tea and hot water bottles.

To me, those few days in early Autumn are the most precious. When the sun shines in cloudless skies but its power is muted by a gentle breeze. A touch cooler. Is it too early for a scarf? I long to be outside, swaddled in soft knits, found like long lost treasure at the back of the wardrobe.

The bright blue sky comes alive with the glow of burning oranges in the trees below. Crisp leaves underfoot; the ground is coated with spiked conkers, undiscovered by squirrels. Inside the deep red gloss shines.

I am reminded of back to school and fresh starts. The clean page of a brand new notebook, or a the shine of a new pair of boots; adventures lie ahead; marks are yet to be made. Autumn’s beauty lies in its endings, paving the way for new beginnings one leaf at a time.

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