Ever feel like winter is the longest season?
I thought back to all the winters I had endured, where I had such a hard time being motivated, socializing, or even feeling energized. People called it SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and I wondered did I really have seasonal affective disorder or was what I had felt just what I was supposed to feel like in winter- was it 100% natural?
My big breakthrough was realizing I was not a machine. (If you read my book, you read about my failed attempt at being a machine that worked 24/7) If we truly want to be productive and have the energy to be resilient we recognize and embrace that there are periods for rest, hustle, creativity and refinement.
Like nature, we should change through out the year.
Spring we find we have a natural ignition to start new projects and explore
summer the energy to invest into our goals and be social
fall we start to feel a natural nostalgia for winding down and harvesting the fruits of our labors
winter, the lack of sunlight leaves us naturally drawn to more sleep, more simplicity and more time hibernating at home.
How can we use the seasons (and their impact on us) to create more balance, resiliency, and productivity?
I was able to harness the spring and summer energy to create a new program, get 10 new corporate clients, and finish writing my book. The fall energy helped me harvest the fruit of my labors when I launch the new program and published my book.
But winter… winter energy meant rest.
It didn’t mean productivity through action, it meant valuing rest and I wasn’t quite sure as the breadwinner for my family that was responsible.
As winter settled in, I fought my natural urge to sleep a bit more and chugged coffee hoping the artificial motivation would take over.
But during this time, I was also reminded of something from my permaculture training and about this special time of year. It’s the time of year when daylight falls below 10 hours per day. It is known as the “Persephone Period” (November - January), when plants only get enough energy/sunlight for basic plant maintenance (not growth and development). Many of us live our lives on autopilot, not stopping to smell the roses let alone notice if they are budding, in full bloom or at the end of their season. Maybe I need to notice and heed what nature was modeling around me.
I've seen it time and time again with my clients, total burn out from years of constantly working. But nothing in nature constantly grows, so why should we think we can too?
This winter, I challenged myself to embrace the winter season and the natural rhythms I felt. I was curious to see if this slow down would actually help me speed up.
No, I did not stop working – I’ve got a family living in an expensive part of Northern California to support! But I did follow my natural instincts to go slower, I limited my commitments and slept as many hours as I needed rather than the prescribed eight hours of sleep.
It meant being 100% present and okay with a slower pace. It meant not stretching myself too thin on the things I had in front of me. I even asked if I could start a new project that needed lots of creative energy and brainstorming, if we could start in March. Just like plants do during the Persephone period, I put myself in 'maintaining mode' instead of building, creating or growth mode.
This was very difficult for my mind to wrap its head around.
And to my surprise, this slower time full of rest was very ‘productive’.
Without working out or eating “clean”, I lost the 50+ lbs I gained during pregnancy.
As mid-march rolled around, I had a sudden creative spark that helped me create the deliverables for the project I delayed in record time.
And in 3 hours, I was able to write 2 months-worth of blog posts.
Because of this rest, I returned to spring season with more creativity, motivation and energy than I ever had. I found myself able to handle stressful situations better.
So yes, I would say that slowing down during winter helped my productivity and resilience.