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How 'Wintering' has changed my perspective and improved my mental health

How 'Wintering' has changed my perspective and improved my mental health
Photo by Mara Ket on Unsplash
person holding heart-shaped snow

Winter has always been a bit of a struggle for me. A long slog that must be endured. As soon as October comes around, my mental health takes a dip. I get a rebound in December with its cozy holiday vibes, but once the calendar flips to January, my mental health takes a major hit. I find myself counting down the days until March, wishing time away.

But lately, I’ve realized just how problematic this is for me. Not only does my mental health suffer, but as a result of my winter 'blahs,' my relationships also suffer. I’m shorter with my family. My motivation wanes, which in turn leads to feelings of shame and guilt, which decreases motivation even more. Rinse and repeat.



woman in gray hoodie sitting on brown wooden boat on lake during daytimePhoto by Boxed Water Is Better on Unsplash

For the past few years, I’ve been making more of a concerted effort to tend to my mental health during these seasonal changes. An introvert at heart, hygge is my jam. Snuggling under a blanket with a hot cuppa something? Yes, please.

What has really transformed my outlook on winter and helped my mental health in the process, however, has been the concept of wintering. Popularized by Katherine May in her book by the same nameWintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times – wintering has not only changed the way I look at this season on the calendar, but also similar seasons of life.

Central to May’s book and the concept of wintering is adjusting our perspective of winter – whether the literal or metaphorical variety – from one of bleakness to one of renewal. Winters, after all, are essential to regrowth.

“Wintering brings about some of the most profound and insightful moments of our human experience, and wisdom resides in those who have wintered,” May writes.

Just reading these words last year – in the depths of a pandemic winter in the Upper Midwest, where cold isn’t just cold but downright frigid – brought comfort in this otherwise painful season. Instead of something to endure and wish away, winter started to feel almost honorable. And my newfound acceptance of it started to feel radical and rebellious. Instead of feeling like there was something wrong with me for feeling a bit sluggish, anxiety-ridden, and despairing, I felt an almost giddy ease, like I was in on a secret that these feelings were not only okay, but necessary.

body of water and snow-covered mountains during daytimePhoto by Tim Stief on Unsplash

At its core, wintering – to me, at least – is about changing my perspective and paying attention. “When you start tuning in to winter, you realize that we live through a thousand winters in our lives – some big, some small,” May writes. While this might seem like a pessimistic approach, there is comfort in knowing that we’ve made it through lean, hard, lonely times before, and we can do it again.

These winters of our life don’t need to be feared or avoided, but held with care and compassion. The past couple of years have felt like a never-ending winter for many of us, I suspect. Even when things seem reasonably “fine,” there’s a subliminal heaviness to my psyche. I feel stuck and confused, lethargic and antsy all at the same time. I want to heal.

Don’t get me wrong, wintering didn’t magically “fix” anything, but it did cause a subtle shift in me that snowballed (pardon the winter pun) into something more comfortable. Or at least less brutal.

So what does wintering look like for me, and how does it help my mental health?

person in orange jacket standing on snow covered groundPhoto by Boxed Water Is Better on Unsplash

Well, here are a few things I’ve tried to incorporate into my life during winter – whether they come in the months of December through February or some other time of the year:

Trust my intuition, and feel the feels. Once I accepted winters as a necessary, and perhaps even helpful part of life, I was able to accept them more easily. If I’m feeling sad or lonely, I let myself feel sad and lonely. Same thing with joy and comfort. We don’t need to ignore our sadness, or pretend it isn’t there; nor do we need to tamper our joy and contentment. We only need to trust ourselves. “Wintering,” May writes, “ is a moment of intuition, our true needs felt keenly as a knife.”

Give myself permission to rest – like, really, rest. Lying on the couch while my mind races with all the things I “should” be doing isn’t really resting. Nor is it resting if I feel guilty about how or when you rest. Wintering gives us permission to rest when and how we need. No questions asked. That means more sleep too. With darkness enveloping our home earlier, we might feel an almost circadian urge to sleep more. This is normal and good.

Get physical with wintering. In her book, May tells the story of cold water swimming (and by cold, I mean 37 degrees Fahrenheit cold). I was nearly shivering just reading about it, but there was something exhilarating about it too.

“Immersion in cold water has been shown to increase levels of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that stimulates the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, by 250 percent,” May notes in the book. “A recent study found that regular winter swimming significantly decreased tension and fatigue, as well as negative states associated with memory and mood, and improved swimmers’ sense of general wellbeing.”

person holding white ceramic mugPhoto by Alex Padurariu on Unsplash

I’m not going to start swimming in Lake Michigan in the middle of January, but this concept has changed my perspective. I’m more likely to blast the cold water at the end of a shower, and I was more eager to walk out into a cold mountain lake on vacation this summer, instead of sitting on the rocky shore as I would have done in the past. I feel energized and peaceful all at the same time, while also sensing a clarity that I can’t quite pinpoint. Bottom line: it feels good even if it feels uncomfortable.

Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed of the dark and difficult times. As May writes, “Everybody winters at one time or another; some winter over and over again.” In our glossy and edited social media culture, it can be easy to think that we are alone in our struggles, mental health challenges, and difficult times. But that just isn’t true.

Our inability to accept, hold space for, and even nurture our pain doesn’t come from a personality flaw or weakness, but simply because we weren’t given the tools to do otherwise. As May writes, “We’re not raised to recognize wintering or to acknowledge its inevitability. Instead, we tend to see it as a humiliation, something that should be hidden from view lest we shock the world too greatly.”

I’ve been open about my mental health challenges, but the concept of wintering has helped me be more open about these challenges in real time. I’m far more likely to say, “I am struggling” or “I’m dealing with a touch of depression right now,” than waiting until I “feel better.” And this distinction has been critical in getting the help and support so that I can actually feel better.

Wintering isn’t just cozy socks, glowing candles, and knitting while tucked under a quilt. Though it can certainly be those things too. Mostly it’s about seeing winter, and any hard or dark times in our life, for what they are – essential. Wintering is about shutting off the constant busyness and go-go-going of our lives that we sometimes use to mask our pain or anxiety or sadness so that we can recover, heal, and grow.

Christine is a writer who lives in the Chicago area with her husband, two sons, and rescue dog. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Pop Culture

Airbnb host finds unexpected benefits from not charging guests a cleaning fee

Host Rachel Boice went for a more "honest" approach with her listings—and saw major perks because of it.

@rachelrboice/TikTok

Many frustrated Airbnb customers have complained that the separate cleaning fee is a nuisance.

Airbnb defines its notorious cleaning fee as a “one-time charge” set by the host that helps them arrange anything from carpet shampoo to replenishing supplies to hiring an outside cleaning service—all in the name of ensuring guests have a “clean and tidy space.”

But as many frustrated Airbnb customers will tell you, this feature is viewed as more of a nuisance than a convenience. According to NerdWallet, the general price for a cleaning fee is around $75, but can vary greatly between listings, with some units having cleaning fees that are higher than the nightly rate (all while sometimes still being asked to do certain chores before checking out). And often none of these fees show up in the total price until right before the booking confirmation, leaving many travelers feeling confused and taken advantage of.

However, some hosts are opting to build cleaning fees into the overall price of their listings, mimicking the strategy of traditional hotels.

Rachel Boice runs two Airbnb properties in Georgia with her husband Parker—one being this fancy glass plane tiny house (seen below) that promises a perfect glamping experience.

@rachelrboice Welcome to The Tiny Glass House 🤎 #airbnbfinds #exploregeorgia #travelbucketlist #tinyhouse #glampingnotcamping #atlantageorgia #fyp ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim

Like most Airbnb hosts, the Boice’s listing showed a nightly rate and separate cleaning fee. According to her interview with Insider, the original prices broke down to $89 nightly, and $40 for the cleaning fee.

But after noticing the negative response the separate fee got from potential customers, Rachel told Insider that she began charging a nightly rate that included the cleaning fee, totaling to $129 a night.

It’s a marketing strategy that more and more hosts are attempting in order to generate more bookings (people do love feeling like they’re getting a great deal) but Boice argued that the trend will also become more mainstream since the current Airbnb model “doesn’t feel honest.”

"We stay in Airbnbs a lot. I pretty much always pay a cleaning fee," Boice told Insider. "You're like: 'Why am I paying all of this money? This should just be built in for the cost.'"

Since combining costs, Rachel began noticing another unexpected perk beyond customer satisfaction: guests actually left her property cleaner than before they were charged a cleaning fee. Her hypothesis was that they assumed she would be handling the cleaning herself.

"I guess they're thinking, 'I'm not paying someone to clean this, so I'll leave it clean,'" she said.

This discovery echoes a similar anecdote given by another Airbnb host, who told NerdWallet guests who knew they were paying a cleaning fee would “sometimes leave the place looking like it’s been lived in and uncleaned for months.” So, it appears to be that being more transparent and lumping all fees into one overall price makes for a happier (and more considerate) customer.

These days, it’s hard to not be embittered by deceptive junk fees, which can seem to appear anywhere without warning—surprise overdraft charges, surcharges on credit cards, the never convenience “convenience charge” when purchasing event tickets. Junk fees are so rampant that certain measures are being taken to try to eliminate them outright in favor of more honest business approaches.

Speaking of a more honest approach—as of December 2022, AirBnb began updating its app and website so that guests can see a full price breakdown that shows a nightly rate, a cleaning fee, Airbnb service fee, discounts, and taxes before confirming their booking.

Guests can also activate a toggle function before searching for a destination, so that full prices will appear in search results—avoiding unwanted financial surprises.


This article originally appeared on 11.08.23

National Autistic Society/Youtube

"Diverted" educational video shared through the Too Much Information Campaign.

Everyone who lives with autism experiences it somewhat differently. You'll often hear physicians and advocates refer to the spectrum that exists for those who are autistic, pointing to a wide range of symptoms and skills.

But one thing many autistic people experience is sensory processing issues.


For autistic people, processing the world around them when it comes to sight, smell, or touch can be challenging, as their senses are often over- or under-sensitive. Certain situations — like meandering through a congested mall or enduring the nonstop blasting of police sirens — can quickly become unbearable.

This reality is brought to life in a new video by the U.K.'s National Autistic Society (NAS).

The eye-opening PSA takes viewers into the mind of a autistic woman as she thinks about struggling to stay composed in a crowded, noisy train.

It's worth a watch:

The PSA hit especially close to home for 22-year-old actress and star of the video Saskia Lupin, who is autistic herself. "Overall I feel confused," she said, of abrupt changes to her routine. "Like I can't do anything and all sense of rationality is lost."

She's not alone.

According to a study cited in NAS' press release, 75% of autistic people say unexpected changes make them feel socially isolated. What's more, 67% reported seeing or hearing negative reactions from the public when they try to calm themselves down in such situations — from eyerolls and stares to unwelcome, hurtful comments.

The new PSA aims to improve that last figure in particular.

It's part of the organization's Too Much Information campaign — an initiative to build empathy and understanding in allistic (i.e., not autistic) people for those on the spectrum.

Autism Awareness Day, campaign, World Autism Awareness Week

Campaign by National Autistic Society created to share the autistic experience to the world.

Photo from Pixabay

"It isn't that the public sets out to be judgmental towards autistic people," Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS, said in a statement in 2016. It's just that, often, the public doesn't "see" the autism.

"They see a 'strange' man pacing back and forth in a shopping center," Lever explained, "or a 'naughty' girl having a tantrum on a bus, and don't know how to respond."

Well, now we do.

Instead of staring, rolling your eyes, or thinking judgmental thoughts about the young person's parents, remember: You have no idea what that stranger on the train is going through.

“We can't make the trains run on time," said Lever. But even the simplest, smallest things — like remembering not to stare and giving a person some space and compassion if they need it — can make a big difference.


This article originally appeared on 03.28.18

Pop Culture

A brave fan asks Patrick Stewart a question he doesn't usually get and is given a beautiful answer

Patrick Stewart often talks about his childhood and the torment his father put him and his mother through.

Patrick Stewart often talks about his childhood and the torment his father put him and his mother through. However, how he answered this vulnerable and brave fan's question is one of the most eloquent, passionate responses about domestic violence I've ever seen.



WARNING: At 2:40, he's going to break your heart a little.

You can read more about Heather Skye's hug with Captain Picard at her blog.


This article originally appeared on 06.26.13.


How to clear a stuffy nose instantly.

With cold season upon us, there's no better time to learn a couple of awesome and easy tricks that will clear up the dreaded and annoying stuffy nose.

Prevention magazine created a short video showing two easy ways to get you breathing free again no matter how stuffed up you might be.


Both tricks take less than two minutes and are certainly worth trying out when it feels like that runny nose might never go away.


Watch the YouTube video below:

This article first appeared on 9.8.17.

Family

Heartwarming comics break down complex parenting issues with ease

Lunarbaboon comics tackle huge, important subjects with an effective, lighthearted touch that you can't help but smile at.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

Writing comics helped a father struggling with anxiety and depression.

Christopher Grady, a father and teacher from Toronto, was struggling with anxiety and depression. That's when he started drawing.

He describes his early cartoons and illustrations as a journal where he'd chronicle everyday moments from his life as a husband, elementary school teacher, and father to two kids.

"I needed a positive place to focus all my thoughts and found that when I was making comics I felt a little bit better," he says.

He began putting a few of his comics online, not expecting much of a response. But he quickly learned that people were connecting with his work in a deep way.


The comics series called Lunarbaboon was born, and the response to the first few was so powerful that Grady was inspired do more with his comics than just document his own experience.

"I began getting messages from many people about how they connected to the comics and it gave them hope and strength as they went through their own dark times," he says.

"When they look back…they probably won't remember what was said…or where you were when you said it. They may not remember any details of your time together. But they will remember that you were there…and that's what matters most."

"Usually the circle of people we can support, help, influence is limited to our families, friends, coworkers, random stranger at the bus stop, but with my comic I suddenly found my circle of power was much much larger," Grady explains. "I guess I decided to use this power for good."

Grady continued to draw, making a point to infuse the panels with his own special brand of positivity.

"Kids are always watching adults and they look to the adults as role models," he says. "I try to show (my kids and students) that even with all my flaws and weaknesses I am still a good person and I can still make a positive change in the world."

Lunarbaboon comics tackle huge, important subjects with an effective, lighthearted touch that you can't help but smile at.

Check out Grady's take on teaching his son about consent. (All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission.)

consent, relationship advice, father son advice, family

A comic about listening and respecting your partner.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

Here's one about parents being supportive of a gay son or daughter.

sexual orientation, parenting gay children, positive messages, gender orientation

Parents being supportive of their gay son.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

On raising girls in a patriarchal world.

adulting, education, medical field, dreams

Comic encourages girls to chase all their dreams.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

And here's a sweet one about appreciating the heck out of his wife.

motherhood, moms, childbirth, family

Mom one ups dad easily.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

Big topics. Important issues. Grady tackles them with humility and ease.

As Lunarbaboon has continued to grow, Grady says the messages of support he gets have become increasingly powerful.

He certainly doesn't claim to have all the answers to all the complexities of parenting, but he does say that "people like knowing they aren't alone in life's daily struggles. Most people who contact me just want to say thank you for putting something positive into the world."

Grady doesn't expect his Lunarbaboon comics to fix rape culture or end bigotry. He just hopes his message of love, inclusion, and positivity continues to spread.

inclusion, gender roles, social anxiety, happy

Teaching children to accept what might be different.

All images by Christopher Grady/Lunarbaboon, used with permission

"My hope is that for the short time people read it they smile and feel good," he says. "Then I hope they take that good feeling and smile into the world and make it slightly brighter."

You can check out even more of Grady's awesome work over on his website or in his newly published book.


This article was originally published on 11.30.17