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Finding Space in the Dark

As soon as the days start to shorten, and the shadows lengthen, my internal world goes on high alert, looking for signs of the depression monster.

I start pulling out my light box in the mornings.  I double down on my rituals. I pay attention to how long my low moods last, and if they are situational.  When we enter daylight savings time, I move from code yellow to code orange.

Any of you who deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder know this dance.

This year, my anxiety was high going into the fall.  Last winter was one of my worst.  Simply getting out of bed and going to work in the morning took so much energy.  The holidays were stressful.  Receiving (and finding room for) gifts was especially overwhelming.  The energy of thinking of things to go on a gift list for myself (and for Chris) was just not existent.  I recently wrote on Instagram about this season - that I wasn't only depressed, but I was mourning many things.  This fall, I wondered how much had changed.  I wondered if my growth would sustain me through my hardest season.  I wondered if I would be able to enjoy the holidays. 

I read a lot this year, and one of my favorite books was "Learning to Walk in the Dark" by Barbara Brown Taylor. I listened to the audiobook for free through our local library. 

So much of this book stuck with me.  First there was the fact that just listening to Barbara is soothing. However I would say that two major concepts impacted me.  Seeking understanding, instead of running and hiding from my personal dark, and the value of preserving physical darkness.

I've combatted my anxiety this fall with these mantras.

I will embrace slow I will celebrate the light when I can I will become friends with the dark

We follow and celebrate all the seasons in nature it seems, except winter.  Sure, there's winter sports and holidays.  That's not what I mean.

In Spring, we watch for the first flowers.  We smell the damp earth, and savor every extra minute of light we get at the end of our days. In Summer, we soak in sun and ocean.  We revel in the warmth, listen to the tree frogs and cicadas at night. In Autumn, we harvest.  We smell the crispness in the air, and pull out our sweaters and jackets.  We have bonfires, rake leaves, bake pies, and carve pumpkins.

And in winter, when Nature rests, we have one of our busiest human seasons.  We bake, we shop, we gift, we plan, we work.

We never stop.

Nature reminds us with the short days, with the cold nights to rest.  But we keep going. This resistance to slowing down is something that has greatly contributed to my winter blues. I've always greatly felt the need to slow down, and also the push to do all the things.

Here are a few ways I'm choosing to slow down this winter:

Only blogging once a week vs three times - definitely through the winter, and potentially until my book is done. Minimizing gifting (both receiving and giving) Only putting up the decorations I really want to see, and not over extending myself with outdoor lights etc. Not going to stores (online shopping FTW)  Minimizing my screen time - I have done this since before the fall, but not taking my phone to bed with me has greatly increased my sleep quality.  I plug my phone in downstairs, and my fitbit is my alarm.  I fall asleep better because I'm not scrolling, and I actually get out of bed in the morning because I'm not distracted. Taking a couple additional days off work.

Part of me feels like it's impossible to really embrace the qualities of Winter in our society.  We must always be busy, working, hustling to fund our lives and provide for our families. But that's when I remind myself, that we only need to create a little space. 

How are you creating space to slow down this winter?

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