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Fall Back with a Plan for Winter Wellness

Daylight savings time ends when the clocks "fall back" on November 1 at 2:00am. The shift in time can be very influential on our wellbeing. Winter provides a chance to slow down, rest and restore when we hunker down for that long winter's nap.

However, eight months into a pandemic, this year is different, so it's time to make a plan for your winter wellness.

"Winter is coming" isn't just a Game of Throne catch phrase. It's a call to prepare ourselves for what's ahead; a reminder to intentionally plan behaviors and practices to build resilience during the dark days of working and schooling from home.

The good news is, when we know a storm is coming, we can prepare for it! Here in the Northeast, we’re familiar with last minute runs for bread, milk and needed supplies before a storm keeps us home for a few days. Similarly, now is the time to make a resilience plan in anticipation of our first pandemic winter.

It’s time to stock your mental, emotional and physical pantry.

Get yourself and your family ready. Grab a notebook to brainstorm ways to build your resilience and bolster winter wellness. This could be a family conversation at dinner, an individual journal reflection or a conversation with your closest “pod” of people- even if they are in a different location. Important areas to include in your plan can be remembered using the word CALMER.

  • C – Connection: Maintaining strong relationships is more important (and more challenging) than ever. We’re naturally stronger and more resilient when we’re in meaningful relationships. Isolation and disconnection are the enemy of wellness. Consider building your plan WITH a group so you can support one another- create a “Resilience Pod” of sorts.  If several people join in, you’ll have a guarantee of connection. Can you commit to calling one connection each week? Maybe start a letter writing campaign within the group so you’re all sending and receiving notes (Email works too, but imagine the pleasure of an actual letter in the mail! What a fun throw-back!) Hold a zoom call to brainstorm ways to stay connected.
  • A-Agency: Agency is your ability to act on your own behalf; to make things happen. In times of uncertainty, it helps to focus on what you can influence instead of worrying about things that are out of your control. Where in your life can you make decisions, take actions or have influence on your daily life? Making a winter wellness plan is one such action. Where else can you influence the daily rhythm of your life? Even small moments of action add up to empowerment.
  • L – Loving Kindness:  Practicing loving kindness is a way to cultivate inner calm, shift your mindset to the positive and build empathy and self-compassion. Life is tough right now; practicing self-compassion and patience is essential. If you’re discouraged or hearing a critical inner voice, think about an uplifting, supportive message you would tell a friend, then talk to yourself in that same way. Look up loving-kindness meditations online to do alone or with others as a way to settle, connect and feel loved.
  • M -Movement: This can’t be understated! Finding ways to move is always important; in times of stress it’s crucial because our nervous systems use movement to regulate and destress.  How can you keep yourself and your family moving? Use a morning stretch, a kitchen dance party, or jumping jacks between episodes of your newest show. (Hey - I'm a realist!) Ideally, get outside each day to maximize your sunshine! Bundle up to eat lunch outdoors or walk one block each morning. If it’s dark by the time you get outside, grab a flashlight to walk 3 circles around your house – the kids will think it’s an adventure.
  • E – Explore your Emotions:  Emotions are running high for many of us and it’s difficult to manage the overflow of emotional energy in our houses.  Although it’s tempting to squash, suppress or otherwise try to "ignore" big feelings, letting them get expressed in healthy ways is the best path toward resilience.  Try journaling to get things off your mind, use positive affirmations to shift your mindset or practice meditation to learn to ride the waves of emotion you experience. Breathing and grounding techniques can get you through tough moments; Movement is helpful here too. Investigate the many kid-friendly ways to learn about and manage emotion.
  • R- Ritual:  These and other wellness practices are called “practices” for a reason. Rituals are habits that we choose mindfully and repeat over and over, in the same way, so they become an expected and meaningful part of our experience. How can you use ritual to establish positive wellness habits? Set out your running shoes each night for your morning walk, start meals with a loving kindness practice, end each week sending an email to a loved one. Make your rituals special – use music, candles, even a silly handshake – anything that makes the mundane magical. Kids will especially get on board once a habit is made special through ritual.

Winter is coming. Create your plan and get your wellness “supplies” ready...         you’ll be much CALMER if you do.

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