How to Thrive in Winter | Fresh Exchange

How to Thrive in Winter

Thriving in Winter and Hard Times on Fresh Exchange

You can listen to the recording of this podcast below or on Apple for the full episode as well.


How are we friends? Just a quick check-in here. Let’s begin by just pausing for a self-scan. Like how are you REALLY doing? I love that moment at the end of a yoga class where you lay down on your mat and cover up with a blanket even. Let’s enjoy this simple moment before we jump into our convo! Personally, at the end of the day, my favorite thing is to take a hot shower or lay on my acupressure mat for 10 minutes in front of a fire, or gosh anything that involves me just centering into myself for a moment. As a mom the crazy is constant. Everything begging me to feed it. It can be hard to hear my own self ask for feeding sometimes. So take this moment right now no matter where you are in life and just looking inward to ask how you are doing is vital. Go ahead and assess the anxiety, assess the way you are breathing is it deep or shallow? Don’t fix it exactly just note where you are. As we head into the convo today I want you just leave space to do this for yourself right now. Today we are going to be deep-diving into winter and the depths of this season as we sit right in the heart of it. The reality is we still have months left of cold days before the green appears again so how do we not just sit here in these months holding our breath just trying to survive? How can we truly thrive in a season that challenges so much of ourselves? The cold. The lack of green. The way everything takes longer. Then how can we apply these lessons into moments where we are navigating hard times in our lives. Can winter truly be a teacher for us? Yes! The answer is YES!

Thriving in Winter and Hard Times on Fresh Exchange

The thing is as I have mentioned we are in the middle of winter not just as a season outside but also in our culture and world. We are enduring a pandemic. We are facing the realities of climate change. Life is shifting constantly right now. We are grieving in so many ways. We all are going through various moments of isolation and solitude whether it be in support as a parent or true isolation living alone. The ranges of experience may be wide but they have one commonality, we all can agree we are experiencing some form of grief or are at some point in the grief cycle. So I feel this conversation is more important than ever right now. Because even in grief and despair we can find a way to trudge through and back to the light. I promise and just as nature does, she has given us the tools to guide us and she calls it winter.

Thriving in Winter and Hard Times on Fresh Exchange

To set the stage for you. I have grown up in the winter here in Northern Michigan. Though we are praised in Northern Michigan for our summers and Great Lakes… let me tell you that most of life here revolves around the cold days that can be gray, snowy, and at times, isolating. I know what it is to prepare for massive snowstorms, be careful about outdoor exposure in extremely cold temps, and the list goes on. I truly hated it for a long time through my teens and twenties, but as a child, I remember walking to school from my home in Harbor Springs Michigan and I had to stop at every driveway because I couldn’t see cars moving down them because the snow was taller than me. I remember snowbanks I could only reach the top of if I climbed up on top of my dad’s work truck. As I got older the inconvenience of winter felt worthy of running from. I didn’t like being uncomfortable. I didn’t want the weather to dictate my days. Why be uncomfortable if I could live somewhere warm and sunny and I could eat on a patio in February without a question. Soon I learned that discomfort is something we have to become deeply comfortable with because it is part of being a human. Life isn’t about always enjoying Sunshine and Rainbows all the time. In fact, it is the darker days that define us the most and bring a brighter light to the days where life feels more comfortable and light.

Thriving in Winter and Hard Times on Fresh Exchange

After years away and traveling the world, I longed for the depths of mid winter. I felt incomplete without a good winter under my belt. I found it hard to have the space for the deep work I needed. That’s when Mike and I decided it was time to return north and head for the winter life again. I suggested Wintering by Katherine May in my first pod but I will mention it here again because May’s book is essential if you wish to dive into this topic even further than we do here. One thing I loved that she correlated in particular was the idea of seasons being important because they are the reminder that life doesn’t move in a linear way but instead in a cyclical way. That identified why a life of definitive seasons speaks to me. The repetitive ups and downs of the seasons swooping up and moving downward in this beautiful motion. It is essential and such a huge part of life. It isn’t flat. It isn’t straight. We move around the circle over and over and over. We mark our days by the rhythms themselves. It is a way to mark our growth and no season allows us to reflect, dive deep, and root out what isn’t good and open us up to what is ahead for us, than winter. In fact I would beg to say that Winter is the most important season of them all.

Thriving in Winter and Hard Times on Fresh Exchange

So how do we thrive in winter?

Winter is hard. Let’s start there. Whether you live in a place that gets lake effect snow every few days or it is just wet and cold and windy. It is a tough season but it is intended to be. The discomfort is where we must learn to find comfort. First, though, we must remember how we perceived winter as children. The first snow felt like magic. The play. The changing landscape. The new routines. The mittens. The hats. The sleds. The skis. All of it. It is pure magic and there is a connection I remember to winter and my community as a child living in the north. So I want to start with remembering that….that as a child….winter was magical.

Thriving in Winter and Hard Times on Fresh Exchange

When I returned to the north as a mother and ready to take on a challenge of understanding how to enjoy this season for all it is. I began to note the things that made this season beautiful and magical to me as an adult. As a result, I learned some deeply beautiful things that now leave me longing for winter’s return in the height of August. Not wanting summer to end but desiring the beauty of a necessary season.

  • Prepare properly:
    • We buy great gear, we save up food from summer so we can savor the acidity of tomatoes in January fresh from the freezer. We mentally align new routines like doing puzzles, saving up a tv series to enjoy, and more. We take note of the way the Earth prepares such as the bear preparing to hibernate, birth her child, heal and emerge after the snow begins thawing. We embrace the same ideas and we must. You cannot deny the season you are in even f you aren’t ready to be there. We have to learn to jump in with both feet and be ready for what it has for us as much as we can.
  • Embrace the slow:
    • When we moved back I had to learn that driving took an extra 20 minutes anywhere. Just plan on it. We cannot drive quickly. We cannot walk up and down our driveway quickly. It takes 15 minutes at least to get everyone in their coats and hats and outside for the whole hour we might get them to hang out there and then another 15 minutes to undress. The whole routine of winter is about going slow. We must take note of that. That isn’t a coincidence. We can get utterly frustrated with the shift in the speed of life, but instead, we need to lean in. It is hard to dig into this because it is shocking to our system when we live in a world of fast-paced. The rest of things in life don’t move with that rhythm of cyclical motions. We have to instead choose how to do it for ourselves.
    • Understanding the art of slow is best learned while in the simplicity and clarity of the winter. Things cannot be rushed. In fact, it is painful when it must happen, but if we instead just sink into the very nature that life is slower and this is when we remember the beauty of simple and less in its entirety we can find a new reverence for the beauty of it once again that then can be applied when the busier days come around again.
  • Lean into Community:
      • Pre-covid through the winter months we had a couple of dinner clubs we did. They were life-giving through the winter. Slow soups around warm wood stoves while the snow blew in. Cross country ski days followed by beers and all-day slow-cooked roasts to refuel us with beers. It was amazing, but I find even now in covid- times that we still lean into the community. It looks different, but I head out on a walk with a friend and mask up while we wander through nature. We Facetime and make cocktails over the internet together and laugh hard about how we are still in our pajamas. We find a connection still. We dive deeper into the relationships we need the most. The conversations open.
      • But on that same note…as we dive into the community we also use this time to dive into ourselves. We use this moment to put in the deepest level of work in our jobs, in ourselves, and more. We dive into the relationship with ourselves. It’s so hard to find the right time for this as an adult in a busy world, but winter can offer this for us. Take it with both hands and hang on to diving into it.
  • Create Simple Rituals:
    • Sunday dinners that take all-day
    • card games
    • puzzles
    • journaling
    • Tea and a fire
    • You name it. Create them. The things you always say…I will make time for that. Do it. Winter is our hush where we get this beautiful opportunity to prioritize them. The darkness presents us not with the dark but a chance to center into ourselves and make rituals that we long for in the depths of ourselves.
    • These rituals are what we must learn to devour to heal us for the busy work that begs us outside till the last light of June at 11 PM. Rest and live with simplicity now.
  • Discomfort is an opportunity:
    • When I am out in the cold and the wind whips up on our hill and I am feeding the chickens and the snow bites my cheeks it hurts like hell. Pulling a baby up a hill in an unexpected snowstorm and the snow is deep and in my boots, and my 4-year-old is cranking about it all, I take a moment and I breathe and then we sing a song. The moment is hard but we connect and we build a moment of resilience. I believe winter is our chance to establish our depth of strength to challenge how resilient we are. Every challenge is just a chance to be reminded of how capable we are of hard things.
  • Celebrate silence:
    • When I came back north after living in the south…I remember being on a walk with my son when he was just shy of 2 and he was in the sled. He was babbling and I was walking. Then there was this moment on a quiet dirt road on the peninsula we were living on when a lake effect snowstorm not on the map blew in quickly. This happens a lot where we live. Potato chip size flakes fell and he stopped talking and I saw him taking it in. The world was silent. Completely. Even the chickadees quieted. It was powerful and I could hear my heart beating. I could hear the snow hit the ground. Have you ever heard that? I in that moment began to crave the silence of winter. It became my love song for this season. Silence. Think of it. What season offers us true silence more than winter? When you wander into the woods the hush that comes upon the world around you is unmistakable. I now have never felt more alive than when I stand on my skis in the heart of winter.
  • Enjoy the Wilderness:
    • You cannot enjoy any season through the window. You must be out and experiencing it. Living here along Lake Michigan our world shifts dramatically through each season. The same hiking trail is a completely different experience in each one. The lake shifts color. The sand moves. The rocks become few and immense depending. There is a beauty to watching the seasons shift with the change in weather.
    • But winter is the easiest season to hide from being in, but I will tell you there is nothing more life-giving than being outside in the winter. Have the right gear, layer up, but get outside EVERY DAY!

If we can learn to thrive in the winter the other seasons are much easier. If we can learn to have a sense of grounding and purpose through these challenging months that feel to test our energy, our routines, and more we can endure some of the hardest things in our lives as well. Winter is simply our chance to remember the ability we have to adapt, embrace, shift, change, look inward, and head towards new growth even when it might feel uncomfortable. I cannot wait to hear how you learn to thrive in this season we are in.

Thriving in Winter and Hard Times on Fresh Exchange

As always if you have questions, shoot me an email I love connecting with all of you, and if you found this an interesting and exciting episode I hope you share with friends and family and subscribe or leave a review.

Thriving in Winter and Hard Times on Fresh Exchange

 

Next week we will have our first ever interview with Professional Sexologist and Body Image Expert, Megan Stubbs, who is sharing her gorgeous garden and we discuss the sexual nature we can dive into in ourselves because of our observations of nature.

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Bringing us back to nature through the garden and community.

I’m Megan Gilger and I am glad to have you here growing with me as we garden, live seasonally, and pursue an eco-lifestyle.

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