With limited sunlight and snowfall that sometimes makes it impossible to leave the house, winter in Buffalo can be rough. Add in a pandemic that’s lasted two winters and it’s a lot. It can be easy to fall into winter slumps or experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), making it difficult to feel “good.”
That’s why self-care is so important.
A common misconception about self-care, due to its recent resurgence in pop culture, is that it’s something you buy, not necessarily something you do. But the original definition of self-care, “a claiming [of] autonomy over the body as a political act against institutional, technocratic, very racist, and sexist medicine,” originates from the rise of the civil rights and women’s movements of the ’60s and ’70s. During this time the correlation between poverty and poor health was identified, leading to various initiatives to shrink these gaps. Fresh food and wellness programs were developed along with distribution of educational resources amongst communities to address these issues. History can always teach us something about the present.
In keeping with the original meaning of self-care, here is a list of five ideas to take care of yourself this winter and beyond.
Chase the sun
It’s true what they say, the sun can help stave off symptoms of SAD and is an easy way to boost serotonin. Similarly to how I’ve written about plants ability to improve our mental health through increased serotonin, the same is true about the sun. The best way to get this boost is to spend a few minutes in the sun per day, preferably morning sunlight. During daylight savings months, exposure to the sun is limited, which can make the process of “chasing the sun” almost like a game to gather those bits of sunrays on your skin while you still can. As it gets warmer and the sun is out for longer, this is a great exercise in daily self-care. For those who struggle to find time during the day to get outside, artificial sun lamps that come in a variety of prices and sizes have been found to help fight the symptoms of SAD.
Cook nutritious meals
This is a great act of self-care that, if you aren’t already doing, can make a huge difference. As easy as it may seem to cook at home, we’re entering our second year in a pandemic and people are burnt out,. Ordering delivery or eating “meals” that consist of snacking on whatever is in your cabinet can become the norm, and even though they taste good, they’re not giving us what we need to feel better. What nutritious meals provide, however, is the strength to make the meals that our body needs. A recent study found that one out of 10 adults aren’t eating the daily recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. A great way to get those daily servings? Soups! An all-encompassing meal that can capture multiple food groups in one pot. Gather your favorite vegetables, stock and protein and you’re good to go. Another great substitute for non-soup lovers? One-pan meals are your best friend.
Move your body
This is a fun one. Given that a large percentage of the population have moved to working in hybrid environments, if not completely work from home, we are moving our bodies less and less. Working out for 30 minutes a day is recommended, but separately from that, we should be moving our bodies regularly throughout the day, even if for five minutes every hour. Moving, even in small increments, helps our overall wellbeing and mood. Think of them as little acts of self-care you can do throughout the day. Whether it be through desk stretches, or dancing around to your favorite song, give yourself that time and your body and mind will thank you.
Tap into your community
Self-care can be both about doing things for yourself to improve your mental and physical health, but also about doing things for others. Primarily, being involved in your community, building relationships with the people around you, is a practice that we as a culture are losing. More than ever people are noting that they are lonely, even with the internet and social media giving us more ways to stay in contact with each other. What does this action look like? It can be as simple as making a regular habit to strike up a conversation with neighbors you see on your street or joining your community’s newsletter or meetings. If something like this doesn’t exist and you’re in a position to make this a priority, start one yourself. Make fliers or send an email around to your building asking if others would like to be involved. This year I learned my community does regular fundraising around the holidays for those in need by way of a mailer they sent out. It’s little things but having people around you that you can foster community with and do “good,” together does wonders for the soul.
Get a hobby – something you do purely for fun, not as a “side hustle” or income stream
Hobbies are few and far between nowadays when pretty much anything can be monetized. Making a choice to indulge in a hobby as a form of self-care and not something to be monetized means you’re doing something purely because you want to. Having hobbies that we’re good and bad at teach us about discipline, flexes our learning abilities and brain function, teaches us new things, and are just fun to do. Adults regularly lose their interests in hobbies once they hit certain milestones in their lives, sometimes replacing them with other activities, or just opting to do nothing. Sometimes people feel like they never have had hobbies and are not sure where to start. Choosing something you’ve always been interested in but never committed to is a great start. It can be anything from drawing to knitting to snowboarding or pottery. Want an even bigger challenge? Make a hobby out of something you’re bad at. Challenge yourself to stick with it even when you’re not naturally great and see how you feel about yourself as you gradually get better. The great thing about hobbies that are just for you? You only have yourself to worry about, and that’s who matters the most.