This Article First Appeared in Happify
I still remember the winters of my childhood. As cooler weather set in and the days got shorter, lives moved indoors, the focus shifted to staying warm, and we looked after our bodies so we could brave the cold months ahead.
There was something very comforting in that. It felt like a siesta for our souls. We spent our evenings playing board games, engaged in our hobbies, or locked in conversation before the fireplace. We indulged in hours of reading in bed. We allowed ourselves to be, to daydream, and to slow down with the pace of the world. And when we came out of our months-long refuge, I distinctly remember the feeling of falling in love with life all over again. It was as though loving ourselves had paved the way for loving life.
Winters today are not the same. Our seasons have blended into each other, just as our days have bled into our nights. We are forever on the go; and, somehow, taking out time to rest and recover has become increasingly difficult. We’re constantly bombarded with noise, which has made us all but deaf to the longings of our souls.
With everything that we’ve collectively lived through this past year, most of us are in dire need of a break. We’re exhausted—from the never-ending bad news, the monotony, the isolation. Exhausted from the daily fights over the internet and the bathroom, the endless stacks of dirty dishes, and the perpetual laundry day. Exhausted with trudging on, fighting to put our best foot forward, and holding the fort for our families and our teams.
We desperately need a break. And it will not come from the world. Once the exhaustion of the pandemic is over, the endless treadmill of life will begin. It is up to us to give this break to ourselves. To recognize that we’re long overdue for a real winter. For stepping into our body and listening to its needs. For silencing external demands, and tending to the voice of our inner selves. And for doing so with tender love and deep regard.
Here are two crucial questions to ask yourself as you settle down and settle in.
What Is My Body Telling Me?
Some of us can understand our bodies when we slow down and pay attention. We know that the unease in our gut means we’re acting outside our values. Or that the throbbing headache is a sign that we need to let go of something. Most of us, though, are strangers to our bodily signals, and keep silencing our pains until they immobilize us. Even then, we tend to pop pills for the pain rather than giving ourselves the break we really need. Make body-scan meditations a regular practice. As you shine the light of loving attention on every finger and limb, you’ll notice them come alive. You’ll connect to the subtle ways in which your body talks to you. When you feel unease or tension, you may want to ask yourself gently: ‘What do I need in this moment?’ You may have to ask a few times over to get to the real need.
How Will I Honor Its Needs?
Once you hear your true longing, it’s time to honor it. This too can be difficult for many of us because we live in a world that prizes busyness. We’re quick to judge ourselves as “lazy” for unplugging from its constant demands, or fearing we’ll fall behind if we give ourselves the break we desperately need. Our fears get loud: ‘I can’t afford to do so,’ ‘It’s not the right time,’ ‘I don’t have the right team.’ Instead of arguing with them, which is draining and often futile, shift your attention to the most important person in your life—the one who lives deep within. Remind yourself that the body is a vehicle of the soul. And that it’s your soul you need to honor, not your fear or the distractions of an overly stimulated world that benefits from your endless churning.
And if you feel guilty for honoring your needs, which may happen if you’ve spent a lifetime disregarding them, allow the guilt to be. But don’t entertain it for long. Simply consider it a by-product of your self-transformation, and turn to the more important work of simply being. For me, it means reading books I never find time to read, taking long baths, sewing. It means frozen chicken poppers for dinner three days in a row, allowing the laundry basket to fill to the brim, and shrugging it all off with a “Whatever.” And, sometimes, it means tidying the house, slow-cooking dinners, clearing out the kitchen cabinets.
What it really means is letting your real persona decide your day without fearing that it’s a demon that will destroy your life, and not justifying the need to drive yourself like a task master. It means, I guess, trusting yourself. Nature does, after all. Why shouldn’t you?