Wintering, what is it? Have you heard of it? Have you ever experienced it?
Well, if like me you are left feeling a bit confused by the term, check out this definition.
“Wintering is a season in the cold. It is the fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, side-lined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider.”
So not only is winter a season, but it is also a feeling; a state of being.
Wintering could happen at any time in our lives. It could result from an illness, bereavement, or even a birth. It could hit us because we feel humiliated or a failure. Sometimes, this feeling will creep up over a period of time, gradually infiltrating our thoughts and actions. It could be the slow burn out of a relationship or discovering that the world around us now sees us as obsolete because we haven’t continued to develop the skills we needed for a certain job role. It really could be any number of things.
The one thing that Katherine May highlights, perhaps helping to pull on one’s depressive state even further, is that “wintering is usually involuntary, lonely, and deeply painful.”
What Katherine reminds us is that we are just like nature’s seasons – we are prone to “stifling summers and low, dark, winters, to sudden drops in temperature, to light and shade.”
Wintering is therefore unavoidable and will hit us all at some point. She also highlights that just like nature, our personal wintering is likely to last forever, it will just become dormant for periods of time. Therefore you need to learn to weather the storm and get through these difficult seasons.
“Sometimes we will have to name our personal winters, and the words will feel barbed in our throats: grief, rejection, depression, illness, shame, failure, despair.”
Maybe this is the perfect time to learn more about ourselves so that we can begin to grow during times that are meant to try us rather than treating it as a period of time when we would normally hideaway. After all, if we can get through our winters we can survive every other season.
In 2016 ‘hygge’ was named the word of the year. It’s a Danish term representing coziness as a kind of mindful practice. A domestic comfort that helps to detract from the harsh reality we face when we head outside into the world. During our wintering phases perhaps we all need to fall into practicing hygge to help improve our overall health and wellbeing.
Often, when suffering from this particular phase in our lives, we find ourselves questioning how others see us. It’s as if our fragile state heightens certain paranoid elements of our brain into thinking that we are the centre of other peoples’ conversations. We worry that they are gossiping about us and believe that they doubt whether or not we are truly suffering. But is this really the case? Are people really talking about us? Questioning our actions? It is probably more likely that those who care about us are worried about us and want to help whereas those that are potentially talking about us to others aren’t the individuals we want in our life anyway.
Wintering is one of those books that takes what we think of a certain thing and completely turns it upside down. We need to stop looking at this state of mind as a negative time in our lives and start refocusing our attitude towards it. If we want to grow personally, we need this phase in our lives. It will help us to slow down, reflect, and alter our paths if needed in order to achieve everything we ever wanted.
Nature needs time to regenerate, and so do we. Society, however, sees our dips as a failure, and therefore we tell ourselves we are no good but in actual fact, if we use our wintering periods wisely we will come back even stronger.
My Thoughts on Wintering
Autumn is my favourite month. I love the fact that the weather cools slightly but that the evenings are still warm and the nights light. I love the changing colours of the trees when they go from rich, vibrant forest green to a golden and butterscotch yellow or a rich cherry red before turning dark mahogany.
For me, it symbolises the end of summer and a return to light winter jackets and perhaps a scarf.
I have never been one to celebrate the joy of winter though. That is until I read Wintering. For the first time, I have had my eyes opened to what the winter signifies both for us and nature.
It’s a time when nature can slow down and regenerate itself. The trees may be shedding their leaves but they are also getting ready to bore a new cycle of life. They, therefore, need time to rejuvenate and prepare for another cycle. If we take our cues from this, we too need time to revitalise ourselves; to recover from the hectic year, and prepare for a new one starting.
Human nature dictates that many of us see winter negatively. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s miserable and so it’s easy to see why. But what if we were to look at it in terms of a time to slow down, to spend longer sleeping if needed, to relax in the comfort of our own homes, wrapped up warm enjoying the rich home cooking and the warm, indulgent drinks that come with the season? Perhaps we need to see it more as an opportunity to do exactly the same as nature. See it as a time of solace, to restore the much-needed energy in order to have another successful year.
“Change will not stop happening. The only part we can control is our response.”
That includes how we respond to the changing of seasons.
Winter is a time where we tend to feel more despondent and irrelevant, a time when depression is probably at its peak.
“There will be moments when we’re riding high and moments when we can’t bear to get out of bed. Both are normal… Both in fact, require a little perspective.”
Realistically this period of time will pass so rather than looking upon it gloomily, we need to embrace the change in season and mindset and relish the opportunity to almost hibernate for a month or so. Ultimately we need to weather the winters in a manner that sees us immerging in spring ready for a successful year.
“Nature shows that survival is a practice. Sometimes it flourishes… sometimes it pares back to the very basics of existence in order to keep living.”
This is a book that all those suffering during the winter months need to read. If you are a sufferer of S.A.D. or just feel yourself struggling more at certain times of the year, then this will be a breath of fresh air for you. Everyone goes through difficulties in life, but it is important to recover your mindset so that you become stronger.
For me, this is one of the most powerful books I have read in a very long time. It helped me to realise that I need to stop beating myself up every time I fall into a ‘wintering’ slump and see it more as a time for personal reflection. I need to start seeing these periods as opportunities; as a time for mindful recharging and to make sure that I get back on the right track when I am ready to venture back outside once again.
Have you read Wintering? Perhaps you have read similar books that you feel others could benefit from.
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