Joyful Self-Care Guide: How to Conquer Darker Days

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Are you a cooler temps, pumpkin spice kinda gal, or do you prefer sipping cool drinks by the pool or beach in the heat of summer? Personally, I wish I could have the best of both worlds–sunshine AND crisper, longer days. Alas, ’tis the season to ‘fall’ into winter in Happy Valley (central Pennsylvania) and with that come shorter, darker days. How can you conquer the sluggishness you may feel this time of year? My solution is to listen to my body and indulge in self-care at the first signs of inertia.

True confession: As a child, I always welcomed the advent of fall. By August I was ready to be back in school. No joke. I love earth tones and autumn colors, especially when the tree leaves turn bright yellow, red, or orange. Cooler temps meant snuggling more with my cat in bed and reading a good book!

As an adult, it’s a little harder to welcome autumn despite my preference for crisper weather. I just can’t stand when it gets dark outside earlier.

And I must confess, although I love winter coats, sweaty feet in warm boots is just not my jam. So, here are some self-care tips to help you through those shorter, darker fall and winter days!

Joyful Self-Care

Autumn (or fall, depending on your preference (I say ‘potato,’ you say ‘potaaato?’) is a good time to up your self-care routines and rituals. If you aren’t currently practicing self-care (or only sporadically), please pause for a moment and think about what you could do to pamper and recharge yourself. 

Is it a warm Epsom salts bath (infused with essential oils)? Or taking 5-10 minutes each morning or evening (maybe both) meditating? Maybe your self-care involves taking the time to eat healthier meals?

Or indulging in a warm cup of healthy hot cocoa? Confession: I recently discovered an organic cocoa blend that has reiki mushrooms (an adaptogenic) which is supposed to support your immunity.

Or do you enjoy writing? How about spending time each day writing your thoughts/worries into a journal? Yes, I know gratitude journals are the latest ‘thing,’ but sometimes just doing a data (brain) dump onto paper with the good, the bad, the ugly is a more efficient way to wipe out negative vibes.

I’ve created the seven (7) day Find Your Inner Zen journal so that you can reflect on your daily zen, enjoy daily affirmations, journal prompts, and read inspiring quotes. It’s free if you sign up for our updates.

Dump and delete, then move on….just sayin’…

After the data (brain) dump, if you enjoy writing, maybe you can create some poetry or write a short story?

How much time are you spending on social media? Try cutting back and make plans to see friends ‘irl’ (in real life) instead?

2020 Update!! Well, the in real life (irl) reunions are on hold for now, unfortunately, so you might want to try a group Zoom call or be sure to practice safe social distancing guidelines!

Of course, many sites will tell you to hit the spa and get a massage. That’s great, but since covid-19 has hit the global stage, it might not be feasible. But, perhaps you could ask your partner for a gentle neck or back massage. It’s been scientifically proven that the sense of touch releases oxytocin (the cuddle hormone which helps keep stress in check).

After I have a chance to recharge (maybe sometime in 2021 since 2020 has been throwing constant curveballs at us all,) I will add a few PubMed citations to back that up, I promise.

Have books, will read?

Do you like to read? Hit the library or your local bookstore (Amazon is great, but supporting local business is always nice). Need help finding a good book? Check out the ‘Book reviews’ section.

Try incorporating some movement to conquer the blahs of darker days. Yoga anyone?

Reality check: I am still trying to convince myself that I am coordinated enough to learn yoga poses.

If yoga just won’t work for you, how about a leisurely stroll in your neighborhood? Since I originally wrote this post, I’ve sadly abandoned my gym membership due to the global pandemic. I have a recumbent bicycle and, in the interest of full disclosure, am still working on motivation to use it consistently.

Spend more time talking with your partner and children. In my family, we make it a point to always (with rare exceptions) eat dinner together. Even if one of us has activities after work/school – we just eat a little later, but together.

Note: It’s been more challenging the past year to coordinate dinners together since my kids are usually working odd hours, but I make sure they have something to eat and ask them about their respective days. Or nights.

Do you have any festive fall recipes you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to hear from you!  Think hearty but healthy soups, chili, steamed root vegetables, sinfully delicious but healthy desserts, you get the idea. I am open to all gluten and grain-free suggestions!!

To recap (yes, I know I like to ramble, but I feel like I’m talking to a good friend when writing to you), here are some self-care ideas to help you conquer the autumn (or fall) blahs and bring back some joy!

Self-Care List

  1. Take a warm Epsom salt bath with essential oils.
  2. Read a good book.
  3. Call a friend or get together in person (as my kids would write, ‘irl’) when it’s safe again.
  4. Start a journal.
  5. Write some poetry.
  6. Exercise an art or craft (painting, knitting, crocheting, sculpting, photography, diy gifts to prepare for the holidays.
  7. Experiment in the kitchen with filling but healthy meals.
  8. If you are craving a certain chain coffee shop’s PSL, try making your own.
  9. Take a walk around the neighborhood.
  10. Go for a bike ride.
  11. Indulge in self-care treats.
  12. Ask your partner for a massage.
  13. Cuddle with a pet.
  14. Meditate daily – even 5-10 minutes can clear out negative energy.
  15. Invest in a special light if you experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
  16. Give yourself a facial. Here’s a simple DIY recipe.
  17. Find an indoor pool and go for a swim.
  18. Allow yourself to say ‘no’ to outside commitments.
  19. Declutter a room or an area in your living space. [Note: I wrote this before the Mari Kondo craze exploded, lol.]
  20. Am I missing your favorite self-care hack? If so, please comment below on how you rejuvenate.

Tell your family you are claiming some ‘me’ time and devote it to self-care. My younger son noticed that I was stressed out the other week and reminded me, “Mom, you need to inhale some of your essential oils and chill out.” Yep, he’s right–I need to take time out for myself on a regular basis!

Joyful Self-Care Guide

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