’Tis the Season of Rest: The Wonder of Winter
By Connie Pshigoda
It’s winter, and although the true winter season suggests a quieter, restful time of “comfort and joy,” most women’s calendars groan under the load of appointments and festive activities. Usually the holiday spirit begins around fall harvest and continues energetically throughout the winter months, with contemporary technology and progress taking us farther and farther from the simple basics of nature’s rhythms.
Let’s slow our pace, catch our breath, and observe the wonder of this season. In God’s creation, the earth sends her energy deep into the soil in order to be protected and nourished until sprouting time in the spring. Longer nights and shorter days beckon us indoors for warmth, nourishment, and protection. This season brings much needed rest and regeneration for both the soil and our body and soul.
Think for a moment of all the winter provisions we make to ensure a safer, warmer season: storm windows, snow tires, and oil change; sprinkler systems shut off, down jackets and wool sweaters for the kids, flannel linens on the beds, and extra quilts nearby. Now, ask yourself, “What do I do to prepare my own body for this cold, harsh season?” Let’s look at three areas of our being – body, mind, and spirit – and consider some ways we can prepare, provide, and prevent during winter’s long visit.
Winter’s cold, damp weather challenges even the strongest immune system. Fending off cold and flu symptoms begins with some simple immune-boosting steps.
Ideally, we should be doing some preventive measures every day, such as drinking eight glasses of water, eating a protein rich breakfast, getting eight hours of sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a simple winter diet of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables and lean meats. Most women that I know don’t live by an ideal schedule or routine. When we work long hours, eat on the go, or scrimp on sleep, these winter afflictions may attack our stressed bodies.
God designed our bodies with the ability to wage a counter-attack on virus and bacteria. As uncomfortable as the process is, there is a reason for the runny nose, increased temperature, and muscle aches. The immune system is doing its job of excreting “unfriendly” bacteria or virus from the body. Nature’s garden provides some natural remedies to bolster our bodies’ defenses. Garlic, onions, and shiitake mushrooms inhibit bacterial and viral growth. Lemon and grapefruit are high in vitamin C and have antiseptic, anti-microbial, and mucus-dissolving properties. Herbs that chase away unpleasant symptoms include: elder berry (eases coughing), astragalus, (Chinese herb that promotes energy), eucalyptus (clears stuffy nose and head) and echinacea (boosts immune system and fights bacterial and viral infections).
Now let’s consider how to maintain a strong, healthy mind during this cold, dark season. The limited daylight hours bring a winter woe known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, a form of depression that, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, affects more than 10 million Americans every winter.
Shorter days mean less natural sunlight, which can initiate biochemical changes in the brain, resulting in anxiety, lack of concentration, less energy, and depression. So, ban the blahs, and soak up the sun at every opportunity! Just a couple of daily 10-15 minute outings can re-energize our mental state.
The shift in our physical and mental energies during this season often mislead us into thinking we may be depressed, when we are actually in tune with the rhythm of winter. This is nature’s resting season, and usually, most of us don’t re-set our internal clocks to adjust our biological rhythms to the pace of the current season. I’ve found it takes practice and prayer to maintain my world-driven schedule during winter’s slower pace. When I do achieve the new rhythm, my sense of inner calm and outer “got-it-together” is my best protection against seasonal depression.
Does the climate of winter dampen your spirit? When icicles and snow drifts decorate the landscape, I love to tuck myself in with a good book and hot cocoa. I have learned to practice preventive care for my body and mind, but I’m still learning how to keep my spirit from going into a deep freeze during the winter months.
Psalm 74:17 tells us that God set all the boundaries of the earth and created both summer and winter. And Paul writes in Ephesians 3:17-18 that we should be rooted and established in love, grasping the greatness of Christ. These verses remind me that our Creator God gave us winter – not to whine, worry, or waste time – but to REST and restore our spirits (and bodies and minds) from the previous seasons’ activities. We need to use this time to let our roots go deep into the greatness of Christ’s love.
This is the season to do less and enjoy more – to achieve balance between activity and rest. Winter provides longer evening hours for quiet moments and closer communion with friends, loved ones, and mostly, our Savior. We can experience this communion as we connect with and embrace our Creator’s natural world. The stillness of the season gives us opportunity to feel the nearness of God – to hear His heartbeat. Winter’s bareness brings us back to the simplicity of our surroundings and gives clarity of vision without the clutter that usually crowds our lives.
Living for God – through a healthy body, mind, and spirit – allows us to illuminate the cold, dark days of winter, for ourselves and others. I pray that you will greet this season warmly as you rest your inner garden and spend time with the Master Gardener.