Winter 2023: A Call to Rest

As I type this on January 31st it’s a dreary and cold day in Nashville with ice in the forecast for tonight. Winter is fully present, and despite those sporadic days that tease us with milder temperatures, winter claims its time year after year. As a person who loves the sunshine, warmth and carefree spirit of summer, winter is sometimes a hard season for me, and I know that I’m not alone. For many, the joy and activity of the holiday season comes to a screeching halt after New Year’s Day and the letdown can make some susceptible to depression, especially with the cold temperatures, gray skies, shorter days and lack of color in nature. All of these things can make one want to recluse to stay cozy and warm.

When my clients get stuck in negative thought patterns, I encourage them to try to find a reframe that helps them to lean into hope and gratitude. What if we found a reframe for “the dead of winter?” Let’s take a moment to look at what we can learn from nature. The trees lose their leaves in the fall, but they are far from dead. In November, I was a chaperone for my son’s field trip that included an arboretum. The guide explained how cooler temperatures and less daylight prompt hormones in deciduous trees to form a bumpy layer where the stem meets the branch and then the leaves are pushed off. What struck me was that once the first leaves start to fall, the rest seem to say, “Okay, we can all let go.” In the letting go, the tree has more opportunity to conserve water and focus on strengthening its root system during the late fall and winter. I see a powerful metaphor here. There is purpose in letting go of external activity, and that frees us to focus on the inner work of strengthening our roots.

What does it look like to strengthen your roots? It will look a bit different for everyone, but it starts with giving yourself permission to intentionally rest. In our society that values hustle and productivity, it’s no wonder that burnout has been on the rise. I came across this interesting article1 about remote work and burnout before and after COVID. 77% of those surveyed indicated having experienced burnout at their jobs. It’s also worth noting that rest is at the root of the word, restorative. I like the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition: “something that makes you feel better or more energetic if you are feeling tired or ill.”2 It may take some experimentation to find out what types of activities besides sleep are truly restorative for you. Some possibilities might be taking a walk in nature, creating music, creating visual art, reading, restorative yoga, a warm bath, or quiet reflection for prayer or another spiritual practice. So let’s take a lesson from nature, and follow the call to rest. Just as the trees intentionally conserve water during the winter, we can intentionally conserve our energy. As we do so, we prepare ourselves for the blossoming of our dreams and ambitions that will spring to life later in the year.

I will end with mentioning that January was Mental Wellness Month. Although February is now only a matter of hours away, it is always the right time to work on improving mental health and resiliency so that you can thrive when the hurdles of life come, as they inevitably will. A timely step for February seems to be to cultivate truly restorative rest…and without guilt! If going to therapy is part of your plan for mental wellness this year, we hope that you will not hesitate to reach out and make that time for yourself. We would love to support you on your journey!


1. #:~:text=Employee%20burnout%20is%20a%20global,can%20negatively%20impact%20personal%2 0relationships.


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