Up here in the northern hemisphere, summer alread passed us by and fall and winter are moving in fast! Especially in northern latitudes like Alaska, temperatures and daylight hours are dropping quickly… we even have frozen lakes and ice skating season underway!
We’ve talked before on the blog about the concept of “wintering,” including how the colder, darker season has inherently different energy and emotions compared to summer. But sometimes it can be hard to let go and flow with the seasons.
Summer is a very high-intensity season, which means it can be fun for a while, but isn’t sustainable.
Especially in the high north like Alaska & Canada, the long daylight hours and short summer season lends itself to a fast pace & pressure to make the most of the light. Fall sometimes feels like that feeling of stepping off of a moving walkway and onto regular ground — a bit jarring and hard to prepare for.
With fall starting to close in, it’s a great time of year to start easing away from the high-intensity vibes of summer and into a quieter season.
This transition from summer to fall and winter can be a tough one to navigate for a few reasons.
Much of our cultural conditioning has taught us that a fast pace is ‘better’ than a slower one. Because of this, many people’s nervous systems have developed an accordingly high ‘set point’ that makes slowing down feel uncomfortable, maybe even a bit less safe.
Also, when we slow down, everything that our busy summer routines have kept at bay has time to come back up to the surface.
Busyness & sustained activation can be an effective coping strategy, but what happens when nature and our bodies ask us to transition into a slower winter season?
Luckily, anything we do to support our body as it builds comfort with the back side of the nervous system wave will help this process feel easier. Eventually, it might even feel like a relief, or like a comfortable ride into a more settled and peaceful state of being.
So, how do you make this seasonal transition? Let’s talk through some tips.
Hopefully, your summer had some wonderful moments you’ll cherish for a long time. By honoring the highs of our summer, we can loosen our grip on them, creating some space for new memories as the seasons change. Reflecting back at the past couple of months helps our brains acknowledge that yes, it’s ok for this chapter to start closing now.
Set up a time to get together with a friend, romantic partner, or family member and take turns sharing favorite moments, stories, and photos from your summer. Or, if you prefer to process on your own, write some journal entries reflecting on those memories. Think of it like a seasonal gratitude practice.
This transitional season matches the back side of a nervous system wave, which is where the stress cycle moves through it’s activation and down into settling, completion, and integration.
One of the ways our culture discourages this part of the nervous system cycle is by encouraging more (keeping us in high activation) and not teaching us to feel how much is enough.
Awareness of enoughness allows us to ride over the crest of the stress cycle and move into settling and completion.
We can start the deconditioning process by building familiarity with the feeling of enoughness; as you revisit your summer memories, feel the satisfaction of these moments and the way your body responds to the memories. What does enoughness feel like in your body?
Humans have been using rituals to mark events or seasons for thousands of years. Rituals can help create a container for our feelings about things, which ultimately helps us move forward with more balance. If you have a spiritual or cultural tradition around the changing of the seasons, those can be great ways to engage the coming slow season.
Even if you don’t identify with any specific tradition, you can still create your own ritual around seasonal shifts. Get creative and craft a short ritual that signals the coming of fall and winter, whatever that looks like to you.
Rituals can feel extra-engaging when you bring in multiple senses through smells, sounds, or tactile elements. And don’t worry too much about getting it exactly right the first time! You can start small and simple, then make shifts in future years if you decide to keep up the tradition.
Just like how temperatures gradually drop, our nervous systems don’t shift gears overnight, either! Instead, start incorporating low doses of winter back into your life.
Try intentionally incorporating one transitional activity every other week, then every week or even more frequently. By mixing in some cozy activities along with the last few summer activities, it will feel more natural to start phasing out the high season.
Everybody has their own version of a good wintering activity, so do what feels good to you! If you need some ideas, here are a few to get you started:
Although it may be scary to consider ‘slowing down’, it’s important to give our bodies time to rest too. We’re not robots after all, and sustainable growth requires resting and slowing down. For a lot of us, winter includes snow sports that are physically and mentally demanding. Before those activities ramp up, now is a great time to take it slow and schedule some down-time for our bodies.
For those of you looking for ways to transition your movement from the high intensity summer into the slower Fall season, consider using practices like yoga, breathing practice, or lower intensity workouts. If you’re looking for help in this department, consider our Balance Training program. This 6-week training program helps you develop strength for mind & body balance. It’s also a gentle way to ramp-up to our higher intensity winter training - Ski Babes.
Inside of Ski Babes, the new Healing Track practice sessions are designed to support your nervous system’s learning process so it can ride through the back side of the stress cycle wave. This is a physiological process that takes practice for the body to be able to do, just like learning a new exercise or sport.
Every workout gives us the opportunity to build comfort with the settling and completion processes too. The balance & stretching portion of the workout is the back side of the stress cycle wave, and it’s very normal for the brain to become more distractible during these slower moments.
See if you can notice your thoughts during the balance & stretching section of the workout. If your brain jumps to your to-do list or the other things you need to do after you finish the workout, take note of that pattern. As you are able, bring your attention back into the moment and into the body, feeling the sensations of intensity settling and the nervous system slowing down.
With practice, this will get easier. And everything we do to practice riding the back side of the wave helps — whether it’s practicing presence during the slower portion of a workout, the embracing of fall season, or specific nervous system practices for settling & completion.
However you decide to mark the shifting of seasons, we hope you can find gratitude for the season closing, and a sense of hope and anticipation for the ones on their way.
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