Learning from a hard season

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

sad woman in snowy scene
Image by Pawel Kozera from Pixabay

Winter is a really hard season for me.

Start with the fact that I'm one of those people who perennially cold (even in summer).

Add on a house whose furnace just can't quite keep up.

Pile on some painful sinus issues caused by winter's dry air.

Throw the way that reduced sunlight tends to amplify my issues with depression on top of the heap, and the result is a season that's just plain hard for a pretty long stretch.

Of course, compared to the hard seasons that dealing with grief, loss, betrayal, abuse, or other forms of life's brokenness can bring, my struggles with winter are a minor thing. I know that, and I wouldn't for a moment claim otherwise, but hard is still hard.

Here's the thing: I've noticed I'm dealing with particular hard season better because of things I've learned from dealing with those truly hard seasons of brokenness. It's just easier to see and articulate what I'm doing differently in this hard season of winter than it is when I'm coping with more overwhelming challenges.

This ability to consciously reapply what I learn in one hard season to benefit the way I experience other hard seasons is a crucial part of kintsugi living. To that end, I want to share with you the 6 key shifts I've noticed in the way I deal with hard seasons to help inspire you to explore your own experience in the same way.

1. I own it.

First and foremost, I'm learning to own my experiences even in hard times. This has nothing whatsoever to do with blame and everything to do with taking responsibility for dealing with it.

I certainly did not cause the cold weather nor did I cause myself to be so susceptible to it, but given the reality of the cold weather, I'm the only one who can do what is necessary to get me through this season as healthily as possible.

I'm no longer waiting for rescue. I'm not just sitting around complaining about it. I'm actively doing what I can do deal with the reality I am facing in the best way possible.

2. I validate my experience.

This stems directly out of owning my experience. I refuse to call myself a wimp or put myself down for having such a hard time with this season. I don't let others do so either.

My thermostat is set at 68F during the day this time of year. That doesn't sound that cold to most people, but the reality is that it's only that warm in the hallway where the thermostat is.

My office, workroom, bedroom, and bathrooms are usually about 65, my living room is about 61, and the kitchen is generally about 58. (And don't even ask about the inside of my kitchen cabinets where the olive oil is solidifying from the cold!)

That might register as cold for more people, but I also have a close family member who likes to have this thermostat set at 55! (He also wears shorts even when it's snowing. I'm not really sure how we can possibly be related, but we are.)

My house would be too warm for his preferences (even in my chilly kitchen), but I don't let his experience dictate my own.

This is cold for me. I validate the reality of my experience, my reactions to it, and how it makes me feel with no belittling of myself accepted.

3. I proactively mitigate what I can.

Given the limitations of my budget, there's only so much I can do to make it warmer in the house this time of year, but I've done what I can.

I dress in LOTS of layers, use heated floor mats under my desk and work table, use heated blankets and throws when I can, and drink lots of hot beverages with as many hot meals as I can.

I also use a humidifier in my bedroom to help reduce the nose bleeds and take vitamin D to help deal with the reduced sunlight. I even have a small light box for the times I need it most.

I may not be able to make the cold go away, but these supports help make the season more manageable in the meantime.

4. I make allowances as I need to.

Despite these steps to mitigate the conditions, there are still times when it all gets the best of me, and I've learned to give myself a break when it's necessary.

Sometimes I get so chilled that only a hot bath will warm me enough to remove the ache in my hands and feet. I've learned to accept that this will sometimes affect my productivity when I have to stop to warm up in the middle of the day.

I've also learned to cut myself a little extra slack when I struggle with motivation this time of year. It's hard to function at normal productivity levels during hard seasons, and I set my expectations accordingly.

5. I take special care of my inner child.

Self-kindness and self-care come easier for me when I address it to my inner child. It's easier to speak kindly to myself that way.

It's also easier for me to make sure I'm getting enough sleep, eating well, drinking enough fluids, and performing other basic acts of self-care (even when I really don't want to) when I imagine myself caring for my child-self.

I need that care and kindness even more in hard seasons when I would otherwise be even less likely to care for myself.

6. I look for the ANDs.

Some people would dismissively call this chasing the silver lining, but for me it's a matter of making sure I pay attention to what's also true in the hard seasons.

I'm miserably cold, and it's also helping me develop in a really good exercise routine because exercise is one of the few things that consistently helps me warm up.

I'm miserably cold, and I also sleep better this time of year (even with a hoodie pulled up on my head and gloves on my hands). There's something about the weight of the piles of blankets that does miracles for my sleep.

My sinuses are painfully dry and achy, and it makes taking my morning shower such an amazing treat. I look forward to this daily task in a way I normally wouldn't.

The dark is so hard on my mood, and it's lovely to have a break from yard work so I can spend more time on other things.

Going out of my way to notice and appreciate the positives of this season that are also true helps make the cold, dry, darkness more bearable by keeping it in perspective.

 

Each of these ways of dealing with this hard season apply equally well to dealing with the bigger seasons of brokenness that inevitably come along in life. The actual practices involved in some of the steps will obviously look vastly different for other situations, but the overall methods still apply.

My experiences of previous hard times have helped to shape this list. Using this relatively mild hard season as an opportunity to articulate what's working will help me get through future hard seasons more easily. That's part of what kintsugi living is all about.

 

Can you articulate what you've learned from your own hard seasons in life that can help you better weather future hard seasons?

Your list may look very different from mine, but are there any things on my list that help spark your own process of articulating what you've learned?

How might making a clear list for yourself make it easier to reapply these lessons in the future?


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