Hibernation for humans: hiding away during the winter months


January 2024 has brought darkness, cold temperatures and three named storms! With Storm Henk, Storm Isha and Storm Jocelyn all terrorising Scotland in January, you’d be forgiven for giving up and hunkering down in your house for the rest of the season. This week on the blog we’re talking about ‘hibernation for humans’, and suggesting that maybe hedgehogs and bears have the right idea when it comes to hiding away until Spring.

I never feel like winter truly starts until January. In December, the negative aspects of winter are easy to shrug off due to the excitement of Christmas and its accompanying festivities. During this time, I actually enjoy the cold, whether it’s wrapping up warm to walk to the pub or crunching through the frost on my morning stroll.

I also enjoy the run-up to Christmas, maybe even more than the big day itself, because it feels like everyone is winding down. These days, I look forward to setting my out-of-office message, but it’s nothing compared to the memories of December in school, the delicious feeling of slacking off without getting in trouble. I can still recall the hushed excitement of watching my teacher roll the old telly into my classroom so we could watch Christmas films instead of working. How sad is that?

Our society is obsessed with work and productivity, often to the detriment of our mental wellbeing, so I love an excuse to slow down and rest, and Christmas seems to signify that for a lot of people. The week between Christmas and New Year (christened Betwixtmas!) is a perfect example of this. Every year I see dozens of memes about the joy of relaxing in the days before the new year. We joke about forgetting what day it is, or feeling like we’re made up of 95% cheese, and it feels like there’s a mutual understanding that we’re allowed to rest and treat ourselves without guilt. (Unless of course, you work in retail, or in another essential roles, and you don’t get a cushy two weeks off over the Christmas period.)

Come January 1st, the productivity-and-guilt brigade are out again in full force. Even worse than usual, in fact, because a new year means a wave of new year’s resolutions, and the pressure to change your life is well and truly on. Recently, I’ve been finding the narrative around resolutions and ‘fresh starts’ pretty annoying. Almost everyone I know finds January to be a long and difficult month. The dark, cold days are harder to manage without the promise of Christmas, and lots of us are struggling financially, so the added pressure of resolutions and routines just feel like extra weight on top of an already heavy load.

It feels counter-intuitive to preach new beginnings and clean slates during the darkest months of the year. I think that it makes a lot more sense to follow the lead of our furry companions and take it easy until Spring. Let’s listen to nature and retreat to our nests until the flowers bloom again. Of course, most of us are unable to let go of the demands of life for months at a time, as much as we might want to, but I do think that changing our mindset around the new year can improve our mental wellbeing.

Try and think of winter as a time of comfort, contemplation and self-care. You can reflect these ways of thinking through your food, your home and your general mentality. Cook the things you love to eat, surround yourself with things that make you feel happy and calm. I always sleep more in January – I find myself drawn to going to bed earlier and struggling to wake up in the morning. I try very hard not to feel guilty about this – if my body is telling me to rest and I have the privilege to do so, I should listen! I also read a lot in January, and spend my weekends staying in instead of going out. January is not the time for gruelling fitness goals, diets or innovation. It’s a time to batten down the hatches and prepare for Spring. Of course, if you love January, and the establishing of goals and resolutions makes you feel good – go for it! But this post is for the people who don’t find January inspiring. If you’re just trying to get through the month the best you can, I see you! I’m with you! Let’s hang out when the Spring comes! Until then, I’ll be under my heated blanket with a hot drink, counting the minutes until bedtime.

What did you think of this post? If you have any thoughts on hibernation, or mental health during the winter months, get in touch with us by emailing maddy@mindwavesnews.com, messaging us on Instagram @mindwaves_scot, or DMing us on X (formerly known as Twitter!) @mindwaves1

If you want more chat about winter and mental health, listen to our podcast episode on winter and emotions by clicking here 

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