Seasonal and cyclical self-care
This summer in the UK has been exceptional – the long, warm days have been blissful to my ‘tropical-loving’ self. It’s been such a difference to the past few years and I’ve noticed how I’ve adapted my self-care practices this summer in comparison with the previous few.
Growing up on the equator I got accustomed to warm days for most of the year. Moving to the UK and getting used to living with seasons was a bit of a shock to my system, especially when it was so cold and dark, and winter seemed to drag on for ages! It took me a while to realise how to care for myself and that what I needed in the summertime was totally different to what I needed in the winter.
When I first moved to the UK I would try and make myself eat salads and go to the gym all year around, and then I’d get frustrated with myself when I went off-track or found it hard to stick to. I didn’t realise that it was natural to feel more inward and inclined towards gentle activities during the darker colder days, whereas in the summer I’d feel much more energised.
As I started paying more attention to how I felt and what I needed throughout the year I also started to realise the fluctuations and varying needs I felt within a month, which coincided with my monthly cycle. I found that one week I was totally up for going out and could get so much done in a day, and a week later all I wanted to do was spend the day indoors watching a good series.
In the beginning it felt weird to have all these contrasting needs in a month and I tried to push through and ignore my body if it wanted rest, feeling guilty for wanting to take it easy at the beginning of my monthly cycle. I also felt the added societal pressure where it’s seen as weak to take days off, or to not be doing something, and it’s almost a badge of honour to pop a painkiller and push through pain, achieve and strive even when our bodies are screaming at us to stop or slow down.
What has changed over the years is I’ve started listening to my body and honouring what it needs so that my self-care varies throughout the month and year. There’s no fixed plan and after a few years of experimenting and getting to know myself better it’s much more intuitive. Of course there are exceptions and times when I have commitments or things I must get done, but on the whole this is how I have adapted my self-care.
I find that in the autumn and winter seasons I want to go more inwards and need more rest and nurturing, nourishing activities. This generally corresponds to when I am pre-menstrual and menstruating in my cycle. Whereas in spring and summer I have more energy and can do more active, outward activities. This time mostly corresponds to when I have finished menstruating and am ovulating.
Having lived like this for a while and noticing the effects it has on my overall wellbeing, I really recommend taking the seasons (internal and external) into consideration when choosing what self-care actions will work best for you. There will be things that will likely feel good at all times such as sleep, eating well and getting fresh air. However, you may notice slight variations in how you practice these actions as the seasons change. Additionally I encourage eating seasonal foods as much as possible as you’ll find they nourish you on a deeper level than having something that has been shipped halfway across the world.
A few examples of self-care actions that may work for different seasons are:
Spring/post-menstruation - Getting outdoors in nature - Setting intentions for the following month/s - Creating in some way – painting, cooking, photography, gardening etc - Self-compassion and kindness
Summer/ovulation - Spending time with friends - Being more active (outdoors) - Eating lighter, fresh foods - Travelling, trying something new and exciting
Autumn/pre-menstruation - Journaling - Gratitude - Gentle movement and stretches - Pampering yourself – hot baths, facemasks etc
Winter/menstruation - Eating warming, nourishing foods - Watching a good movie - Reading - Taking naps when possible
These are simply suggestions and what works for one person may be totally different for another. I encourage you to start to notice how YOU feel at different times in the month and year and what activities feel good for you, in conjunction with your own cycle.
We are cyclical beings and working in harmony with your body and the seasons will have an overall positive affect on how you feel throughout the year. You may even notice that your energy and moods are more consistent as you are honouring your body’s needs and working with it, not against it.
If you need some more inspiration and tips to help you with your seasonal self-care, I run FREE 30-day challenges throughout the year. You can join the next one here.