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What’s your plan for the winter?

Over the last couple of months, we have all had to change, shift, downgrade or even abandon our plans to suit our new way of being. A Washington Post article from August 2020 points to how many have postponed taking time off of work and the impact that decision has had on the American workforce. These changes were not what we had planned, but we are here now.

Winter is coming and to be honest, that season is hard for me. A part of my journey is that I have suffered from depression for many years. So, the dark, grey skies, barren trees, and colder weather all make me want to hibernate emotionally, socially, and physically. I am aware of that, and self-awareness is a good thing. So, what if we could be strategic in our planning as we head into this season?

We… I can’t afford to not have a plan. You might be saying, “Plan! What do you mean plan? These are uncertain and unprecedented times. How can we plan for that?” Well…. carefully, deliberately, with flexibility and hope. Yes, I’ll be adding exercise, connection with others and the like but what else? Here are some thoughts for building a plan for surviving winter.

1. Think about your ‘why’ for needing a plan for winter. For me, it is mental, emotional, and physical well-being. I know at the deepest part of my being, that having a plan will help me stay hopeful and sprinkle in bits of joy and delight into my life and the lives of those around me.

2. Make your plan flexible. Options are the word that comes up for me. You see when I say plan, most people think of a checklist of things that must be done. But really, what I am talking about is having a couple of options to consider. It’s a list of possibilities that could work or be adapted based on the circumstance that we find ourselves in. Notice I am saying possibilities and options not, “it must happen just this way.” Imagine your what if’s and consider your options ahead of time. Flexibility is key.

So, some options that I am considering include planning a contest of sorts with my extended family. It could be something silly like an international recipe contest in which members of the family find their best recipe, cook it, and send a picture to the group along with the recipe. Family members will vote on the best picture and the recipe (other than their own) that they would most likely try. The person with the most votes gets bragging rights.

Another thought is modifying my spring and summer activities to make them more winter-friendly. For example, this summer we planted vegetables and flowers outside. This winter we are adding to our houseplant collection. These new green indoor additions remind me that growth is still happening even in winter.

3.Be deliberate about savoring and celebrating the good. I recently achieved a significant professional milestone. When asked “what will you do to celebrate?”, I was at a loss. Maybe I am the only one who scratches my head when it comes to figuring out how to celebrate during this time. I knew that I should celebrate, but again, I wanted to postpone the celebration. Why? Celebrations, big and small are especially important now because they allow us to sit in the present moment and be mindful of the good thing that happened to us. This savoring of sorts allows us to swish the thought of the good thing around in our brains. Fred Bryant, a social psychologist at Loyola University Chicago, says the ability to lingering with or savor the good gives us the chance to “maximize the impact of the positive effect of the good things in our lives”. This practice strengthens our resilience and gratitude muscle which helps when bad things happen. For my savor-celebration, I am buying myself flowers and taking some intentional time off of work to sit and paint. These are both things I love and that remind me of the beauty in life, but I don’t do enough.

The possibilities for winter are endless. Yes, even for this winter. So, what are some of your plans for winter?

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