hibernation

It’s that time of year when nature invites us to stay inside, be cozy and reflect. Whether by means of the dropping temperatures or the sun retreating earlier to close the day, the winter months give us permission to collapse into the constraints of time.

An introvert by nature, I’m grateful for the natural boundary lines and socially acceptable (even celebrated) excuse to stay in and get lost in the solace of my own company or a book. Who doesn’t love a good Netflix binge? But a wave of extra down time often brings the slow, subconscious drift into observing life from a distance rather than resting with the intention to continue showing up.

The litmus test that’s become helpful for me to gauge whether my sense of agency is starting to atrophy is asking myself the question, am I hibernating or hiding?

By definition, hibernation is the process which helps animals “conserve energy by remaining inactive.” It’s not inactivity for the sake of self-indulgence, but rather the act of store-housing energy in order to survive. When you’re hibernating, you’re intentionally pulling back to seek renewal, with the intention of going inward so you can get back out there again. You’re detaching from the flurry of external pressures, comparisons and social media feeds by keeping your eyes on your own life.

What differentiates hibernation from hiding is that you’re nurturing a sense of presence within yourself so that you can stay awake to opportunity when it comes, rather than letting it passively slip through your hands. Hiding is what happens when we give into despondency and slowly let our lives fade into background noise.

When you’re hibernating, you’re intentionally pulling back to seek renewal, with the intention of going inward so you can get back out there again.

Being a woman in the political climate of 2019 is enough to render a feeling of despondency and weariness. It’s both an exhausting and yet energizing time to be alive. Not only are we collectively experiencing a swell in the power of our voices, but choosing when and where to extend them can feel overwhelming. So, if we hope to keep moving forward, then we have to find a way to stay engaged and empowered while also giving ourselves the space for renewal.

When you’re in a season of hibernation and laying low, there are practices you can integrate to keep your internal fire burning. Here are a few suggestions I’ve found helpful on my own path to keep me “in it” while also taking care of myself:

Hone a grounding ritual.

Small steps are valuable and worth celebrating, and a morning routine that both promotes a sense of calm and fosters inspiration helps me remember that. Reading a spiritual reflection or poetry with my morning coffee and listening to a podcast while making a smoothie are small moments, but they help me welcome the day with a sense of possibility.

… if we hope to keep moving forward, then we have to find a way to stay engaged and empowered while also giving ourselves the space for renewal.

Pursue movement in your body.

If yoga is already part of your practice, then you know how powerful it feels to pay attention to your body. There’s a reason why yoga focuses so much on breathing — our breath is the life force inside of us. And noticing that life breath inside of you, that keeps on persisting without any help from you, can help ward off a sense of helplessness.

Find a book that makes you braver, from someone further down the road.

When I’m having trouble locating my own voice in the midst of some haziness, relying on the words of others who are doing the same inner work of tending their souls and showing up reminds me of what’s possible — that even when it’s hard, I’m on the right path.

I highly recommend Brené Brown’s book “Rising Strong” to start.

Nourish your insides.

There is a growing amount of wellness literature helping explain how our moods are connected to our food choices. When you’re embracing a hiatus season, feeding yourself with nutritious options promotes the idea of food as fuel rather than escape.

Find calm in nature.

Never underestimate the power of fresh oxygen to clear a hazy mind. There have been many times when the best antidote to figuring out a next step has been a hike in a nearby nature preserve. Surrounding yourself with visual reminders of the slow growth of nature can have a calming effect on a restless mind. Consider learning about the moon phases — another tangible example of how the universe has a pattern of renewal and change deeply embedded into its wiring.

Express yourself through it.

We have a lot of writing out there that is done through the lens of retrospect because clarity is often the gift of hindsight, but I would argue that we need more writing and creating from voices in the “middle,” deep in the forest of process. We need to be reminded that hibernation is a natural and necessary part of life, and that there are creative ways to embrace that rhythm. You don’t have to be a blogger or essayist to write your way through something. Find a journal you enjoy, a professional counselor, or trusted friend with whom you check in with every few weeks. Keeping a written record of your process and sharing that with another kindred who knows you well can be a helpful tool for reflection, as well as a compass to navigate the future.

Whatever keeps you awake to your life … hold onto that. Don’t forget to live the life that’s right in front of you. Give yourself permission to embrace a hiatus when you need to recover the energy to keep going. But don’t mindlessly vacate your life. While staying awake to your life can be painful and requires honest work, that quiet cultivation will birth more satisfaction in the long run. Your voice is worth tending and extending. Remember your agency, even as you rest.

Recommended Reading/Listening:
Rising Strong” by Brené Brown
“Getaway Car,” an essay from Ann Patchett’s “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
Patti Smith’s interview on “Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin”
The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield

Are you more prone to hibernation or hiding? How do you remedy that?

Images via Michael Stark

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9 comments

  1. I think the recommendations for hibernating are lovely but I do think it’s harder to do than said.
    “It’s both an exhausting and yet energizing time to be alive.”
    I love this line that you wrote because it captivates the polarizing dichotomy unfolding around me in my daily life. I like to think that I am hibernating but there are times where I have to acknowledge that I really truly do want to hide out and collect myself.
    Our current social environment is stressful!!! So stressful! And triggering! And as quick as I am to want to jump in, to be an agent for others, I am still slow to give advice. When I take time to pause and give myself grace as a human being I will say I do not think I am fully equipped to know how to vocalize my truth while keeping a healthy mind. Does that make sense? Maybe I am just wondering if hiding–though not preferred–sometimes has to be a suitable alternative?

  2. This is so beautifully written! It captured exactly what I am currently feeling in my own hibernation stage. Thank you for sharing your insightful thoughts, Rebekah! I love this!! You are such a talented writer!

  3. I ask myself that every winter. I suffer from mental illness, so it’s easy to go from simply hibernating into hiding. This winter, I joined a gym, which has made it easier to simply hibernate without worrying about completely disappearing. Great post xxx

    Melina | http://www.ivefoundwaldo.com

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