Winter blues

Image Credit: Ellen Nugent

Shorter days. Sharp breezes. Tingling fingertips. Stinging cheeks.

These are all physical reminders that winter is here. Every year seasonal change announces itself with a sure impact on the body. My alarm clock squeals, and it’s pitch black. In these impossible mornings, darkness and cold marry one another. The ploy to be productive is capped by acute paralysis and further alarm snoozes that disrupt the scheduled order of the day. It’s only 11 am but it feels like everything that could go wrong has. 

As you can tell I’m not the biggest fan of Winter. It’s my least favourite season for so many reasons. I despise the cold and it's accomplices. I hate how they leave me with no other choice but to drag my body over murky puddles while committed to blocking out the sharp numbness the cold air brings as it seeps through cotton gloves. Despite my cynicism, there are things worth looking forward to; the festivity, lights and streets littered with people. 

However, this year Winter is taking on a new face. We don’t quite know the totality of it but with restrictions and online classes, we can only predict a sedentary and eerie season. We’re all entering unfamiliar territory and, like the past couple of months, we’re watching as reality battles against our expectations. I haven’t quite decided whether to be hopeful or anticipate the worst for what these next few months will bring.

One thing that I always anticipate towards Winter is the effect it’ll have on my body. It’s a weird habit of mine where I obsess over things like how long my immune system will last without catching a cold, or whether the weather will force me to cancel plans and withdraw from people. Especially now, there isn’t much promised except for the impact of the weather. It’s inevitable. But like everything, it varies from person to person. Some people can plough through winter unmoved while others, including myself, aren’t so lucky. 

Wherever you lie on the spectrum it goes without saying, the body is always impacted. It feels like such an obvious thing to say, but it is. Not attempting to have it all figured out, I have however challenged myself to ‘stay in my body’ this Winter. During these seasons it’s easy to adopt a disembodied approach to life where we treat our bodies as merely this thing that transports our heads around. We’re often encouraged to give our minds priority over our body and while I’m not informed enough to dispute that, I do know that the two definitely inform one another. I don’t think we can separate anything from our bodies. Even bad weather teaches us that life is experienced in our bodies. The outcome may not always be pleasurable but like sex, fights, achievements, life is experienced in our bones, muscles, organs, and bodies.

I’ve been thinking of ways where I can actually get into my body more. Taking walks, breathing exercises, sports have taught me how to be in my body and how to pay attention to it. Exercises, stretches, and yoga are all practical ways of getting out of our heads and getting back into our bodies. It doesn’t have to be an extensive intense routine but sometimes even the slightest movement can help bring us back into ourselves. If you are a homebody, like me, you can do these things in the comfort of your home too!

It’s that time of the year where we are all searching for rays of sunshine and in the case where they hide behind overcast skies, the fresh air can interrupt our Winter Blues. The most difficult part is just walking out of the door. A couple of steps in and you think “this isn’t as bad as I expected.” Sometimes, the same weather that we despise and anticipate the worst from can actually be therapeutic. Times are tough especially for students, and the weather isn’t necessarily alleviating dread. I want to challenge everyone to try their best to be fully embodied this season. I know walks aren’t magic or the antidote to every problem, but we can see where they’ll take us, literally.

Winter is a difficult season for so many reasons so if you are struggling or know anyone who is, you can find some resources available to you at: 
Samaritans Ireland at 01 671 0071
The National 24 Hour Freephone Helpline at 1800 778888
UCDSU Welfare Officer