In the Bleak Midwinter

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Article by Andrea Paterson

We have come to the middle of January and if there is ever a time of year when the environment can contribute to low mood, lethargy, and depression, this is it. It feels like the grey days will never end. There aren’t any signs of spring yet. The frozen ground is hard and painful under your feet. The scum of road salt over everything feels like a disease that is mirrored by chapped hands and lips. Sometimes the winter is not kind and it can be difficult to lift yourself out of a dark place when the earth itself feels so heavy and solemn.

There’s a word that keeps cropping up in my social media feeds these days, and it may provide a key to coming through the deepest parts of winter. The Danish  art of “Hygge” (pronounced Hooga), is a process through which people aim to be cozy, create feelings of physical warmth, and surround themselves with great people in order to cultivate a warm atmosphere. You can read more about it here. Hygge is really a socially constructed system of self care the the Danish people use to improve their lives and it’s something new parents could incorporate into their days, especially in the winter months.

Having a newborn baby is actually quite conducive to Hygge, because babies force us to slow down, appreciate small moments, and get your cuddle on. There is nothing warmer or cozier than snuggling with a sleeping baby. Yeah, I know that’s a bit idealistic and babies are not always snuggly. Sometimes they scream and have colic and refuse to sleep and fuss because they’re teething. But they also provide us with great opportunities (and the social license) to stay in your pyjamas all day and spend hours rocking lazily in a rocking chair with a ten pound hot water bottle sleeping peacefully on your chest.

When the winter doldrums are really getting you down and you’re exhausted from the marathon of parenting, it might be helpful to ask yourself: “How can I bring warmth into this moment?” Maybe you’re stuck at home with an infant and a toddler who has the flu. This is not a happy scene, but can you bring just a tiny spark of Hygge to your day? Could you wrap everyone up in blankets and watch a movie? Could you put a log on the fire and read stories? Would a hot chocolate with marshmallows perk everyone up a bit? Maybe you could invite another parent over in the evening once the kids are in bed to keep you company and work on a craft project. It doesn’t need to be anything big, and as always, self-care shouldn’t be just another task that you have to complete. Which is why I like the idea of Hygge since it is more of a philosophy than a particular list of things that you should do.

To all the parents out there in this bleak midwinter, I see you. I know that you’re inside more than you would like. I know that you’re dreaming of an escape to Hawaii and envying all of your child-free friends who are taking off on tropical holidays. It’s hard not to despair and feel that life will always be like this–cold, difficult, and isolating. But just as winter always gives way to spring, so will this postpartum period give way to more ease. If it speaks to you, let the idea of Hygge rattle against your winter bones. Put on your most comfortable yoga pants, cuddle your baby on your lap, and read her a novel that you’ve been dying to delve into. She’ll be warm and comfortable, and you’ll get to read something that isn’t Goodnight Moon.

In these days of early sunsets, spit up, and endless laundry I wish you small moments of warmth. It’s in those moments that family is built and you give your children the gift of learning how to care for themselves and the ones they love.

And if a warm and kind listener is what you crave you can always call a PPPSS counselor who can help you access the acts of self care that will serve you best. Call 604-255-7999 in the lower mainland or  toll free 855-255-7999 to speak to a counselor.

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