How to Do Self-Care Through All Seasons

White flowers on a branch

Comfort looks different throughout the year.

Just like nature, there are seasons of life, and sometimes they coincide. A seasonal self care practice can help alleviate the tensions that come with a certain time of year. When days are shorter and colder, summertime comforts don’t always cut it, just as the coziness of winter routines eventually wear off.

Researchers have only just begun digging into the benefits of self care rituals, but experts seem to agree that developing a practice can have several perks.

“Self-care is important because it enhances our well-being by keeping us connected to ourselves and what matters most to us,” explains Kaylee Crocket, a clinical psychologist in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Family and Community Medicine. “It can help prevent illnesses from occurring or recurring, and it builds our capacity to handle stress and recover from adversity.”  

There are so many ways to develop a self care routine, including:

  • Making time for meal planning
  • Meditation
  • Spending time with close friends 
  • Daily walks 
  • Journaling
  • Developing a gratitude practice 

These can be great year-round practices, but there are also certain routines that help you really connect with the season and feeling present. You might adjust your meditation focus throughout the year or treat yourself differently – seeking out a new coffee shop each week during the winter is a great way to stay cozy and also keep a sense of adventure when it’s maybe a little more difficult to do so. In the spring, it can be nice to adopt self care practices that embrace new beginnings.

Even how you adapt these practices might look a little different each season.  

Winter: Opt for warmth. This can be a hard time of year for many people and many reasons, but looking to self care as a means of comfort can help. Try a hot yoga session or dive into a new book. Even health-focused self care rituals, like cooking a nutritious meal, can lean toward coziness. Try a new soup recipe.

Spring: As life returns outside, you can look to your self care routines as a place to try new things and adventure (whether that means physically or within). Embrace change and new beginnings through setting new goals or re-assessing old ones. While often a place of comfort, self care can also help us make healthier decisions, even when it can be difficult to do so. 

Summer: If there’s ever a time to remind yourself to put you first, it might be summer. Focusing on goals like hydration and reset are important when there’s so much going on. Summer months can be jam packed, so it’s important to slow down when you can.

Fall: Let this be a time of reflection. Fall begins the wrap-up of the year, and so it’s a good time to take stock of your year and focus on gratitude. Invest in some quiet time. Assess your goals. Self care can be very personal, and this is the best time to truly tailor it to your needs. 

Where to find seasonal self-care inspiration 

Adjusting your self care practices isn’t always easy. Once you get into a groove attempting something new (even if it’s a good change!) can feel a little bit uninspiring. The flip side is that comfort zones aren’t rigid. What felt like a stretch last season might not be at all the next. Something we notice throughout the year is how our perspective changes, and that’s a big part of finding self care routines. 

  1. Start by thinking on it. What is it that you need most for yourself? This simple question can serve as the foundation of your next self care endeavor. 
  2. Scale back. It’s tempting to adopt lots of new habits and goals with each season, but the point of self care is to do something for yourself. Pick one or two things that will bring out your best self. 
  3. Schedule it. Don’t leave your newfound routine to will alone. Whether it’s a spa night, daily journal session, or a lunchtime walk, write it down and put it on your calendar. One of the biggest lessons in self care is that it’s not always an organic practice, and that’s okay! 

Take cues from nature to optimize your routine. Prioritizing sun in winter or time outside during warmer months can feel like a much-needed treat. 

Shifting expectations is necessary

Perhaps most attractive about setting seasonal self care routines is that it reveals how varied life can be. We all start the year making goals and setting deadlines, and while sometimes they pan out as expected, there are often delays and challenges along the way. 

Taking things day by day or week by week can feel daunting, but having a new focus each season allows enough time to sink into it and not feel rushed while having the ability to look forward to something new if you need it. 

Because of its personal nature, “Self-care looks different for everyone,” Crockett, with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, reminds us. 

“Talking with people in your life about some of their preferred self care activities may be informative, but it is important to remember that not everything that works for them may work for you,” she continues. “A good starting point is to take time to reflect on activities you enjoy doing, that make you feel good and that give you a sense of meaning. From there, start setting some small goals that could easily become a part of your daily routine.”

Seasonal goals can be just important as long-term ones, and they don’t have to change your life to be meaningful. Remember to take some time at the end of each season to debrief what worked well and what you’d like to change in the next season. The great news is that you get a new few months to refocus and try something new.

Written by Kara Mason

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