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  • Allison Ramsey, Infertility Counselor

Let Winter Help You Get Grounded


It's November 6, a week after Halloween, and my husband just caught me trying to listen to holiday music. I definitely used to be in the camp of folks trying not to touch a single thing Christmas until Black Friday. But with all the pain in the world, and all the pain of others I'm exposed to on a daily basis as a therapist and fertility coach, I just need a reason to feel festive during the winter months. I've decided it's definitely not okay to celebrate Christmas after New Years (we've got to have boundaries people) but why not let the joy extend from 1/12 of the year to 1/6 of the year?

Christmas is an easy target for feeling good: cookies, movies, hot chocolate (or toddys), crafts, but instead of increasing my sugar and alcohol intake in the spirit of "feeling festive" I thought there would something else I could do. In the winter people often report lower moods, perhaps connected to the lack of sunlight we get in the darker months. When a lot of us are supposed to be at work or school during the sparse daylight hours, it can be hard to make yourself get a dose of much needed sunlight during the day. I recently came across a "Sit Spot Challenge" hosted by Wilderness Awareness School (WAS) on Facebook. The idea is you find a place outside, preferably very accessible, and sit there for 10 whole minutes. There is the potential for a multitude of effects.

As popularized by WAS, the sit spot is intended to help a person develop a deeper connection with the nature around them. Though the mental health benefits are not as touted by WAS, I'm positive they are a well-intended side effect. When I first experimented with a sit spot, it was December in mid-Missouri, and even though I was in a different place in my life (back in 2003), the mood of the impending winter was the same. So I found a spot in the backyard and a fluffy old knee-length down coat my aunt had left over from her days living in Michigan, and I made an intention to sit there every day of December.

The first week was difficult, but as I found the right clothes ("no bad weather, just bad clothes" as the Scandinavians like to say) I started to bring my awareness away from myself, and attune myself with the rhythms around me. The black-capped chickadee or cardinal that visited nearly daily, the occasional skittering grey squirrel. The meditative effect of sitting with wide open eyes, monitoring the sound of breath, waiting for the next critter, rustle of leaves, or stretch of silence in the cool December air was unexpected for me. My sit spot became instrumental in preserving and enhancing my mental health that winter.

If you are struggling with infertility this holiday season you're probably not looking forward to the festivities of the next six weeks. Sitting with nature for 10 minutes a day will have a life affirming effect on your mood and mental health. You will feel more grounded and able to handle the hassles that come your way. Notice how nature is all-accepting and non judgemental. There are no expectations of you. Let nature help you find joy this holiday season.

A poem to inspire you to get out in it, from Mary Oliver -

White-Eyes

In winter

all the singing is in

the tops of the trees

where the wind-bird

with its white eyes

shoves and pushes

among the branches.

Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,

but he's restless—

he has an idea,

and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings

as long as he stays awake.

But his big, round music, after all,

is too breathy to last.

So, it's over.

In the pine-crown

he makes his nest,

he's done all he can.

I don't know the name of this bird,

I only imagine his glittering beak

tucked in a white wing

while the clouds—

which he has summoned

from the north—

which he has taught

to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall

into the world below

like stars, or the feathers

of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,

that is asleep now, and silent—

that has turned itself

into snow.

Allison Ramsey is a licensed professional counselor and fertility counseling specialist in the Asheville area. She’s a member of Resolve, The Infertility Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and completed their certificate training in mental health counseling for infertility. Contact her to start feeling better.


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