I don’t know about you but at some point every winter, I turn into a bear-like creature that can barely drag herself out of bed.
It’s a terrible moment for me as a coach: just when I’m supposed to cheerfully lead a new set of clients into creating valuable habits and practices, my own motivation and energy plummets to its yearly, scraping-the-barrel low point.
My winter metamorphosis always takes me by surprise. I am bowling along merrily getting a million things done and then suddenly I grind to a total, SAD-induced halt.
This year my energy crash seemed to coincide exactly with the entrance of the new year. In the split second it took for the calendar to change from 17 to 18, I morphed from a light and fleet-of-foot, multi-tasking gazelle into a heavy, dull-witted bear incapable of juggling the myriad tasks required of me as an artist, coach and solopreneur.
If - like me - you suffer from low energy and decreased motivation in the depths of winter then rather than leaping into the new year with a spring in your step, you’re probably hauling your inner cave bear along with you wherever you go. I feel you. That bear is one heavy, sleepy mofo.
If you live in the Northern hemisphere our urge to retreat into a dry, warm cave isn’t surprising. The days have only just passed their shortest. The nights are long and the weather is cold.
While this is a great season for taking stock and thinking about what we want to do in Spring, for a lot of us it’s not so great for taking action.
New habits don’t have to be all or nothing
The good news is that I’m not suggesting that you give up altogether on changing your habits or introducing new practices now.
But instead of leaping in blindly, only to find that after a short burst of enthusiasm, you wilt back into your former ways, try easing yourself into new habits and practices gradually and with compassion.
5 ways to rally the Bear
Here’s five suggestions to get your inner Bear moving.
1. Build new habits in tiny increments and build up momentum as spring comes around. Heavy creatures like bears need time to build up speed.
2. Break down your goals into really short, doable steps. Pat yourself on your furry back for each little step forward you make. Bears are plodders and need feeding with encouragement if they’re to be kept out of hibernation.
3. Focus on just ONE habit or practice. Your attention probably isn’t laser sharp at this time of year and you may feel confused by seeing lots of items on your to do list. But bears are ok at doggedly digging their way through something hefty once they get their attention focussed. Even for non-bears, when starting new habits, it’s best to focus on just one habit, until it’s firmly ingrained, before starting another.
You could even pick a short-term habit like working every Sunday to clear the garage. You’ll be quite surprised by how this bearish energy tackles things that you put off at other times of the year.
4. Form habits of connection. The longer evenings of winter are an ideal time to kick new social media resolutions into being. As solopreneurs, time constraints too often cause us to default to auto-posting, and creating meaningful social media interactions can be a real challenge. (Guilty!)
Bear time is eminently suited to experimenting with a different social media platform or planning out yearly campaigns. And all from the comfort of your bear cave, I mean, sofa.
5. Get going on your study goals. Cave time is also great for kicking off study habits, filling the well and taking in new ideas - albeit slowly. This is a great moment in the year to catch up on those non-fiction books that have been sitting on your to-read list for ages or to slowly plod through a self-learning course. Don’t worry if your bear needs a nap between modules.
Above all, be kind to yourself and your inner bear. Build into your practices lots of warming, comforting rewards. And plenty of rest.
If you manage just the smallest change towards growth in January, you’ll be doing better than about 92% of other people so it’s a win - for you and your inner bear.
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Over the years of struggling with my inner winter cave bear, I’ve learned to recognise that he is not a permanent threat but instead represents an energy ‘season’.
And just as I have low-energy time Bear time, sure enough there are times of the year when my energy is at its max. I’m definitely Tigger at summer solstice!
So if you’re feeling more than a little bear-ish at the moment, I invite you to get a bit of annual perspective by plotting the times of year when you have more and less energy.
Knowing your energy cycles will help you plan to reach peak performance on your goals and habits at that time of the year when you’re at your most up.
It will help you feel more ok about having downtime or low-expectation goals now; to see this time for what it is - a phase - and to make the most of it.
Because, yes, it is possible to get positive things even from a cave bear!
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