Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Cape Flattery, Olympic Peninsula, WA Renee Peterson Trudeau
I think one of the most critical pieces to enhancing balance or equilibrium in our lives is the ability to tune into –and listen—to our body and soul’s natural rhythms.

For the past three years, I have slowed down considerably during the month of January. This year—after extensive planning-- I’ll be taking time for a 30-day writing “sabbatical” (basically still working, jut not seeing clients or taking speaking engagements/meetings so that I can spend 4 hours a day exclusively focused on reflection and writing).

My birthday falls on the 7th and while traditionally this is a huge month for my career coaching/consulting firm, it always felt unnatural for me to push hard at work when everything else—the weather, the need for post-holiday self-care/recovery, a tendency toward mild Seasonal Affective Disorder, my need to do some deep inner preparation for the coming year—was guiding me to slow down and go inward, not outward, during this month. (Don’t worry—if you need career support, my coaching team is wonderful and will be around all of January!)

It only took me 40 years to realize how necessary this January slow-down is. Now I understand this to be essential to my physical, spiritual and emotional well-being.

Many cultures celebrate the Winter Solstice as the kick-off for the time of year when they honor our innate need for introspection, deep reflection and solo time. The Solstice—which fell on December 21st this year--marked the shortest day of 2008. It signifies the season of the year when we are asked to go inside ourselves and connect to the light on this darkest day of the year. It is also a time of rebirth.

This slowing down in January can be particularly challenging when our culture will soon start hyping the New Year’s mindset of "get our there and start making headway on your '09 goals!” (Actually counter to what our bodies and want to do during these cold, dark hibernation-friendly days, right?!)

Ask any mental health professional; most of their calendars are booked heavily during January. Unfortunately the rate of depression and suicide skyrockets during and after the holiday season. It makes you wonder if this might also be due in part, to the conflict some of us feel this time of year around slowing down vs. speeding up (and I acknowledge that for some, speeding up in Jan. feels most natural).

When I pay attention to my own natural rhythms, work and life flow. When I don’t, it’s like climbing a mountain with a 100 pound bag on my back trying to get things accomplished.

I like to ask myself, “what seasons or months am I typically most productive or creative?” and then capitalize on those. And also “what months or periods of the year are typically challenging for me?” and consider how I can build in extra self-care or lighten my load to support these times.

Consider pulling out your 2008 (and if you have it, 2007) calendar and review your year—when you were in flow and when you weren’t. And share your observations with a friend. This might lead to some interesting insights around your natural rhythms and when you need to take it easy vs. launch new projects.

Why work harder than we need to, right? I’d love to hear your observations around your natural rhythms.

P.S. My colleague, Jennifer Louden, the Comfort Queen, has some great materials, books and resources to support you in nurturing yourself during the winter and throughout the year. Love her work!

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