the critter self: finding your natural rhythm

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This time last year I felt guilty. Wrong. Like I should be doing things differently.

For the past few years I’ve had a difficult time when we “fall back” off of daylight savings. For whatever reason, when it’s gets dark outside, my instinctual critter self wants to be snugged up in my nest. At home. That means that once the time changes, I basically don’t want to go anywhere or do anything after about 5:30 pm.

Well, guess what? Much to my dismay, the rest of the world still bustles outside their nests after 5:30. They have workshops and meeting and dinners and parties. People show up to these things energized, and not in their pajamas.

So for several years I tried to play along. I would haul my carcass 30 minutes across town for a 7 pm workshop, suffer through an evening movie with friends, and fall asleep during any nighttime play I saw, no matter how engaging it was.

Because it’s what people do, right? Why couldn’t I just do like they do? What was wrong with me?

This year I had a radical idea: What if I did what my critter self wanted to do? What if I followed my own natural rhythm?

Hot dog, I am onto something now. So last year, guilt. This year, I go to bed as early as I want. 8 or 9 pm. I get up without an alarm when I’m ready, which has been consistently around 5:15. I start my workday then, and am up when the sun comes up, so I’m getting maximum daylight hours. I exercise, have breakfast, and get ready for the day around 8 am, and then have the rest of the day until my critter self will want to hibernate when the sun goes down.

I’m turning down evening events. I’m not a total shut-in, I did go to dinner and a play with some friends last week (I fell asleep).

But I am honoring my natural seasonal rhythms.

I’m working with myself instead of against myself.

I know that when we go back on daylight savings my rhythm will change again, and I’ll stay active later in the day when we have the sunlight.

But for now, when the big warm light slides behind the ocean, you’ll find me curled, still, and warm in my wintertime nest.

What are the natural rhythms of your critter self, and how do you make them work for you? Share with us in the comments.

Gathering light,

15 thoughts on “the critter self: finding your natural rhythm

  1. I too feel the pull of my bed a little earlier with the time change, but alas I like to sleep in a little it later than 5am;). So I wouldn’t say my critter was a night owl but somewhere in between…

  2. I love this idea. We often work so hard to do what we think we “should,” even when it goes against our core. We assume that everyone else knows better than we do and try our best to follow the “norm.” When you stop and think about it, it’s kind of silly. I mean, who knows us better than we know ourselves?

    The natural rhythms are very real. I think if you’re a person who can still feel them – amidst all the noise of our modern world – you’re very fortunate … even more so if you choose to listen.

  3. I did the same thing the past few years Laura. Took me a lot longer to wise up :-) We all have natural cycles of energy. Some of us are bears that like to hibernate in winter. Others energetic squirrels foraging nuts all year round.

    I like what Jamie says about still feeling the rhythms “amidst all the noise of our modern world”. So true!

  4. I’m certainly and early-to-bed-and-early-to-rise person–not exactly the life of the party–but I think there are daily rhythms and longer cycles too. I think it’s important to pay attention to what your body is telling you on a daily basis, but also it’s important to take a day off. Regularly. One day a week I try to step away from the computer (hard to do!), pay attention the the larger world, breathe, and relax. It sure gives me energy for the week to come!

  5. YES, Laura! Yes. This. Ahh I have been thinking of this VERY thing lately! I was just talking the other day about how we resist our natural rhythms and ways of being to conform to what our society has sculpted as the expected ‘human schedule’, when in reality, aren’t we really just critters in clothes? I think we forget that ‘modern society’ is so new compared to the age of our species. Other animals in the wild don’t sit down to three square meals, or keep their eyes open for 12+ straight hours if they’re tired, or eat/drink stimulants to keep themselves awake so they can be productive.

    Obviously some things aren’t totally throw-out-the-window avoidable but I am allll about honoring our critter selves. I say this as I buckle down to an insanely long work day, prepare to go to two separate trips to CT/NYC in a week’s time and resist napping on a daily basis. But soon! Baby steps. :)

  6. Laura–

    I love this post! I’ve decided that this is the season that I finally make my peace with New England winter, which in large part means just going with it. The feeling of it physically, mentally and emotionally, the cold, the snow, everything. I’ve started hunkering down, stockpiling my tea, wearing my sweaters and layers, and getting cozy at night, too. I like to think I go with my own rhythms but I tend to fight this season and the lack of acceptance wears on me. It’s time love it.

  7. And we just had a chat about this yesterday :)

    Yes! My sun powered critter self wants to sleep earlier and is louder about it with each new year. Daily catnaps are an integrated ritual too.

    The short grey daylight of the north fosters desire to nest which comes with an increased introspective mental process. This is a tone/headspace that I’ve come to appreciate about Vancouver winters since moving west 20 years ago. The shift away from social Jenn is another hard part, but also so exciting, come spring :)

  8. This is something I can relate with.
    I’ve always been a morning person (sun seems to be my boss!) but now that I’m older I found that my energy levels really are effected by daylight. Since the winter has arrived I feel more numb and less productive.
    That’s why I decided I needed to get up earlier so I could make more of my day but has been a real challenge.
    Other things get in the way like no exercice at all and not so healthy eating habits (love sugar to much!) that are really affecting my mental and fisical being.
    Anyhow, I’m trying to have more respect for my rhythms and make them work for me.

    Great post!

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