My Annual Hibernation Tradition
Young people like to ask each other, “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?”
My answer is a grizzly bear. They’re powerful and majestic. They sit at the top of the food chain in their habitat. And most intriguingly, they eat for half the year and rest for the other half.
A few years ago, on a whim, I instituted January as Hibernation Month. The goal was twofold: take a mental break, and protect myself from the elements and the height of cold and flu season. I try to make an effort to protect my physical health and manage my vasculitis. The month also allows me to reset as I face a new year and establish new goals and routines.
It went so well the first time that now I do it every year! I can’t match a grizzly for resting time, but I do what I can to slow down. Hibernation is enjoyable, cozy, and rewarding.
So, how does it work? In January, I pare down my calendar to only the essentials — enough work to make a living — then take the rest of the month off. I stay mostly at home, indulging in self-care and rest, and avoid cold weather and sickness. Below, I spell out what hibernation looks like for me.
Getting more rest
- I sleep a lot more than usual. This is easy to do when the sun goes down early and there aren’t many evening activities on the schedule.
- When a friend invites me to a social event, I usually turn it down. Fortunately, Hibernation Month has been a tradition for so many years that my closest friends now know not to even ask!
- Conserving my energy means I can pour it into other tasks. Maybe there’s something around the house that needs to be done, like a room that needs reorganizing. Or, because I’m saving energy, I’m alert and motivated enough to work without being stressed. Whatever the case, my mind feels more focused and my priorities feel more clear.
Protecting my health
- I check up on my vasculitis profile. Is it time to get lab work done? Do I need to make any appointments? What does my medication refill schedule look like? Do I have bills that need to be paid? Although these things might be on my mind year-round, it’s easier to think about them during hibernation when life is quiet.
- Being mostly indoors for several weeks means I stay warm and healthy. Hot tea, thick blankets, and baths help regulate my skin and muscles when the outside temperatures drop.
- Simply hunkering down at home lets me avoid many of the routine illnesses that get passed around this time of year, which keeps my immune system stable and gives me peace of mind that I’m not putting myself at greater risk than necessary.
- Exercise is still a priority. With extra hours available each day, I’m able to take the dog for longer walks, lift weights at a more mindful pace, or cycle farther on the recumbent bike.
Conserving my resources
- Financially, I usually pair Hibernation Month with a No-Spend January. Without restaurant outings, I can divert funds to buying groceries and cooking nutritious meals at home, a boost to both mental and physical health.
- Owning a car comes with a lot of anxiety in winter. Cutting back on activities means I worry less about icy roads and the potential for traffic accidents.
- Mornings are slow, and evenings are cozy. It fits in well with the season’s shorter daylight hours, and encourages me to go to bed earlier than I normally might.
- Staying in doesn’t mean I don’t reach out to loved ones. Scheduling phone calls instead of texting helps me enjoy quality connection with friends and family — usually wrapped in a big blanket and sipping a hot beverage.
Emerging from hibernation is simple. My birthday is in early February, which concludes a period of six weeks if I begin hibernating after Christmas. By that time, I’ve been in a state of rest so long that I feel invigorated, even restless, and eager to get back to regular life.
I realize this decision is a lifestyle choice that fits with my light work schedule, and is not possible for everyone. For other autoimmune patients, it might be easier to try hibernating in summer, or maybe for just a couple of weeks rather than an enitre month. That’s OK, too. We are not grizzly bears, and life goes on, whether we need a break or not.
I encourage everybody to find a time of the year to focus on getting some rest, practicing self-care, and slowing down. Your body and mind will thank you for the reset!
Note: ANCA Vasculitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ANCA Vasculitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ANCA vasculitis.