by Sarah Forristal
Today marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year, the winter solstice, which has been celebrated for over 5000 years in Ireland. On this day the sun is described as standing still before the days start lengthening again. It is a celebration of the returning light at the darkest time of year.
It is difficult to imagine how dark it would have been in the days without electric light. How when the sun went down work would stop for the day, and candlelight would be the only source of light. People would have rested more during the winter months as they were forced to slow down. For us these days, we are not forced to stop or slow down. We have to decide to switch off and to escape the busyness. Sometimes we can put pressure on ourselves to keep going even though our bodies need rest.
There is a natural movement inwards at this time of year, a period of hibernation, when nature is dormant. It is important to listen to our bodies and give ourselves the time to rest and rejuvenate, building our reserves for the year to come.
To embrace this time of year and to honour ourselves it is important to prioritise rest. Light candles in the evening and allow the body and mind to unwind after the day. Invite stillness in by switching off distractions and taking a few slow, deep breaths in and out. Tune in to your body's signals and rest when you need to. You may find you feel like sleeping more, and that's okay. It is a way for the body to preserve energy for the longer days ahead.