Self-care during the winter: A time to pause?

It’s official. 

I’m sick of winter.

I’m tired of sunless days, endless snow shovelling, frigid temperatures and ongoing sniffles and sneezing.

I think most Canadians are feeling like I do right about now. 

Self-care is always challenging but it’s especially tough during the winter.  All I want to do is be under a blanket, drink tea and watch Netflix.

But is that such a bad thing? 

Years ago, when I worked in the international development field, I met a brilliant, young agronomist from Ethiopia.  We met in February and when I asked him how he was getting through his first Canadian winter, he explained that we were lucky to experience winter because it gave the earth time to rest which resulted in better crops.  He eloquently explained that snow was a blanket from Mother Nature as a way to protect the earth and regulate the temperature of the surface. Also, melting snow filled rivers and lakes.  How could I argue with that?

Despite winter being good for the earth, there are mental health issues associated with a lack of sunlight at this time of year.  SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is triggered by changes in the amount of sunlight which upsets our biological clock.  About 2 - 3% of Canadians will experience SAD and another 15% will experience a milder form of SAD that leaves them slightly depressed.  (For more information about SAD, check out Canadian Association for Mental Health at

Now let’s get back to the benefits of winter.  If the earth is resting during the winter, isn't it a good time for us to rest as well?  Is it a bad thing to stay indoors and read more, drink tea and basically hibernate as many animals do?   

In the book Do Pause: You are not a To Do List (2019), author Robert Poynton suggests that when we pause, it gives us time to rest and rejuvenate, to become more creative or connect with others or yourself. 

Is winter in Canada just a time for us to pause and rest?

I’m not proposing that we don’t look after ourselves but maybe pausing is a way for us to focus on other indoor, creative activities.  For example, I have been taking an online course so I’m keeping my brain fit.  I have a Thursday afternoon yoga class that takes place a 5-minute walk from my house.  I’m teaching twice a week so I’m surrounded by young minds.  I caught up with a good friend over lunch and had tea twice with my neighbour.  I’ve also watched some very good movies including The Red Sea Diving Resort based on a true story. From 1979 to 1984, thousands of Ethiopian Jews were smuggled out of the diving resort, onto boats and airlifted to Israel. It's a great film!  I had a great weekend in Houston too presenting at a teacher self-care conference and connecting with a teacher/friend (nothing like being surrounded by green grass and flowers in January!).

This winter, I haven’t been bored and have enjoyed hunkering down. Poynton reminds us that even just a small pause every now and again can make a real and lasting difference.  With Spring around the corner, the pause will soon end.  I can’t wait for blue skies, blooming flowers and long nature walks.  I also have some great speaking gigs coming up.  Here’s the list in case one of these events is in your neighbourhood.


Workshop - Is teacher self-care a thing? 3rd Annual Teacher Self-Care Conference in Atlanta, Georgia

Keynote Speaker - What is a Good ESL Teacher? TESL Toronto


Plenary Speaker - Well-being for all.  A lofty goal? and Self-care Strategies for Stressed Teachers Workshop. TESL Atlantic Conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Workshop on Self-care Strategies.  EDCAN National Summit for K-12 Teachers. Edmonton, Alberta

Keynote Speaker - Self-Care Smarter, Not Harder. TESL Kingston, Ontario


Workshop Presenter. Simple Strategies for Stressed Educators. Early Childhood Community Development Centre, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Pause and be well, Patrice



Patrice Palmer has more than 23 years’ experience as an ESL teacher, trainer and writer in Canada and spent seven amazing years in Hong Kong. Her experience with professional burn-out in 2015 prompted her to reflect on her lack of self-care and adopt positive psychology interventions which she now shares with other educators and administrators. Patrice’s new book Teacher Self-Care Manual: Simple Strategies for Stressed Teachers by Alphabet Publishing is available at

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