Wednesday Wisdom

November 11, 2020

Tooled Up for Winter

By Dr Kathy Weston

Tooled Up for Winter


I have been reflecting on how lockdown might afford us further opportunity to find energy from natural sources. Sunshine might be in shorter supply now, but, when it does appear, we can appreciate it all the more.

This morning on the school run, I was uplifted by the sight of winter mists rising upwards from frosty fields. My youngest even spotted a deer. Everything is there for the observation and now is the time to dig deep and truly invest in modelling a mindful approach.

As a university student, there was a brief period when I experienced a series of panic attacks, triggered by a particularly unpleasant exam experience. Panic attacks momentarily make you feel like you are dying, as your heart rate speeds up unexpectedly and often in the oddest of contexts. Once, on a bus, I experienced what is called depersonalisation (observing yourself momentarily, as if you are outside of yourself).
In retrospect, this brief experience of overwhelming anxiety and its sequelae have been extremely beneficial. At the time, I quickly sought out a behavioural therapist who gave me brilliant techniques to get these feelings of panic under control; techniques that I still default to occasionally in middle age.

One of the strategies I added to my toolbox was that of meticulous observation. If and when anxiety ever starts to rise up, I begin to pay attention; to how I am feeling, my body’s response to those feelings, and then to the minutiae of the world around me – the detail of the room that I occupy, the curvature of the table I am sitting at and the tangible objects within reach.


As we enter another prescribed period of isolation, it is important that we don’t consider it an inevitably negative experience, but use it as an opportunity to engage with our surroundings more mindfully.

Any worries we might have can be alleviated by developing a stronger relationship to the present moment and the natural world. Winter immediately centres our focus on cosiness, family hugs, cuddling up and warmth-seeking.

The classical elements of water, earth, air and fire can constitute great pillars around which family life might take shape over the coming weeks. I am always taken aback by how soothed my children are by a fire, how comforted I feel by a hot bath, how invigorating it is to place our hands on the trees that surround our home, and how mood-shifting nature’s sensory experiences can be.

The good news is, none of these things cost you a penny, require an app, need a home delivery slot, or are dependent on personal expertise. They simply require time.


Resources that I created to help families through the last lockdown are still present on my main website, as free downloads, so do take a look.

The most popular lockdown resource still remains my list of questions for children to ask their grandparents on video call. For all families, the greatest natural resources will always be the quality of the

relationship between parent and child, time spent ‘in the moment’ enjoying one another’s company and the type of hearty retrospection that winter encourages.

Are you a Tooled Up member?

For those of you who belong to schools that subscribe to my digital library of resources, Tooled Up, keep your eye on ‘featured’ resources, for new content. Check out the ‘Family Anxiety Manifesto’, which provides a useful template for families to build children’s resilience and my ‘wobble’ worksheets which can help anxious children ‘open up’ about any hesitancy over attending school. ‘