Self-Care: Light a Candle When You Get Home

For almost half of the year the sun never completely sets in Central Finland. During the other half it never completely rises. I bring this up because multiple sources of self-care advice, and several journaling prompts, have suggested to light a candle when you get home. It’s a way to set a mood, to help transition from work time to personal time. I get that. It just doesn’t work that well here, or at least it doesn’t work well for me.

When it’s light out all of the time, the candle is redundant. It gets lost. We don’t even turn on regular lights, we just open up the curtains and enjoy all of the natural light that comes streaming in. During the Long Dark, though, we light candles all the time. I’ll even have one on the table next to me when I’m writing. It’s a way to make things cozy. It reduces my anxiety somehow, and cuts right through some of the seasonal depression. The Danes have a word for digging in during the winter and lighting candles, hygge, which has sparked a trend in the United States. The Finns call it kodikkuus, intimacy. It’s the same thing. It’s finding ways to make yourself comfortable in the dark.

Light a Candle When You Get Home

There’s more to this prompt, this piece of self-care advice, than the fact that a natural flame is somehow psychologically comforting. It is about making a transition from being at work to being at home. If a candle can help with that, fantastic. Because I work from home, I try to alter the lighting. When I’m working, there’s a desk lamp that’s always on even if I don’t need it. After work it goes off, and another light that I don’t use during office hours goes on. It changes the mood a bit. Along with changing he music, it helps me shift gears from one more to the other.

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2 thoughts on “Self-Care: Light a Candle When You Get Home

  1. I’m still trying to find ways to do this. Near the end of Winter here (amateur hour under a sun, I know) I bought a string of brightly colored holiday lights on clearance from the mart of the wal. It helped me wake up and the colors helped put me in a better mood before work. Now that the sun is back in the sky longer I need something to help me fall asleep before noon so I can get a decent sleep in before the night shift. The transitions are key.

  2. People here put up lights starting at the autumn equinox in September. In fact, Jyväsyklä has a festival of lights to celebrate the equinox. The lights here aren’t multicolored, mostly white and very occasionally blue, because they’re not Christmas lights. They’re giving the finger to the Long Dark. They stay up until after Epiphany (the 12th day of Christmas) when the days are noticably getting longer and the quality of light is better. We put up fairy lights in the kitchen window, where I work, and the living room, where Katie works. They’re up from September through some time in January, and they really do help.

    Another thing that people do here is put up blackout curtains. They’re heavy black cloth that shut out all light. Usually they’re next to the window, and there’s another track with prettier, more transparent curtains over top. During the time of year when the sun is always out, people close the blackout curtains to sleep. Then they open them, but leave the other set closed to get some light. In the winter people leave the blackout curtains open, unless they’re using wakeup lights.

    Wakeup lights might work well for you. They’re meant to simulate sunrise and sunset, in order to help balance out circadian rhythms. You set a timer, and the lights slowly come up over a 30 minute period. At night they slowly dim over a 30 minute period. A lot of them use different colors, I think blue for sunrise and red for sunset. People keep the blackout curtains closed so they can’t see that it’s actually still dark outside following the fake sunrise. I know people with SAD and general depression who swear by the wakeup lights.

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