The holiday season has once again come… and gone.
And what should “normally” be a joyous and revitalizing time of year is for many people anything but that, with the craziness of Black Friday, endless shopping, strained budgets, events to attend, obligations, and a general feeling of being overwhelmed.
The commercialization of the winter holidays is certainly one reason we feel stressed during this time of the year.
There is another reason that many of us struggle during the holiday season, and we have to look to Chinese medicine and the theory of Yin and Yang to understand it.
Yin and Yang
The concept of Yin and Yang was developed thousands of years ago as a way of making sense of the world around us.
Yin and Yang are a dichotomy in which Yang describes things that are sunny, light, warm, and active. In contrast Yin is related to things that are relatively cooler, darker, quieter, rejuvenating, and nourishing.
Our natural world constantly swings like a pendulum between Yin and Yang. For example, each day swings between the warm and active Yang of daytime and the cool, dark, rejuvenating Yin of night.
The seasons also swing between the Yang of summertime and the Yin of winter.
And with December 21, the winter solstice being the most Yin day of the year.
The Season of Yin
The solstice heralds the beginning of winter, which is cool, dark, and nourishing. Like animals that hibernate during winter, our bodies want to slow down, try to stay warm, eat decorative cookies, drink eggnog, and put on a few pounds—all physically nourishing, Yin activities.
At a time of the year when our bodies naturally want to slow down and conserve energy, we are busy doing just the opposite.
Many of the things we do in conjunction with the holidays are Yang in nature, in that they are outward and active, such as entertaining, shopping, partying, and decorating. Being overly busy can make us feel out of harmony with the natural flow of this Yin time of year.
No wonder many of us feel so overwhelmed!
The good news is that there are some things that you can do to feel more in balance with this seasonal cycle of Yin.
Think about what is most nourishing to you, both physically and emotionally. This is a time of reflection, which often results in New Year’s resolutions. It is also a time of self-care and connection with those things and people who feed your soul.
Some simple Yin-nourishing activities
- Prepare food with care and share it with the people you love.
- Get some kind of comforting self-care, such as acupuncture, a massage, or healing touch.
- Choose foods that are especially nourishing, such as soups and stews. Don’t worry too much if you gain a pound or two. Your animal self is programmed to store a little extra around the waist this time of year as both a survival mechanism and in preparation for the coming activity of springtime.
- Reflect on the year that has just past and the new year to come. What went well last year? What would you like to do differently next year? Make plans for the coming year based on your answers.
- Honor the natural cycle of winter. Sleep a little more, slow down, and stay warm.