The holiday season is a crazy time for many people. What should be a joyous and revitalizing time of year actually makes some cringe with the thought of endless shopping, meaningless events to attend, obligations, and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
The commercialization and craziness of the holidays are certainly one reason we feel stressed out during this time of the year. There is another reason that many of us struggle with the holidays, and we have to look to Chinese medicine and the theory of Yin and Yang to understand it.
The concept of Yin and Yang is a way of describing the world around us. Yang represents things that are sunny, light, warm, and active. In contrast Yin describes things that are relatively cooler, darker, rejuvenating, and nourishing. Our natural world constantly swings like a pendulum between Yin and Yang. Noon is the brightest time of the day, and therefore the most Yang. In contrast, midnight is the darkest and coolest, and is considered the most Yin part of the day.
The seasons also swing between Yin and Yang, and the winter solstice on December 21 (today!) is considered the most Yin day of the year. The solstice heralds the shortest days of the entire year. It is also the beginning of winter, which is cool (well, cold here in MN), 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 rejuvenate, 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 we feel so overwhelmed!
So what can you do to feel more in balance with this seasonal Yin cycle? Think about what is most nourishing to you, both physically and emotionally. This is a time of reflection, which is why New Year’s resolutions are so big. It is also a time of self-care and connection with those things and people who feed your soul.
Some simple Yin-nourishing ideas include:
- Eat really good food with people you love.
- Get some acupuncture, a massage, healing touch, or some other kind of comforting self-care.
- Eat foods that are especially nourishing, such as soups and stews. Don’t worry too much if you gain a couple of pounds. 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 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.