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The Gifts of Winter

bare tree in winter

There is stillness in the air as we are in the midst of winter. It is the coldest, darkest and most yin time of the year. The powerful energetics of this season allow us to transform crisis into opportunity, isolation into support and fear into wisdom. It takes an extra effort of will, ambition and determination for plants, animals and mankind to make it through this season. In order for a bulb to break through the cold ground in the springtime it needs to spend the winter filling itself with energy from the depths of the earth. Take some time working with the following practices to cultivate the energy of the winter and nourish yourself so you can blossom in the spring.

Know your limits: This is the time of year to be a bear -- pull back, quiet down, conserve and rest. In order to conserve energy you need to know what your limits are and when it might be appropriate to say no. Listen to your body and take a rest when it is calling you to sleep. Before accepting an invitation out decide if the people who you will be with fill you up or wear you out.

Practice meditation: Take at least 5 minutes at the start and end of the day to do a short meditation. Meditation can help to calm the sympathetic nervous system and reset the parasympathetic nervous system. After finding a relaxed and comfortable position tune into your breathing. Inhale through the nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds and then slowly exhale for 8 seconds. If your mind wanders quietly refocus on the counts of your breathing.

Reduce stressors: When we overextend ourselves it makes us more vulnerable to unanticipated stress from injury, illness or family conflict. Excess work and excess exercise are common culprits that eat away at our reserves. While it can be hard in this day in age to reduce our workload we can take control of what we put in our body and how we fuel ourselves. Strive to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day.

Adapted from Power of the Five Elements: The Chinese Medicine Path to Healthy Aging and Stress Resistance by Charles A. Moss, MD.

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