Although I'll assume that we've all been here before, the last bits of autumn in this part of the country -- the days in which the trees hold on to their last leaves, but the piles of dried leaves at our feet far outnumber those on the branches -- present a clear reminder of the dormancy just ahead and fill us with a profound sense of foreshadowing. The annual cold, dark period is upon us.
Through experience, we know that this is a time of year when we will be tested, both physically and emotionally. In turn, we will naturally come within and seek safety from the elements. It is a time where our activities, especially those around the holidays, tempt us to reach for our security blankets, whether that be the companionship of our friends, a warm beverage, or something similarly soothing. People also tend to eat and drink more. Sure, in the spirit of merriment, but for these other, more natural, reasons as well.
It is here, as well, that we become energized by the promise of renewal. As a society, we anticipate the time just up ahead when we will be able to wipe the slate clean and start over, chalking up any missteps as lessons learned and water under the bridge.
And while this cycle has its virtues, it can get impaired by the guilt we feel for allowing ourselves to indulge. Sometimes we forge through this time of year with our renewal dangling like a carrot just after the Jan. 1 finish line, shrugging off the hard feelings -- the feelings we experience but don't fully accept, let alone process. In this way, some of us can become consumed by shame, and the holiday period becomes painful, and the opportunity it presents lost. In and of itself, this is a shame. The question becomes how to enjoy the period most fully.
I'd suggest using this time to get ourselves in shape across all spectrums, from satisfying both our physical and spiritual hunger to satiating the emotional hunger that rears its head when we neglect the former. And if things seem like they're already getting too hectic, think of the mounting intensity in which the coming weeks are characterized by, and then evaluate the current conditions again and your tendency to focus on one or the other. Again, the idea is balance.
It appears that the key here is to attend to all our needs, in moderation. This means, of course, to eat and drink a little less than you might, but to pay attention to your emotional and spiritual needs a little more than you have. Now, it is critical, as we move through this short and powerful prologue, to ensure that we are feeling as good as we possibly can as the holidays unfold. If we can achieve this moderation and the elated feelings this balance produces, we will inevitably consume less, lifting the virtues of the season to their highest potential and getting through what remains of 2012 far more easily.
So as the next beautiful blanket of snow settles down to the earth, think of it as your security blanket, and take in its innocuous purity as a cue to literally cool off. Protect yourself from your own disdain, and open yourself up to a phase of the year which isn't normally characterized by clarity and balance, but certainly can be.
For more by Dr. Michael Finkelstein, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.