Christmas is right around the corner now….does it seem that the days are getting shorter and the hours are speeding up? Does it seem that there just isn’t enough time and energy to get everything accomplished? Well, that’s not surprising. Our days continue to grow shorter right through to December 22nd, the shortest day of 2007.

In fact, psychologists tell us that the incidences of mental illness, natural deaths and suicides dramatically increase this time of year. Winter holidays – as much as we love them – can be particularly difficult. Don’t despair. You’re not alone.

With shorter days and less sunshine, many of us find ourselves moving a wee bit slower and feeling just a little "punk". I’m particularly aware of this phenomenon since moving back to Chicago where winter brings dramatic changes in weather patterns.  In the sunny southern states it’s not nearly as obvious. Bitter cold and grey, sun-less days that never seem to end sap my energy leaving me less than jolly.

At the same time, there’s ever so much to get done. Some of us are caught up in the peak of pre-Christmas sales. Others are caught up in all kinds of holiday preparations: last minute touches on decorations and gifts, baking, house cleaning, and the like. And of course, it’s time for businesses to wrap up the year in anticipation for what we hope will be a dramatically improved new year.

When society chose to run by the clock and capitalize on electricity to extend our working hours, we tried to adjust our thinking and our lifestyles in an effort to escape the impact of the earth’s natural rhythms. Some managed to do a fair job of that. But most of us still haven’t quite managed to resist Mother Nature’s pull.

So, if you’re feeling the impact, don’t be surprised. Look at the bigger picture.  We’re only just beginning to realize just how much our lives are intertwined with our environment. Try a little conservation this year in your personal life:

1. Accept that cold, grey days will affect how you feel. Look for ways to brighten your life. Make good use of colors to brighten your surroundings. Consider clothing your home and yourself in lots of reds and yellows and greens. Cool earth tones and dark colors may seem to be appropriate, but warm tones and bright, sunny colors will counteract drab spirits.

2. Adopt a couple of house plants. Include, of course, holly, firs and Christmas cacti but consider also an array of pointsettias, kolanchos, mums and other flowers as well. Green, living plants do impart an aura of vitality. A vase of cut flowers is always nice, too.

3. Gift yourself with more rest. Grant yourself permission to spend just a little bit more time sleeping (How much electricity would we save if we all turned off the lights just one hour earlier?) There are lots of ways we can help the ecology and go green – this is just one.  Besides, it’s surprising just how much more efficient and effective we are when we’re rested and relaxed.

4. Eat well-balanced meals…and consider consuming smaller portions more often. Focus on proteins and fibers – especially fresh green vegetables. All that sugar in the form of candies and holiday treats may taste wonderful and they do, indeed, give us a high….but watch out for that sugar crash 2-3 hours later.

5. Try raising the pitch of your voice a notch or two. When speaking with others, use a lot more expression than you may feel natural. And, put a smile in every conversation. It’s pretty difficult to maintain a down attitude when voice inflections and smiling faces are involved.

6. Be particularly patient with those who appear to be unusually curt and grumpy. They may need your help to get into the Christmas spirit.

Winter is nature’s time for rejuvenation. Let’s get is step this year and do our part to enhance this holiday season. And of course, if you are the kind of person who just has to run at top speed, there will be plenty of time for that too as the days start getting longer after the winter solstice.

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