You may think it is too soon to begin winter holiday shopping, but now is the time to begin prepping for a healthy and stress free winter season. According to Chinese Medicine principals, the winter season begins October 31st. The solstice, or the longest night of the year, which typically falls about December 21st is the deepest part of winter not the beginning, as our Western calendars tell us. This makes sense when you ponder what is occurring in nature during the season. By solstice, the animals who migrate south have left us, and those remaining are deep in their winter hibernations still, quiet and allowing their bodies plenty of rest to replenish before the hustle and bustle of spring returns. Slowly losing natural sunlight since September, the plants have also gone into a state of hibernation and are conserving their resources until the renewed light of spring allows them to grow and produce fruits again. Take a tip from nature when learning how to stay healthy, happy and whole during the winter season. Only a century ago, we lived in greater harmony with the season. Knowing of the limitations of winter, we gathered our resources in fall and stayed home during the winter months. Quiet contemplation was spent before a fireplace, and gatherings, while festive, were limited to one or two during the season. In recent years, with the ability to artificially extend daylight hours coupled with the constant push to fit more holiday festivities into our already hectic schedule, it is no wonder we have seen a rise in seasonal stress related illness like seasonal affective disorder, cluster headaches, migraines, and chronic lung or sinus infections throughout the winter months. So how do we preserve our health with the modern demands of a fast-paced holiday season? First, prioritize yours and your family's health above all and make decisions based on this priority. Feel guilty saying “No” to the five different holiday parties happening every weekend? Chances are if you are skipping much needed sleep to cram everything into one day, you'll be too exhausted or ill by the end of the season to be truly present at any event. Be certain to add natural sunlight hours into the day by planning a walk or mediation outside. Many seasonal illnesses are a result of not enough natural sunlight for the brain to produce the proper hormone balance it needs to stay well, and most indoor lighting does not have the full spectrum that the brain needs. Lastly, find time to get in tune with the season by planning out restful activities, rather than simply trying to plug them into your jam-packed schedule. Did you know that without enough dormant time at low temperatures, a bulb will not be able to produce a flower come spring? Apply this same concept to your winter by scheduling in “downtime” like reading a good book, relaxing in the bathtub, and doing meditation or slow movement exercises like Tai Chi and Qi Gong.