“I’m ready to quit smoking,” the patient said to me. She was on oxygen, seated in a wheelchair and dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy.

“Good,” I said nodding, and kept inserting the acupuncture needles in her legs. I was proud of her.

Shortly after this session, she passed away.

We all, myself included, need time to make decisions that may seem obvious to others. When I was living in Shanghai, a dear friend visited and proceeded to tell me everything that was wrong with my new life. Our relationship didn’t survive it, but some of what she said was accurate.

I just wasn’t ready to listen.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter relates to our ability to hear, meaning both decibels and content. Maybe we live like goalies, deflecting ideas before they reach our hearts. Or we hear the message but we feel so afraid, we decide to do nothing.

We may be very active and responsive people, except for this one issue.

We can always change. In fact, winter is the best time to unpack such classic struggles as freedom vs. responsibility and mortality vs. capability. What does it mean to be alive in Baltimore at this time in history, in our present condition? How do we want to be remembered? And how come our neighbor/co-worker/kid never feels cold?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is a time to be less active. We typically observe this by collapsing after a frenetic holiday season, but there is a more sustainable alternative. We can rest more regularly. Doing nothing, absolutely nothing, for a few minutes each day can help restore our energy level, immune system and thermal capacity.

Texting or scanning news headlines while resting does not count. We can choose to preserve our energy (and that of our family), instead of assuming someone else will resuscitate us if and when we collapse. Even if our partners never feel cold, they can still benefit from resting more.

But what about our ski trips, ice skating marathons or any other plans we may have this winter? You guessed it — we can rest up before and after, so we don’t need a sick day or vacation to recover from a self-imposed burnout.

Daylight and temperatures will soon increase, supporting an upswing in our overall activity level. We can rest more now, to build up our reserves.

Think of it as an environmental issue: each of us is an ecosystem. If we use every available resource just to meet our individual whims, there will be nothing left. No one can predict our needs, what resources we will require to grow physically, intellectually and spiritually. Our capacity for wisdom and insight, for experience and adventure, requires us to have not only stamina and resources.

By being responsible, we maintain resources for the unknown and for everyone else.

We all have room for growth. I quit smoking some 30 years ago, but I still struggle to hear things that I find unpleasant. This column is as much for me as for us all. We must preserve our resources, and winter is a great time to start.

Trina Lion is an acupuncturist at Mercy Medical Center and Sinai Hospital. She also treats adults and children privately in Mt. Washington Village. She has lectured on Traditional Chinese Medicine at institutions ranging from NFL China to International Channel Shanghai (ICS-TV) to Yale University, and can be reached at trinaliontcm@gmail.com.

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