There are times when life just seems to move so fast-especially in the Midwest. After what seemed for many people like a disappointingly short and cool summer, we now find ourselves in the middle of November and with the holidays right around the corner. While some people may have appreciated the cooler temperatures that we had during the summer months, it still seems now like there is a sudden nature to the quick change of seasons this year. We did not seem to have much of a fall, which is often a wonderful transitional time for people to be able to enjoy being outdoors in the cooler weather before the freezing temperatures of winter set in, to prepare for returns to school and to a more fast-paced and busy way of life, and to anticipate holiday plans and celebrations. Unfortunately the increasingly unpredictable weather of Chicago has shortened the time that we have to enjoy the pleasures of fall, so we are now being pushed to face the upcoming winter season sooner than many of us would have liked. (The warmer weather of the past several weeks has been a welcome change, and will hopefully be around for us to enjoy a bit longer-but in this city, you never know). However, this speeding up of the season that includes the holidays of Thanksgiving and festivals of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and any other number of religious and/or cultural celebrations that occur at this time of year can pose additional challenges as many people experience emotional difficulties associated with the holiday season. It is very common to experience sadness, loneliness, grief, and emptiness around this time of year. At a time when family and togetherness are emphasized so much, the pain of relationship problems with loved ones can feel even more hurtful and isolating. For some families holiday get-togethers can become occasions of fighting and re-opening of old wounds instead of occasions of happiness and celebration. This is also a time when deaths and other losses of treasured loved ones that were so important in our lives can be reactivated, making a time of year that once was joyful and meaningful into a time of loneliness, sadness and isolation. And of course, the winter temperatures and landscapes that seem beautiful and comforting to some can also appear desolate and depressing to individuals who associate negative emotions and memories with this time of year, and can exacerbate feelings of sadness. Although seasonal depression is something that may stem from deeply-rooted traumas and be a continuing struggle over the years, knowing how the season affects you can help you to prepare for the challenging time ahead, and to have some control over feelings of helplessness. Regardless of our personal feelings and issues surrounding the holidays, viewing this time of year as an opportunity for introspection may be beneficial for all of us. Taking some time to quietly reflect on life, both the losses and disappointments and the joys and successes, can help us all to bring perspective to our current situations and the areas that we may want to focus on improving in the upcoming year. Feelings of sadness often make people want to turn inward; so, the sadness that may accompany this time of year can be used to create increased self-awareness, personal growth, and insight. And no matter how you feel about the holidays, one thing that is certain is that they do come to an end, and usher in a new year with unknown and unlimited possibilities and opportunities. So, the best thing about this season may be the potential for new beginnings that exists for all of us. However you celebrate (or not), I wish you all a very happy holiday season, and an amazing new year ahead.