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Staying sane through the holidays

Without a doubt, the holidays are a crazy time of year (as well as “the most wonderful”!). From the end of November to the beginning of January, most of us rush around nonstop, trying to fit in dozens of events, activities, and responsibilities. And even though most of us look forward to this special season all year long, it’s still easy to stretch yourself too thin in the midst of all the festivities. According to Marla Tomazin, that’s why it’s very important to take care of yourself as well as taking care of everyone else.

“Most of us don’t realize just how demanding the holiday scramble can be until we’re exhausted, overwhelmed, or even sick,” points out Tomazin, who has been an image consultant for twenty years after earlier experience in the fashion industry. “The good news is, with a little prior planning and prioritizing, you can enjoy and cherish the things that are most important to you without having to run on fumes to make it through New Year’s Eve!”

Tomazin promises that when you decide to have yourself a merry little Christmas, you’ll make more memories to cherish, you’ll be a more valuable help to your family, and you’ll be in a good position to enter the new year already on a roll. Read on for her top take-care-of-you tips:

Make a list and check it twice. Realistically, you can focus only on one or two big goals at a time, no matter how adept you are at multitasking. That’s why Tomazin recommends sitting down (right now!), deciding what is most important to you this holiday season, and prioritizing those things. If spending time with your family is at the top of your list, for example, put them first and consciously make sure that other things remain on the back burner. Or if eating well and maintaining your health is a primary goal, plan out a strategy beforehand so that you won’t be blindsided by buffet-table bounty. Most importantly, remember that you can’t do it all.

“I’ll never forget the year I specifically set aside time to spend with my mother,” Tomazin recalls. “She taught me to make the Italian cookies that she and her family had always enjoyed at this time of year. I couldn’t possibly put a price on learning to carry on this tradition, and the memories my mother and I made are certainly better than if we had gone shopping in one more store!”

Give yourself the gift of health. When you’re this busy and stressed, it’s easy to become run down and spread yourself too thin. And on top of the strain that the holiday bustle can bring, it’s also cold and flu season … so make sure to take care of your physical needs. Tomazin recommends getting in some light exercise, even if you can work in only a short walk a few days a week. Also, be sure to drink lots of water, eat healthy foods, and avoid gorging on treats at every opportunity. Lastly, make a point to get enough sleep (DVR that late-night holiday special if you have to)! Tomazin promises that if you do all of these things, you’ll enter the new year on a healthy foot. And that means that you won’t have to start all over on Jan. 2 and make a brand new set of “lose weight and live healthier” resolutions.

Go on a date … with yourself. We tend to be more or less constantly surrounded by other people during the holidays; after all, it’s a season devoted to being with the ones you love! However, even when it comes to family and friends, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. To make sure you don’t become socially drained mid-season, make a point to do something by yourself every now and then. Maybe it’s sitting down to enjoy a cup of coffee in the middle of Christmas shopping, or going to see a romantic comedy without your kids. (A dinner with just your spouse can also serve this function if you’d rather not fly solo.) When you unwind and take a breather, Tomazin promises, your perspective will stay clear and your stress won’t become too overwhelming.

Plan ahead. Everyone talks about how the holidays “catch them by surprise” every year. In order to keep from being overwhelmed and overbooked in the coming weeks, Tomazin says that you need to look at your calendar right now. Start scheduling social engagements as soon as you become aware of them, and give yourself plenty of time to fulfill your own responsibilities so that you aren’t frantically gluing tinsel onto your daughter’s pageant costume at 2 a.m. the day before her big stage debut. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy seasonal events instead of just getting through them.

Let yourself off the hook, and be okay with that. Unless you’re Martha Stewart, you’ll never have a picture-perfect holiday season. (Truthfully, most of us can identify more with Clark Griswold’s mishaps in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation as the beloved character tries to create a “good old-fashioned family Christmas.”) To save your sanity, realize ahead of time that you might forget to buy a gift for Great-Aunt Maude, that the dog might break a few low-hanging Christmas ornaments, and that you might not be able to make all eight dozen cookie recipes you’ve collected. That’s normal, Tomazin assures, so don’t beat yourself up. Keep your focus on what’s really important and you’ll be less tense and harried—as well as more resilient!

Say no. Many of us have trouble saying no for a variety of reasons: We don’t want to let others down, we don’t want to be seen as weak, we’re afraid to refuse, etc. However, Tomazin points out that until you learn to say no when you need to, you’ll never be in the driver’s seat of your own life. She’s adamant that you don’t have to do it all—nor should you. You don’t have to chair every event, host every party, and buy every gift on your kids’ lists. Again, Tomazin reminds, decide ahead of time what’s most important to you and prioritize those things. Then you can feel okay about saying no to some of the rest.

Give yourself a gift (or two). Chances are, you’ve already started shopping for some of the items on your gift list. As you’re choosing the perfect presents for your spouse, kids, friends, and more, Tomazin reminds you not to forget yourself! Whether it’s an afternoon pedicure or a plush new robe to wear around the house during the chilly months, remember that it’s both okay and healthy to invest in yourself. This might even be the perfect opportunity to buy that fabulous dress you’ve been eyeing—after all, you can wear it to your and your spouse’s company parties or cocktail hours. Spending a few dollars or minutes on yourself might seem like a relatively small thing, but Tomazin promises that it can make a huge difference.

“Ultimately, you don’t have to completely overhaul the way you approach the holidays to savor the upcoming season instead of feeling stressed by it,” Tomazin concludes. “By putting some prior thought into what you find most meaningful and important, and by acknowledging the importance of your own health and sanity, you’ll find that this is once again ‘the most wonderful time of the year’!”