1. Learn to prioritize
Many of us make the mistake of drawing up an unrealistic holiday to-do list—and then run ourselves ragged trying to accomplish every last thing. Linda Moreland, a psychotherapist based in Lansdowne, PA, recommends prioritizing your list. “Maybe you don’t need to do all the baking you’ve always done for years, or put up all the decorations,” she says. “Just concentrate on a few things that have special significance to you.”
2. Insist on a good night’s sleep
You probably know from personal experience that if you don’t get enough sleep, you feel irritable and energy-zapped the next day. Recently, researchers discovered a lack of sleep increases the chances of catching the common cold—just what you don’t need during the already-stressful holiday season. So do yourself a favor and get your ZZZs.
3. Eat a balanced diet
There’s something about the holidays that causes even healthy, level-headed people to toss their careful eating routines out the window. Don’t fall for this trap. Your food is your fuel, so make sure to eat a healthy blend of lean proteins, whole grain carbohydrates, healthy fats like olive oil, and plenty of veggies to keep your blood sugar—and energy—balanced. When you know you’re going to be exposed to lots of party treats, make sure you eat healthful foods the rest of the day—and don’t go to the event hungry.
4. Lower your expectations
A sure-fire way to stress out over the holidays is to insist that everything be a certain way. When you let go of the idea that your ideal holiday and your actual holiday will match, you will be free to enjoy what’s in front of you. “The holidays should be about family and love,” says Moreland. “What is most important is getting together and enjoying each other and not worrying about everything being perfect.” Going with the flow also provides more opportunity for novel, spontaneous solutions to problems that arise, which can make for future favorite family stories.
5. Raise your immunity
All that time spent with others exposes you to a host of cold and flu-causing germs. Be prepared ahead of time, by taking 1,000 IU of the immune-fortifying nutrient vitamin D starting in November. At the first sign you’re coming down with something, start popping zinc lozenges (providing 13 to 25 mg) and take 3 to 4 ml of echinacea every two hours to help stop the cold virus.