A To Do For You List
Don't get overwhelmed with the idea of overhauling your life.
Start with these 10 small steps
This time of year is all about lists. Shopping lists, invitation
lists, holiday card lists … the, um, list goes on. Santa's even
making a list and
checking it twice.
So why not make a list just for you? Try these 10 easy steps for
a healthier, less stressed and more organized you. Already doing a
few? Good for you-that's why we've included an extra-credit option
1. Plan ahead. Every mother who has hunted for a hard-tofind fad
toy for her child knows the razor-thin line separating merriness
from madness. Why not plan ahead this holiday season? Set aside
specific shopping days or buy gifts online-the convenience may be
worth the shipping costs. Extra credit: Wrap a stash of "extra"
items (labeled on the outside with sticky notes), so you'll be
ready at a minute's notice.
2. Trim TV viewing. A recent study shows that people battling
sleep depravation blame it on TV or Internet use. Other studies
correlate TV watching with weight gain. And then there's the "duh"
factor, namely that TV steals time from volunteerism and other
productive activities. Try watching only your favorite shows while
exercising, making up your grocery list or folding laundry. Extra
credit: Set your digital video recorder or, better yet, turn off
the tube for a whole month.
3. Eat for energy. "Energy foods" don't always pick you up as
much as they let you down. "In fact, if the first ingredient is
sugar, you will get a short-lived burst of energy followed by a
crash," says Roberta Anding, R.D., a spokeswoman for the American
Dietetic Association. Small snacks that mix carbs, protein and
fiber are best. Try low-fat yogurt topped with berries and Grape
Nuts. Extra credit: Don't skip breakfast. Ever. You'll start the
day out with energy that lasts after the caffeine buzz wears
4. Make some "me" time. The holiday season is like a six-week
change in cabin pressure, and you can't help your family unless you
put your oxygen mask on first. "Donate your time to you," suggests
Mental Health America President and CEO David Shern, Ph.D. Massage therapy is a
great way to spend your me time. Regular massage not only feels
great but can help keep holiday stress at bay. Extra credit: Tap
into massage therapy as a regular part of life, not just something
you turn to in times of stress.
5. Make time for others. Studies show that volunteerism and
giving to others influence how well you feel and how well your body
fights illness. Volunteerism can also build confidence and a sense
of purpose. "In short, doing something good for others can make you
feel good about yourself," Shern says. Extra credit: This year,
pledge to spend time-even if it's just an hour-each month working
with a local charity.
6. Set priorities. If you don't set your priorities, your boss,
your clients or your stack of mail will. Saying "yes" only to
activities that match your priorities will help you avoid feeling
stretched too thin. This effort is worth it, but can be tricky-
especially if it means bowing out of your big client's annual party
to see your daughter's choir concert. Extra credit: Set up a
yearlong calendar and ink in high-priority commitments now so you
can identify any potential conflicts early.
7. Get some sleep. Job, family, volunteering, laundry-we all
have enormous demands on our time. But if you sacrifice sleep to
sneak in a few more tasks, it could backfire. Evidence shows that
sleep deprivation affects judgment, memory, mood and health. Aim
for seven to nine hours of zzzzs every night. Extra credit: No more
boasting "I only got four hours of sleep," and no more thinking
you'll catch up on weekends. You won't.
8. Move it. Most of us have heard the good news that even three
10-minute chunks of exercise every day can have positive health
benefits. So, with 1,440 minutes at your daily disposal, get
creative about how to squeeze exercise in. You'll sleep better and
feel less stressed, not to mention that your risk for disease will
drop. Extra credit: Involve your family. Snowball fights and
sledding excursions count!
9. Tap into your support system. Like the song says, we all get
by with a little help from our friends. Even rats do. A study in
Japan found that the mere presence of a fellow rat alleviated
stress responses in other rats. "When a person feels overwhelmed,
it is the support structure around them that can help alleviate
some of the pressure," Shern says. Extra credit: Already have a
support system? Broaden it by joining a community or recreational
center, or a support group.
10. Be realistic. Family relationships can be stressful. Grief
over the death of a loved one can throb. And your kids may not be
coming home for the holidays. Abandon hopes for a Hallmark holiday
and be realistic. Sometimes peace and joy come in different
packages. Extra credit: Don't try to live up to an ideal. This year
try a whole new tradition. Have an Asian or Mexican feast instead
of a formal turkey-and-stuffing dinner. Or send out New Year's
cards instead of rushing to get Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Christmas
cards in the mail.