We are TEN DAYS away from Christmas and I can tell. The stores a full of people shopping for gifts and decorations,  there are trees and decorations all over the city, and I am attending my fourth party in the past ten days.  We are approaching the final stretch before the new year, and all of this will be over until this time next year. It’s important to enjoy your holidays, and I have composed a list of eight steps to make this holiday season and beyond, one that you enjoy and cherish, while keeping your mental and physical health stable and strong.

Eight Steps to Enjoying Your Holidays:

  • Take calm-down breaks. Soon after you awake, close your eyes, take several deep breaths and meditate or just relax. Imagine yourself in a beautiful place, think of a happy memory or visualize yourself succeeding at a cherished goal. “Quieting down your mind before you begin your day can help it get off to a great start and things will flow for you,” says Debra Berndt, an expert in creative visualization and hypnosis and author of the upcoming book, Let Love In: Open Your Heart and Mind to Attract Your Ideal Partner (Here’s a link to a video I did about some meditation apps and ways to keep your peace of mind)


  • Get moving. Perhaps one of the best ways to overcome stress during the holidays or any other time is to exercise regularly. Research shows that physical activity not boosts your fitness and energy levels but can also elevate your moods. In addition, exercise has been found to reduce anger, tension, fatigue and confusion. Despite the many demands on your time, and body this is not the season to stop exercising. I understand that not all people with a chronic illness can actually move or move that well. This is where your personal discretion and wisdom is needed. Do what your body is capable of doing even if it’s twice a week in a chair. (Here is a link to an article about workouts to do with chronic pain


  •  Setting a time limit with a built in reward can be a great motivator. For example, put the dishes away while the tea kettle boils. Do a small task, like writing a thank you note, as you can while you wait for food to finish cooking.


  • Say no. This one is so hard for so many people, especially lupus warriors. If you feel yourself getting stretched thin, or there’s absolutely no way you can do one more thing, you can say no. Remember you are not responsible for another person’s bad time management. You don’t have to be a “yes” man or woman to try and please others.


  • Go for real foods mostly. Inevitably, at this time of year, you’ll be tempted with sugary, empty-calorie “treats” just about wherever you go. But to be your most energetic, focused and happy self, it’s best to eat foods that grow on trees or on the ground (vegetables and fruits) and to choose healthy fats (such as olive oil and flax seeds), lean protein (such as fish and organic chicken) and legumes, nuts and seeds.


  • Take polite portions of “comfort” foods and drinks. During the holidays, it’s easy to “fall off the wagon” and use—or over-use—alcohol, sugar and caffeine. It’s best to think before you treat your body like a trash can instead of a temple. The best way to stay true to the best you is to limit your consumption of such comfort or pleasure foods and drinks as apple pie, cookies, pasta and eggnog. When offered these and other “goodies,” try to take three to five “polite” bites and sips—and only after having a well-balanced meal with smart carbs (vegetables, fruits or whole grains), fats and protein. Be aware that if you’re a sugar addict, you must be especially vigilant when it comes to desserts and quickie carbs.


  • Pace yourself and rest. This is hard especially for lupus warriors who may be feeling better and have some energy. Warriors tend to overdo it and then have to pay for it later on. I know many are excited, but it’s important to pace yourself, and rest before you overdo it and end up in a bad flare.


  • Be generous. Be thankful. One of the best ways to stay calm, content and cheerful this time of year is to act generously with your loved ones, co-workers and friends. This doesn’t have to mean you’re spending a lot of money. You can be generous with your compliments. You can generously offer to do a loved one’s dreaded errand. You can generously write a fun, short poem. When you are creative with your gifts and thank yous, people will appreciate your real, heartfelt sentiments.

Happy Holidays!