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7 Things You Can Do to Keep Your Sanity This Holiday Season

Photograph by iStockphoto

Vroom, swishhh, whirl ... RING! Can you hear it? The holiday season has ramped up to full tilt, and the energy can be disquieting. More emails, phone calls, parties and to-do lists!

Here are seven things you can to do stay on track without losing your temper or your sanity.

MORE: 25 Pets Ready for the Holidays

1. Stick to a routine

Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you have to throw your routines out the window. Get up, brush your teeth, dress the kids, make breakfast, get outside for an activity. I’m a big fan of taking your family routine, writing it down and posting it—which makes it much easier to live by. Do that with your holiday routine.

• Routines enhance mastery, and the brain loves predictability.

• You can have a general routine, if you wish. Morning: breakfast, self-care, kids' activity. Lunch: shopping, afternoon activity, nap. Dinner: cook, eat, clean up, family game, bath, reading, bed, etc.

• Just a few time slots that take place in a specific order around a similar time each day will help you from getting swept away by the holiday madness.

2. Get your sleep

You likely have more to do during the holidays, but your sleep is super important. Make sure you catch some shut-eye.

• Focus on helping your family go to bed and wake up around the same time each weekday.

• On the weekends, you can shift a spot, but weeknights, even when your kids are out of school, help your bodies remain calm by going to bed and waking up around the same time.

3. Get Active.

Research shows that getting out in the sunlight and being active before you begin your busy day enhances well-being, reduces anxiety and depression and keeps your stress level down. A 15-minute walk around the block, a brief bike ride and walking to the coffee shop all count.

4. Got lists? Use 'em.

Whether or not you are a dedicated list maker, this is a great time to make, keep and use lists. Each morning, get up a bit early and schedule some time to go over your lists.

• What do you need to do today?

• What is a priority?

• What can be done tomorrow or on another date?

• What can be delegated? Your kids can enjoy holiday tasks, as well.

Write your tasks out, cross them off when they are completed and then transfer them to a new sheet for the following day. All of this written interaction with your lists will help you accomplish tasks more efficiently.

Research shows that getting out in the sunlight and being active before you begin your busy day enhances well-being, reduces anxiety and depression.

5. Develop the habit of “Do it now!”

If you think of a task that needs to be done, do it right away instead of just adding it to your list. You just made breakfast, do the dishes—now. You turned over a load of laundry, fold them—now. You’ll feel energized by how much you accomplish with your new "do it now" attitude.

6. Just say NO.

Don’t be a "Yes Mom/Dad." We know you want to help out at the school holiday event or office party, but choose wisely. You can find ways to contribute and give back on your own time. Remember, family first—your kids need you, and you need your own down time. So politely say no a few times this holiday season.

7. Make time for yourself.

Whether it’s an aromatherapy bath, a trip to the bookstore or a pleasant walk along the boulevard, make sure you schedule a bit of time to experience the stillness and calm. Your brain will appreciate the quiet, unfettered joy of a few moments on your own.

The holidays are here and they won’t last long, so stay organized, be kind to one another and experience some joy!

Happy Holidays,

Dr. Lynne

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Dr. Lynne Kenney, a pediatric psychologist, is the “Routine Zen” contributor to the new parenting guide "toughLOVE: Raising Confident, Kind, Resilient Kids."