Can you believe it’s December already? Weren’t we just spending lazy days at the beach five minutes ago? But here it is again. On your mark. Get set. Go!

Are you ready?

December is a particularly busy month for us. In addition to celebrating the holidays, my son, husband and father all have birthdays this month. I admit it’s not as crazy as it used to be. I no longer have to plan Thomas the Tank Engine party extravaganzas. The “kid” is now an adult.

I’ve also cut back on sending out tons of holiday cards. When our son was young we’d mail out typical photo cards with an adorable picture of him or him with us, or him with our cats. I sent out so many the guy at the post office knew me by name because I always need more postage stamps.  I’d display the cards we received around our Great Room, hanging them on a very l-o-n-g gold garland.   

Whether we celebrate Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanzaa, December can be stressful, hectic, overwhelming and tiring. It’s important to take care of our emotional and physical needs while pacing ourselves as we try to get our shopping, cooking and decorating done. 

The most important item on your December “to-do” list is taking care of you. Here are a few tips to help you do that:

Set a schedule for yourself: Take a calendar (I use Google Calendar and also use a wall calendar) or a piece of paper and write down everything you need to accomplish this month. Be realistic. Revise your list as often as needed, crossing out items that you don’t necessarily HAVE to do.   

Exercise: Try to exercise at least 3 times a week, even if it’s only for ten minutes at a time.

Eat protein: For the average adult, two to three servings of protein rich foods (such as lean meat, fish, poultry, beans and eggs) meet the minimum daily requirements. Protein helps in maintaining proper energy levels

Limit the amount of sugar and alcohol you consume: This is difficult around the holidays. Believe me I know! Since I’ve cut back on sugar my body reacts to it if I “cheat” by having a cookie or a slice of cake. I feel as if I’m speeding through time and my body begins to shake. When that wears off I feel sluggish.  

“The WHO used to recommend that you get no more than 10% of your daily calories from sugar, but now they're considering lowering that to 5%. For an average, healthy adult, that would mean 25 grams, or about six teaspoons of sugar per day. (That's a little less than what you'd get from 10 Hershey's Kisses. A single can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar.)” ~Lauren F. Friedman, Business Insider, 15 Terrible Things That Happen If You Eat Too Much Sugar, March 12, 2014

Read this next: How Pets Can Make You Healthier

Make time for yourself: This is the most important tip because we need to take care of ourselves first. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect! So go easy on yourself, and when you’re creating your holiday schedule carve out a block of time for YOU. Take a walk, meditate, do some yoga, have coffee with friends. Make that time YOUR time, and don’t let anything stand in the way of it. 

Cathy Chester blogs at An Empowered Spirit, which won third prize in Healthline’s Best Health Blog Contest in 2014, was named #2 of the “Top 10 Social HealthMakers in MS” by Sharecare “ and received a nomination for the past 3 years as WEGO Health’s Best in Show Blog. She is a contributor for The Huffington Post as well as a blogger for MultipleSclerosis.net and Boomeon. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Midlife Boulevard, BetterAfter50, Erma Bombecks’ Writers Circle, The Friendship Circle and Woman at Woodstock.