How to Survive the Holidays With Your Sanity Intact

12/13/2013 07:04 pm ET | Updated Feb 12, 2014

It's that time of year -- holiday decorations abound, shopping takes on a whole new meaning, and what should be a peaceful, happy time usually turns into a chaotic, stressful mess.

When stress levels skyrocket, it's important that we dive head first into self-care. Yet, that's the last thing we usually do.

Take my client June, for example. June suffers from Crohn's disease and her flare-ups seem to be stress-related. Just the knowledge that she was going to have to host her family's annual Christmas party last year sent her into such a spasm that she wound up spending five days in the hospital right before Christmas last year.

You'd think that would have put a damper on her holiday plans.

Nope. No sooner than she was out of the hospital than she was cleaning house, putting up last minute decorations, cooking up a storm and working herself into a tizzy to ensure this was the best Christmas her family had ever had.

Of course, she couldn't eat any of the food she cooked -- thanks to the Crohn's -- or really even enjoy all of the decorations she hung as she was so wiped out from her hospital stay and all that decorating, but her family seemed to enjoy themselves, and for June, that was all that mattered.

As her health and nutrition coach, I saw things from a slightly different perspective. I saw June suffering from that self-induced Crohn's flare up for a good month after her family left -- all because she had to be the perfect hostess at Christmas. I know her family; I am sure they would have willingly offered to host the festivities themselves or postpone the gathering, but June was convinced she would be letting everyone down if she didn't go ahead with her plans.

So take my advice: The next time you find yourself pulling all-nighters to get ready to host a party, ask yourself, "At the end of the day, does is really matter that little Johnny had his Rocky Road ice cream and stockings were hung with care? Is that more important than my well-being? Than my own enjoyment of the holiday?" For those of you tempted to say, "Yes," the correct answer here is a resounding, "No!"

For those of you fighting for the Martha Stewart Twin Award, next time you find yourself in the midst of party planning, try these on for size:

1) Host the event elsewhere.
Someone else's home, a restaurant, etc. It will save you from having to clean and decorate.

2) Ask for help.
The last five years I've done Christmas potluck style. Yes, that meant I didn't have control over how the mashed potatoes turned out, but it took a lot of the stress off my plate and my friends enjoyed bringing and sharing their favorite holiday dishes with everyone else.

3) Go for the minimalist approach.
You know what happens when you make enough for 50 and only 10 show, right? You have leftovers for weeks that eventually go bad and you have to toss half of it out anyway. And you get really sick of turkey or ham -- or whatever you made. Here's a new approach: if you expect 10, cook for 10. Not 50, 20, or even 12. There will still be plenty to go around even if 12 show and you'll save a few dollars in the process and waste a lot less.

4) Presentation is not everything.
Yes, you can decorate your platter with fresh flowers and add decorative swirls of chocolate on your dessert plate, but here's the thing: no one cares what it looks like as long as it tastes good. The hours you spent prepping the "perfect presentation" may get appreciated for five seconds and then it will be ignored, eaten or destroyed. Thus, it's not worth your time. Trust me on this one. Time with loved ones is more important than time away from loved ones to prep the perfect plate.

And while you're shaving some time off of your holiday preparation activities, make sure you squeeze in a little time for self-care.

Happy Holidays!