Tag Archives: Holidays

Six Positive Things to Do for Yourself This Holiday Season

This is known as the most wonderful time of the year—and for good reason! We all look forward to holiday events, traditions, gatherings, and more. But as you decorate your home, cook for your family, shop for your loved ones, and attend celebrations in your community, it can be easy to forget about something very important—yourself.

Instead of stretching yourself so thin that you’re running on fumes by New Year’s Eve, remember to give yourself the gift of kindness by spending time and energy on your own well-being throughout the coming weeks. When you nurture yourself physically, emotionally, and socially, you’ll be able to enjoy a holiday season that reflects your values while emphasizing gratitude and joy.

Here are six things I do for my own well-being and nourishment over the holidays. They help me to savor the season instead of feeling stressed—and I hope they can do the same for you!

Find peace before starting each day. Each morning, I spend a few quiet moments getting grounded and focusing on all of the goodness in my life. Before embarking on a busy day, it is so calming to breathe in and out as I consciously place my focus on all of the things I’m thankful for and remind myself of my priorities and values. I’ve found that this small investment of time can create a positive, peaceful mood that lasts all day.

Celebrate friendship with time together. The best gift we can give to our closest friends isn’t something that can be placed in a box and wrapped. That’s why I make sure to plan a lunch or event with my best friends that doesn’t include the pressure of exchanging gifts. Instead, we’re able to enjoy each other’s presence as we celebrate life and our friendship.

For instance, my friend Donna and I have a holiday tradition we fondly call the “Christmas Walk.” We meet in front of the tree at Rockefeller Center around 5:00 in the evening and watch the light show across the street at Saks, which repeats every 15 minutes. After we’ve enjoyed the display, we take a selfie in front of the tree (or ask someone to photograph us), and then start our walk. We check out holiday window displays and always enjoy shopping at Henri Bendel because of all the small gift items on the first floor. We end the evening at a fun restaurant. It doesn’t matter how cold or stormy it is…Donna and I take our “Christmas Walk” every year! It’s always a special treat and a great way to savor our friendship.

Make plans to pamper yourself. Especially during a time of year when our social calendars tend to be full, it’s important to schedule some quiet time for yourself. (And no, locking yourself in your house to catch up on laundry and cleaning doesn’t count!) I’m talking about something that you’ll find restful and rejuvenating—perhaps a massage, facial, or manicure/pedicure. Think of it as a holiday gift to your mind, body, and spirit!

Let yourself off the social hook occasionally. No matter how much you love your family and friends, too much social interaction can be taxing or overwhelming. When that happens, give yourself permission to (as my dear friend Rick says) “change the channel” for a few minutes. For instance, instead of forcing yourself to paste a polite smile on your face and make small talk for the third hour in a row at your extended family’s get-together, take a walk around the block or go into another room, close your eyes, and breathe for a minute. Or if you’re hosting guests for several days, leave the house for a few hours and see a movie. When you rejoin the festivities, I promise you’ll feel much fresher.

Give yourself the gift of good health. This time of year, I find that it’s easy to overindulge while neglecting healthy routines. So, plan ahead to make sure that your well-being doesn’t fall by the wayside. If you can give your body a rest from unhealthy food and liquor for a day before and after a big feast, that will be a real gift. (Personally, I’ve found that drinking green juices and lots of water is a big help in allowing my body to heal and rejuvenate.)

Maintaining your exercise routine is also very important at this time of year. I know I always feel so calm and peaceful after a workout, and I’m more energetic during the day. Even a long walk is effective if you can’t get to the gym! So clear some time on your schedule for physical activity, and don’t forget to pack that workout gear when you travel. Both of these strategies are great ways to ensure that you don’t have to face the dreaded “diet” in January.

Hydrate throughout the holidays. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, this last piece of advice won’t be new to you, but it is very important: Drink lots of water! (This is something we all tend to forget during the colder months.) Water keeps your organs and digestive system functioning properly and your skin looking radiant. It also gives you energy and can help stave off headaches caused by dehydration. I’m not saying you have to avoid tasty beverages altogether, but when you find yourself reaching for coffee, hot chocolate, or a cocktail, ask yourself if water might be a better choice. This time of year, I make sure to carry a bottle of water with me on all my errands.

While there is no “right” way to celebrate the holidays, taking care of ourselves is something we should all prioritize! So don’t (as I blogged about last year) overdo it—and do focus on honoring yourself. You have more control over how you feel during this hectic time of year than you may think! Here’s to a season that’s full of love, joy, peace, and friendship.

 

’Tis the Season for Excess: Seven Areas in Which You Shouldn’t Overindulge

For most Americans, the weeks between now and New Year’s are some of the busiest of the year. When we’re not shopping, cooking, or decorating, we’re socializing, eating, or traveling to the next event on the calendar. Yes, we mean well when we cram our time so full of activities and obligations: We want to have fun. We want to spend time with loved ones. We want to celebrate, eat good food, and look our best at every event.

But often, we end up overdoing it. Instead of savoring seasonal cheer, we find ourselves irritable, stressed, and exhausted as we fall more and more behind on our to-do lists. In multiple areas, it’s easy to inadvertently cross the line from “healthy” to “too much,” leaving ourselves inadequate margins of time and energy.

One thing I’ve learned during my career is that balance looks and feels different to everyone. There isn’t a magic formula for staying within healthy boundaries. That’s why it’s important to take your temperature in several key areas as you move through the next few weeks. Yes, going overboard might be tempting and easy to rationalize, but not at the expense of your well-being. When you stay focused on honoring your needs and values, you’ll stand the best chance of creating a fulfilling holiday—and of beginning 2014 in a good place physically and mentally.

Here are seven key areas in which you should be careful not to overindulge:

*The calendar crunch. Cocktail parties. Potlucks. Gift exchanges. End-of-year company celebrations. Concerts. Fundraisers…and the list goes on. These events are staples of the holiday season because they’re supposed to be enjoyable. And they can be…but only if you curate your schedule. Try to avoid going to too many events or attending the wrong ones. As you pencil things in on your calendar, ask yourself: How much time do I need to recharge between events? How much time should I set aside to complete personal tasks? Will spending time with certain groups of people energize me or drain me?

*The parade of requests. Since seasonal events don’t plan themselves, chances are you’ll be asked to pitch in with your time, talents, energy, and money. As the requests come rolling in, resist the urge to automatically say yes to everything. Trust me: You don’t have to plan your company’s holiday party just because you did so last year. You don’t have to stay up till 2 a.m. baking cookies for your child’s class. You don’t have to host every member of your extended family for a holiday dinner. Keep your limits in mind and practice saying “no.” Don’t give away so much of your energy that you have none left to enjoy this time of year!

*The commercial frenzy. There are a million and one things that Americans spend money on over the holidays. The problem is, as you walk through crowded malls and watch endless streams of red-and-green commercials, it’s easy to get carried away with your wallet. Keep in mind that no purchase is worth the anxiety that a larger-than-expected credit card bill can bring. And especially be wary of overspending on clothing, shoes, handbags, and other items that are on sale, but that you don’t need. When shopping for clothes specifically, I recommend looking at the garment first and the price second. And above all, remember that the best holiday memories won’t involve “stuff.” Instead, they’ll feature the people you love. So don’t be afraid to create a budget and stick to it.

*Decking the halls. Decorations are a time-honored staple of this season. And with each year, glossy magazine spreads, television specials, and (most recently) websites like Pinterest up the ante. As a result, I think that many of us have mistakenly gotten the impression that our homes need to look like Martha Stewart paid a visit. But the truth is, it’s okay if your tree looks a little scraggly. You haven’t dropped the ball if you didn’t make each decoration by hand. As you deck your halls, ask yourself, Am I doing this because I’ll really enjoy these decorations, or am I doing it so that other people will be impressed? Remember, the most important thing is that you enjoy being in your home.

*Buffets, potlucks, and finger foods. (Oh my!) The holidays are known for good food, good drink, and lots of it. It’s tempting to partake until you’re stuffed, and then continue partaking regardless. You may not want to hear it, but the truth is that you’ll feel better physically and emotionally if you limit your intake to a reasonable level. Be sure to drink lots of water, eat healthy foods, and avoid gorging on treats at every opportunity. I also recommend getting in some light exercise, even if you can work in only a short walk a few days a week.

*Daydreams of perfection. Does this sound familiar? Every year, you say to yourself, This year everything will be different. The holidays will be perfect. No arguments, no disagreements, no awkward silences. But then, Uncle Tim makes inappropriate remarks at the dinner table, your teenage niece storms away from the table in a huff, and you can practically see your spouse’s blood pressure rise as your mother makes critical comments. Ultimately, you’re unreasonably disappointed. I’m not suggesting that you put up with blatantly bad behavior, but do manage your expectations. You’ll be much happier if you don’t ask your imperfect—but still valued—loved ones to reenact a Hallmark commercial.

*Virtual reality. During the holidays, the impulse to share every little moment with your social networks might be even greater than normal. But before you update your status or post a photo for the 749th time, take a moment to consider whether the Internet really needs to know what you’re sharing. You don’t want to run the risk of missing out on real life because you’re so focused on your virtual one. Experiencing some things with your family and friends without screens and keyboards is important.

Over the next few weeks, I hope you’ll take a step back and intentionally design a celebration that is meaningful to you. Remember, there is no “right” way to celebrate the season. Don’t feel bound by what your friends, the media, or our consumer culture tells you that you should be doing. At their heart, the holidays are about love, fellowship, faith, and values. If you’re focusing on those things, you’ll stand the best chance of having a holiday that’s truly filled with joy.

What I’m Loving Now: Holiday 2013 Edition

As the days get shorter and temperatures fall, our schedules tend to get busier and busier. Between your holiday schedule and the general end-of-year crunch, you may be spending less and less time on yourself—and feeling increasingly stressed. As you rush from errands to events to the office and back again, I encourage you to stop for a few minutes, decompress, and spend some time and energy on your own well-being.

The good news is rejuvenation doesn’t have to be difficult. Even a little bit of indulgence can go a long way towards helping you feel revitalized as you continue to tackle items on your to-do list. Here, I’ve put together a list of products that I’m currently loving—and that I hope will help you feel pampered, renewed, and indulged this season:

Button Pant Extender: Say goodbye to uncomfortable pants. As you spend time in fitting rooms trying to find the perfect pair of jeans, do you consistently find that pants fit well through the legs but are too tight in the waist? If so, you’ll understand why I was so excited to discover the Button Pant Extender. It’s a clever little device that adds one inch to your waistband by looping over the existing button—no sewing necessary. And since the Button Pant Extenders come in packages of five, you don’t have to switch the extender each time you wear a new pair of pants. You can purchase Button Pant Extenders here on Amazon.com.

Leopard Print Pants: Put some “fierce” in your fashion. In the cold gray days of winter, wearing a standout outfit can really put some pep in your step. If you’re looking for a style that’s eye-catching and unique, yet completely classy, I recommend purchasing a pair of leopard print pants in cream, buff, and black neutral tones. I bought my pair from Worth New York during autumn and find myself reaching for them again and again when I go into my closet to put together an outfit. I wear them with a low boot or flat, and pair them with a chocolate jacket and chocolate t-neck, camel t-neck, or an orange or red sweater if I want a pop of color.

Epicuren After Bath Kukui Nut Coconut Moisturizer: Soothe yourself while smelling great. For most women who are trying to combat the drying effects of cold weather, lotion is a winter staple. This year, elevate this daily ritual to a spa-like experience with Epicuren After Bath Kukui Nut Coconut Moisturizer. I use it every morning after my shower, and I love how soothing this wonderfully rich formula is. As an added bonus, it smells so great that people often ask me what scent I’m wearing. I don’t even wear perfume these days and still receive compliments well into the afternoon! I purchase this product from Leslie Sloane, who can be reached at (818) 348-4646.

Fresh Sugar Acai Age-Delay Body Cream: Feel younger in your skin. Here is another option to help you stave off the dreaded winter dryness. This product is not only super-moisturizing; it also firms and conditions skin to help it look and feel younger. A friend bought me a tube of this cream as a gift, and I loved the way it made my skin feel: soft and supple. My only problem is not using a whole tube in a week! According to my friend, though, a little goes a long way, so I’m trying to use it sparingly.

Tom Ford Intensive Eye Treatment: Say hello to brighter eyes. While purchasing a favorite lipstick at Saks, I was introduced to Tom Ford Intensive Eye Treatment. The saleswoman told me that many of her clients loved this product so much that they had given up their La Mer eye cream for it. I was skeptical, but decided to give it a try. I tested the Eye Treatment under one eye and thought I saw a difference, but decided to ask my husband’s opinion as well. He immediately pointed to the eye under which I had put the cream and said it was less puffy. That was good enough for me! Because of the price, I use this product only once a day in the morning.

Juice Press: Cleanse yourself. Chances are, you’ve heard of juicing (extracting juices from fruits and vegetables) and its benefits. Juicing is a great way to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet, to absorb nutrients, to cleanse your body, and to give it a break from digesting food. Juicing can even help you lose weight if you prepare juices with the right proportions. (Beware, though—adding too many sweet ingredients like cranberries and apples can actually make you gain weight!)

If you don’t want to buy an expensive juicing machine or don’t want to spend time preparing the juice yourself, using a juice bar is a great alternative. I go to Juice Press in New York City. I love many of their juices—particularly the green ones, because they contain so many enzymes and antioxidants—and have done Juice Press’s six-juices-per-day cleanse. I highly recommend searching for a juice bar in your hometown if you’d like to clean up your diet! 

The Time in Between: Get lost in a fantastic book. When life gets hectic, diving into a good story can give you the respite you need. If you’re wondering what should be next on your reading list, I recommend The Time in Between by Maria Duenas. It’s the story of a courageous Spanish seamstress who becomes an undercover Allied spy during World War II. It’s clever and full of suspense. My book group recently read it, and we all loved it. If you’re anything like me, you won’t want to put The Time in Between down.

Inner Defense: Stay healthy from the inside out. From one of my favorite companies, Young Living, this natural supplement offers health-reinforcing essential oils in a pill capsule. I always keep this product on hand, but I’m especially diligent about using it in the winter to keep my immune system strong. You can take one pill a day as a preventative measure, and up to five per day if you feel a cold or flu coming on. I purchase Inner Defense from Lucey Harley, who can be reached at (610) 641-1116.

CellPower Super Silica and Good Nutrition: Defy the weather with great hair (and overall health!). It’s no secret that winter isn’t kind to hair. Harsh weather, cold temperatures, static electricity, indoor heating, and more combine to make our manes extra dry, dull, and brittle. And that’s not even taking into account the everyday damage we inflict through poor nutrition, hot styling tools, hair ties, brushing, and more. The problem is so widespread, in fact, that the Today show recently noted that many women are cutting their hair into shorter styles because of damage. To rejuvenate your hair (and your health in general), I have two tips:

  • You may be focusing on healing your hair through external means, like deep conditioning treatments. While those methods are helpful, I’ve learned that the biggest changes occur not because of what you put on your hair, but because of what you put in your body. So first, I recommend using CellPower Super Silica, an easy-to-use supplement that can be taken in water. Since I started using Super Silica, I have noticed a big difference in how strong and shiny my hair is. And best of all, Super Silica’s benefits extend well beyond the hair: It can also strengthen nails, increase bone density, boost energy levels, and more.
  • Secondly, I suggest meeting with a nutritionist to see what your individual body needs. Nutrition is far from a one-size-fits-all proposition. My nutritionist, Dr. Jairo Rodriguez, told me I needed to take omega-3 oils for my joints. A nice side effect, he said, is that omega-3 oils contribute to healthier hair! Dr. Rodriguez is certainly worth the trip to New York City if you’d like to meet with him specifically.

So often, it’s the little things that take life from “humdrum” to “enjoyable.” No matter how busy you are this winter, don’t forget to earmark a little time and money for yourself. I hope that these suggestions will help make your life a little more comfortable and pleasant!

Marla’s Quick White Bean Stew with Spinach and Tomatoes

Thanksgiving is here, which means that you’ll soon be inundated with the holiday’s traditional foods: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and more. Yes, Thanksgiving foods are delicious and mouth-watering the first time around, and leftovers on Black Friday can still be enticing. But if you’re anything like me, your taste buds might be craving something different by the time the weekend rolls around. That’s why I’m sharing the recipe I’ll be using for some post-Thanksgiving culinary variety.

I was first introduced to this delicious stew by Chef Joe Bastianich, and I have since adapted the recipe a bit. I make this dish on a regular basis because it’s easy, delicious, healthy, and is ready to eat in under half an hour. Try it, and let it warm you up throughout the weekend. (And be sure to let me know what you think of it!)

Marla’s Quick White Bean Stew with Spinach and Tomatoes

Prep and cook time: 15-20 minutes

 

INGREDIENTS:

5-8 oz. (large) bag of spinach

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

14 oz. diced tomatoes

16 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  • Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan.
  • Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook over medium heat until garlic is golden (about 1 minute).
  • Add tomatoes; bring mixture to a boil.
  • Add beans; simmer over medium-high heat for 3 minutes.
  • Add spinach; simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper; serve.

I hope you enjoy this delicious stew as much as I do. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!