How to Get Your Life Back After the Holidays

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If the holidays left you feeling derailed, you’re not alone. Splurging on gifts, skimping on sleep, and feasting on fattening fare can leave anyone hitting a major slump. Here are a few ways to get back on track, re-energized and ready to tackle the New Year.

Problem: Sleep took a back seat.

Make sleep your top priority for this reason: It’s hard to tackle any other goals if you’re feeling listless and exhausted. Plus, according to the National Sleep Foundation, adequate sleep guards off a multitude of other problems including disease and weight gain (not to mention crabbiness).

A healthy, normal routine should include at least seven hours of sleep—eight if you’re 50 or older. Strive to sleep and wake at more or less the same time every day, since our bodies rest best when we put them on a regular schedule.

Problem: You’re stressed out and fatigued.

Take 5 to 10 minutes to escape to a quiet place every day and rest your body and mind. “I call this the ‘ohmmm moment.’ You need to schedule deliberate time to escape for the world, take deep breaths and let your mind rest in a focused way, such as meditation or prayer,” says Pamela Peeke, MD, a lifestyle expert for WebMD and author of The Hunger Fix: The 3 Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction.

A healthy routine of quiet time, taken whenever and wherever you can grab it, will help relieve pent up holiday tension and provide a daily dose of stress relief for the busy days ahead.

Problem: Your exercise routine took a hike.

Remember that some exercise beats no exercise, so reboot your routine even if it’s a scaled-back version. “Don’t think you have to go to the gym for 60-plus minutes,” says Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist, certified personal trainer, and group fitness instructor. “Studies have shown that small bouts of exercise accumulated throughout the day may provide many of the same benefits as one continuous bout of activity.”

Matthews suggests adding three 10-minute “mini-workouts” to your day, for example 10-minutes of bodyweight exercises (lunges, push-ups, planks) in the morning, a 10-minute brisk walk during your lunch break at work, and 10-minutes of yoga-inspired stretching in the evening.

Problem: You’ve barely connected with your spouse this month.

Romantic partners who engage in couple time together at least once a week are three times as likely to call themselves “very happy” in marriage, according to a survey by The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. They also have higher sexual satisfaction and rate their communication as better. So, corral your calendars and schedule weekly dates for the coming year. Better still, put your money where your mouth is and purchase tickets or make reservations for things you’d like to do, which will further cement the commitment. On the other weeks of the month, strive to have one night a week where you reconnect, if only for an hour or two.

Problem: You’ve lost motivation to cook.

A bare refrigerator combined with holiday host overload can lead to some ugly consequences, like resorting to fast food for dinner. “You’ve got to enter the New Year with a plan and rituals to make mealtimes work,” insists Peeke. “Pull out your calendar and figure out which day you will go shopping for food. Then, every weekend, think through your week and plan it. Ask ‘Which days will I need to cook? Do I have what I need for those meals?’ If you have time, you might even cook and freeze meals for the week ahead.”

By doing some simple cooking a few days a week—perhaps a soup in the slow cooker, a baked chicken, and a healthy casserole—you can make enough to have leftovers the other days. Not only will you be eating healthier, but your bank account will thank you.

Problem: You’ve ignored your budget. (Wait, what budget?)

Don’t have a budget? That’s the first place to start to get on track financially in 2013. The task has never been easier thanks to software programs like Quicken or online services such as mint.com. Also check with your bank, which may offer a free, budgeting tool as one of its online banking options.

If you have a budget, spend an hour this month determining where you stand. “In fact, you really should review your budget every few months,” recommends Jacobs. “Look at your bank statements or budget spreadsheet and ask questions like, ‘How have I been spending? Are there areas I could do better?’ For instance, if you’re dining out a lot, maybe you could scale back on that.”

Of course, if you blew your budget completely, you should tackle debt as soon as possible, before that credit card interest starts piling up. “Resolve to only buy what you really need until you get out of debt. Try a cash-only diet. When you use cash instead of debit or credit cards, you get a better handle on how much you’re spending and where it’s going,” suggests Ashley Jacobs, community coordinator and blogger for financial site wisebread.com.

Problem: Your diet hit new lows.

The holidays offer plenty of dietary landmines, including Santa-sized portions, late-night snacking, and high-caloric beverages. “Get back to basics, but you can’t just go from holiday fare to plates of iceburg lettuce,” coaches Peeke. Start by regaining healthy habits, like finish dining by 8 p.m. and eat three meals a day plus a couple of healthy snacks. Cut back on alcoholic beverages, since alcohol packs loads of extra calories and often weakens the resolve to forego fatty foods.

Then, design your diet around foods that offer high satisfaction with fewer calories. “Combining protein with fiber is one way to curb cravings and gain a sense of satisfaction with fewer calories,” says Peeke.

Problem: Your home feels messy and disorganized.

Between hosting guests and acquiring more stuff, the holiday season can leave your home chaotic. To get a handle on your housekeeping, check out flylady.com, a website that provides step-by-step tips on getting your house clean and organized. You can even subscribe to the Fly Lady’s (aka Marla Cilley’s) daily “Flight Plan” e-mails, which assign a task to tackle for that day.

Our favorite tip: Set the timer for 15 minutes and work hard to de-clutter one small area before the buzzer rings. Even a short amount of time, concentrated on one drawer, countertop or closet, can make a big difference over time.

Problem: Your sweet tooth made a raging comeback.

You might not think of yourself as an addict, but most of us are. “We’re addicted to combinations of sugary, fatty and salty foods,” says Peeke, “and holiday time means red alert because we go on a bender. If you ‘caved to the crave’ during the holidays, you need to detox and go into recovery.”

Be honest with yourself about the types of foods that triggered binge eating, defined by a sense of lack of control that caused you to eat more than one, reasonable serving. Then eliminate those things from your diet for the next four to six weeks. You may need to keep tempting items out of your home completely, so you’re less likely to cheat.

Problem: You did some heavy online shopping—and left yourself vulnerable to identity theft.

The increase in holiday purchasing increases your risk for identity theft, especially if you tapped into unsecure Wi-Fi hotspots to do your shopping. To protect yourself, hold onto those gift receipts and begin checking purchases against your credit card bills and bank statements. If any item on those statements seems amiss, call the company listed on the statement to determine who made the purchase. Your credit card provider should cover you for any fradulent purchases.

The end of the year also is a good time to request your free credit report through annualcreditreport.com. Federal law entitles you to a free report from each of the credit bureaus each year. After you’ve reviewed the reports, let the credit bureaus know if you find any inaccuracies.

Read original article by Esther Chapman for Good Housekeeping here.

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