It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, with gifts to buy, crowded shopping centers, back-to-back diet-busting parties, and loads of family obligations, it may not feel so wonderful at times.

Self-care is essential year-round, but during a busy holiday season, it’s even more crucial.

Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health. Although the concept is super simple, it’s often overlooked.

The thought of adding one more thing to an already long to-do list may makes you cringe, but it’s the key to maintaining personal health and well-being.

“It’s important to take care of yourself, to have the energy and stamina to take care of others during the hectic holiday season,” said Janice Terry, of Janice Terry Counseling Services.

Being healthy and relaxed will make it much easier to accomplish all of the marvelous things you want to do for family and friends this holiday season. You might even find that the holiday spirit comes a bit easier.

So put yourself on your gift list and give yourself the gift of peace. It’s easy and inexpensive. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Make a Plan

As invites arrive and obligations mount, take a realistic look at what you can accomplish. “Set your intentions for the week, while allowing room for some flexibility,” Terry said.

Planning also helps designate specific time frames for tasks that need to be completed allowing you to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Establish Boundaries

“Take some time ... to prioritize. While you can feasibly attend three events in one evening, you probably won’t enjoy any of them,” Terry said. “Pick what’s important to you. The holidays are supposed to be fun and meaningful.”

If there are work or family obligations that cannot be skipped, Terry offers the following advice. “Establish why you’re going and find the one positive aspect of the situation. Sometimes we go for the cake.”

Just Say No

It’s natural to feel guilty, or even selfish when you switch your thoughts to self-care. But give yourself permission to say no to others to create time for yourself.

Terry said, “Before agreeing to yet another commitment or obligation, ask yourself what will it cost mentally, physically, and spiritually to say yes. Then decide if the benefit is worth the cost.”

Let Go of Perfection

The holidays, Christmas in particular, can set us up for unrealistic expectations as we dream of Norman Rockwell perfection.

According to Terry, “Happiness is not a matter of perfection but balance. Know your limits and stick with your plan.”

Set Time for Yourself

Take a few minutes to set your intention for the day. A few moments alone allows you to reconnect with yourself, which can boost mood, decrease stress, and improve overall well-being.

Enlist Your Support System

There’s no need to go it alone.

“I once heard a woman tell the story of a brilliant ship maker who was drowning in the middle of the ocean. Your support system is there for you, be brave enough to ask for help,” Terry suggested.

Pay Attention to Exercise and Nutrition

In this season of overindulgence, it’s easy to neglect regular routines.

“Again, it comes down to having a plan,” Terry said. “If you know you’re going to a party in the evening, try to make the other two meals that day healthy. The 80/20 rule works well. As for exercise, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even a 15-minute walk has proven to have terrific mental and physical benefits.”

We’ve all been on an airplane when the flight attendant instructs passengers to secure their oxygen masks first before attempting to help others in the event of an emergency. The same thing applies here.

While making yourself a priority may initially feel selfish, it’s an act of love, and everyone who depends on you will benefit.

Tami Brooks is a freelance writer based in East Texas.