Everyone is always frantic at this time of the year to find the right presents for the extended family that is descending on you for Christmas Day celebrations. But what are you going to be giving yourself?
The good news is that what you can give yourself needn't cost a lot of money.
Stop smoking. Yes, this is difficult, but think of this – no more smelly car, no more smelly hair, no more smelly breath, the nicest seats in restaurants and no more frantic chewing of peppermints before you dare to kiss anyone. Do whatever it takes – talk to your GP about taking anti-depressants for a short while to help you over this. The long term health benefits are immeasurable.
Get a water filter. Our tap water isn't too bad, but why settle for not too bad? Get a water filter and attach it to the kitchen tap. You'll save a fortune in bottled water.
Join a walking club. OK, so exercise and gyms may not be your thing. A walking club caters for people of every level of fitness (or lack therof). It is structured, cheap and there is usually a professional who can answer your questions.
Let go of what is bugging you. If you've been obsessing about someone else's problem – drinking, drugging, relationships, whatever, accept that loving someone doesn't always mean shouldering their every problem. People need to learn to take care of themselves and allowing them to do that is often the most loving thing you can do.
Go for a checkup. Many serious conditions have no symptoms, for example hypertension and high cholesterol – have yourself tested and go for a thorough checkup.
Watch less TV. Slouching in front of the TV for hours on end is not good for your posture and it's not good for your mind. Decide on the weekend which programmes you would like to see during the week, and stick to it. Don't get yourself into a situation where you carry on watching low quality programmes, because it's too much trouble to get up, switch off and get moving.
Learn to forgive. Life is unfair and people can be unjust and yes, you could have been at the receiving end of some of this. If you've been pouring energy into a bottomless pit of revenge fantasies, the only one suffering is you. If you forgive people, they no longer have a hold on you.
Drink more water. A lot of people who are fatigued and depressed are, in fact, suffering from dehydration. Make it a habit to drink a glass of water for every cup of tea or coffee you drink and another one for every glass of wine or beer.
Go for marriage counselling. Every partnership needs a service every now and then. You wouldn't drive your car until the engine groans and black smoke belches from the exhaust, would you? Marriage counselling sorts out many problems before they become too big to handle.
Learn to de-stress. There is an art to this and it can be learnt. Whether you choose yoga or T'ai Chi or meditation or a regular massage or breathing exercises remains your choice. Just find something that works for you.
Learn to say no. You are your own first priority and you have to look after yourself first before you can care for others. If you say yes to someone when you don't have the time or the energy, you will end up resenting them and yourself, for not being able to say no.
Take time out. Everyone needs this. But if you don't build this into your programme , it just won't happen. Make time every day – even if it is for half an hour – to do something you enjoy – whether it is reading, talking to a friend on the telephone or pottering in the garden.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated December 2009)