Most of know are familiar with airlines and the required safety instructions for a flight. When it comes to the oxygen masks, the instructions are simple: secure your own before you secure that of others needing assistance. 

The reason is quite simple, because if you run out of oxygen first, you are unable to help others.

This simple rule should be applied to everything you do in your life. To have energy to treat others well, you need to first be healthy and happy. To make progress toward your goals, you need to carve out time for yourself. And to make the holiday season great, you need to focus on you first.

This time of year is stressful and requires self-focus in terms of prioritizing time and energy just to maintain the sanity of handling all the year end brings, from finding the right way to express your appreciation to corporate gift giving to closing the year and preparing your company for the next. It can all be overwhelming.

So, I am proposing that you follow a "Me First" mantra this holiday, which means including and prioritizing youself in the list of people you need to appreciate. Here are three simple (and free) ways you can appreciate yourself.

Try Mindful Meditation

I realize a few people tuned out almost immediately when you saw "meditation," but mindfulness is about more than sitting criss-cross-apple-sauce with a Gregorian chant. For most of us who do practice, mindfulness is about taking a few minutes to tune out and turn off.

Think of it this way. When you exercise your body, you stop for periods of rest, which allows your body to recover and mend. Your brain is no different. Brains of business professionals are always active, so it is important to stop for periods of rest and allow time for them to recover and mend.

More important, a good mindfulness practice only needs to be five to 10 minutes long. Studies supports this as well, and many have even found that these few minutes doing nothing can also be a great productivity booster overall. 

If you need help getting started, consider any of the great mindfulness apps for your phone, or just start with Headspace, which has a free, seven-day onramp. And, if you can't sit still for long, consider a walking meditation, which when done right can be just as effective. 

Prioritize Sleep

The holidays can certainly wreak havoc on a sleep schedule, with parties, socials and an endless supply of holiday eats. Sacrificing sleep, however, will only compound the stress.

Like meditation, sleep serves an important function for the brain, and researchers have even found that sleep done right can help reduce the effects of aging on our cognition. In fact, teams at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke found that sleep is when your brain "washes" itself of toxic waste that builds up during awake times. Fail to sleep, and those toxins build up.

Like anyone who has suffered from sleep deprivation, the effects it can have is profound. In some studies, it was even found to have a more profound effect on your thinking and mental reactions than a few alcoholic drinks. And let's face it, you don't want to be expressing holiday appreciation for colleagues when you are in that state of mind.

To help you get a great night of sleep, consider these eight simple tips for more effective sleep.

Don't Buy Gifts

One of the most significant stresses of the holiday is finding the right gift for everyone on your list. Maybe most stressful is when you realize that you left out someone important -- usually in January or when you receive a gift from them. It can all be an expensive hassle that isn't worth the anxiety.

This holiday, we saw the rise of the #buynothing movement. As a business person, I am not against consumerism, but I am wholeheartedly against receiving another holiday coffee mug or winter-scent candle I can only use for the holidays. Generic gifts are thoughtful, but they will not get used and most likely be re-gifted or included in a white elephant gift exchange the following year.

Instead, there are many other more meaningful -- and inexpensive -- ways to show your appreciation. Consider a simple handwritten card or note, which is so rare these days as to be a welcome change from pair of Christmas socks. 

If you write a note, be sure that it is heartfelt. Giving someone a card that is pre-printed or even typed is nice, but if you want to make it sincere, then write it by hand, and personalize it with one (or all) of the gratitude 3 C's.  

  • Compliment. Thank them for something specific they did or an impact they had.

  • Courage. Give them words of inspiration or encouragement.

  • Credit: Acknowledge their impact and positive influence on you and the organization.

In the end, the holiday season should be joyous and happy, not stressful and anxious. Prioritizing yourself this holiday will help you make it great for you and everyone around you.