THE CLIENT was stressed out: Her three kids were hyped about being home from school and wanted to decorate for Christmas, but she hadn't gotten around to cleaning up from Thanksgiving yet.
She couldn't focus on the joy of the upcoming holidays because she was completely overwhelmed by her to-do list.
This time of year, holistic wellness coach Prakriti "Pax" Tandon sees a lot of clients, especially women, struggling like this.
"Isn't it heartbreaking? This is one of the most beautiful times of the year, and most women can't wait for it to be over because it's infused with so much stress," said Tandon, who, in October, was named editor of the Authentic Happiness website run by the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center.
Tandon is all about balance. So she guided her client toward tapping into her inner childlike joy and being present for her children - instead of staying stuck in responsible adult mode, the way she was.
"It was like a lightbulb went off. There was silence for a minute," recalled Tandon, 36. "It was like, 'Whoa! I never thought about it that way. I never thought that it doesn't have to happen now and that just because I'm a parent doesn't mean I don't play with my children, [that] I don't engage in the things that they find joyful.' . . . That's a concept that we lose as adults."
I asked her what other advice she has for those of us caught up in holiday cray-cray. Studies show that women get more stressed than men this time of year.
"Be mindful of your balance," Tandon said, sounding very Zen.
Huh, what? I had to stop her right there.
Break it down for us, sister.
"Being mindful is being aware of when you're out of balance," Tandon explained patiently. "When you are, go within and find your balance again."
Accentuate the positive
Tandon, whom I met last summer when she was featured as a Daily News Sexy Single, grew up in West Philly, the daughter of a chemical engineer and a college professor.
Her parents, both from India, expected her to become a medical doctor. While attending the Baldwin School, a private all-girls school in Bryn Mawr, Tandon, then 14, fell into a deep depression after she got a B instead of an A in a biology class.
She credits getting tapped to appear on a local teen TV program called "Rap Around," a teen-centered talk show hosted by CBS3's Ukee Washington, with pulling her through it and also setting her on an entirely new career path: television, and its power to reach people and change their lives.
"I found my thing then and there," Tandon told me last week as we sat in the lobby of her Fitler Square apartment building. "Oprah Winfrey is my biggest mentor and sort of guru. She embodies everything that I aspire to be and do.
"There's a reason now that [spiritual and wellness experts] Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson and Eckhart Tolle are all household names, and that reason is Oprah," Tandon added. "She has shined a light on these strengths, on these spirits of humanity, and I've always sought to do the same."
Tandon graduated in 2000 from the University of Pennsylvania with dual degrees in economics and psychology. Along the way, she also got a master's in Penn's 5-year-old positive-psychology program, which focuses on happiness as opposed to problem fixing. She also has held a number of TV gigs, such as hosting CNBC-TV18 in India, and "Spotlight on Bollywood" for Spotlight TV.
These days, Tandon works as a counselor. She also leads a local women's group struggling with weight issues and is working on a pilot for a TV show for young people.
Earlier this month, Tandon hosted an event in Old City, where she led a group of women - including Jessie Holeva, editor of TrendyHungry.com, and public-relations guru Sara Ann Kelly - through a mindfulness meditation to help them deal with Christmas-related stress.
Not that she's completely immune herself.
She spent last week seeing clients - some of whom had taken to avoiding their therapy sessions - and working on the website, stressing out over her deadlines and trying to get work done at a time when everybody's taking vacations.
Tandon herself will leave soon on a two-week trip to India to visit family.
What does she have on tap for 2015? That TV program for young adults? Pop-up meditation sessions at local malls? Whatever it is, it will be a positive.