How These 14 Successful People Stay Sane During the Holidays

Livin’ la vida loca.

By Kelly Krause
holiday christmas decor, neutral holiday decor

The holidays. They are truly my favorite time of the year. In no particular order, I most look forward to: spending time with family & friends, gift giving, PIE, ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas, bike rides in extra layers, my friend Sara’s annual Sequin Supper Club, LA’s KOST 105.3 FM Holiday Radio station, and actual time off from work where no one is expected to check email.

But there are a few things I want to change about this year’s holiday season. First is to slow down. I’ve received four Paperless Post invites for holiday parties and haven’t even begun to think about the various dinners, cocktail gatherings, and open houses between now and January 31. Typically, I fire off an immediate YES to everything because I’m genuinely fueled by the excitement of being around so many people I love. But now I’m taking a small pause — looking at my calendar and reminding myself “Kelly, you can’t do it all.” Aside from being on an airplane with no wifi, there aren’t many long moments in my day that I get all to myself. I’m looking forward to not being so rushed from one event to the next.

Second, I want to be more present in every single moment. I’m on Instagram and Snapchat more than I’d like to admit. Why? I love documenting everything — it’s a part of the excitement of that very moment. And I love storytelling — always have. That’s the old publicist in me. But because I don’t actually have to be on my phone between Dec. 23 – Jan. 1, I’m going to enjoy it.

Not every text requires an immediate response, and not every piece of pie I eat needs to make it on my Instagram story.

I’d rather devote this attention to my family, friends, time on the bike, and actual relaxing that doesn’t require scrolling through anything.

These changes had me thinking, “I wonder how my friends and mentors get through the holidays? What do they do?” So I asked them! I polled 14 friends who I think embody the notion of Living Kindly and strive to live their best lives, to give us their advice on how they approach the holiday season. Knowing that they’re all powerhouses in their own right with very busy schedules, yet still make time for themselves, is absolutely admirable and inspiring. This is how they responded to “What Do You Do to Take Care of Yourself During the Holidays?” I can’t wait to adopt some of their ideas. I’ve linked to their Instagram pages so you can glean just as much inspiration and fun from them as I do.

image by Food Network

Sarah Adler, owner of Simply Real Health

Before the craziness of the season kicks off, think hard about the top 3 things that you love, enjoy, and are obsessed with (food and drink-wise). Have those. Savor those. Let it be a joyful and juicy experience, that you’re fully present in, every single time you have them.

But, make a pact with yourself to ignore the rest. There are so many clutter foods and traditions that you might not actually care about, that you eat and drink mindlessly.

So, get clear on the things that bring you joy, and get rid of the rest.

You’ll have less guilt, way more fun, and your mind and body can stay clear on the real point of the season- giving, sharing, and big time love.

Kelton Wright, Managing Editor, Headspace

Given that meditation is built into my job, I don’t need to add it to keep my holidays peaceful. Instead, I add a playlist. Starting on November 1st every year, I pass on the shame and embarrassment and go full pop holiday music until the end of December. We’re talking Jessica Simpson, Alvin & The Chipmunks, Celine Dion, NSYNC, Kelly Clarkson, Mariah, and, of course, the Home Alone soundtrack. This playlist is like pressing a “joy” button on my soul. And while it may make sitting next to me at work intolerable, it makes me much more tolerable in general.
image by See Jane

Micha Thomas, partner, Of The Wolves

If it’s self care we’re talking about during the holidays then leaning into one’s emotions – the complexities of the ups and downs and joy and sadness the time brings forth – is my number one recommendation. Instead of squashing down what the holidays and the end of the year elicit, explore them. I recommend carrying a journal or notebook just intended to record thoughts and emotions as they arise.

This very act honors where you are right now and very well could set the stage for a wonderful start to the new year, full of clarity and clear intentions.

Kristin Sudeikis, Choreographer, Master Teacher, Artistic Director of Kirstin Sudeikis Dance

1. Dance: Purchase the Jackson 5 Holiday Album. Allow dance party to unfold. Be it in the kitchen, in the car or in the club… Shake it out, Florence and the Machine-style.

2. Games: Having game nights with family and friends is another incredible way to be with one another.

3. Breathe: I am down and into meditation. Giving oneself a moment to anchor down while the momentum of the season swirls around is a game changer. It is a consistent detox for my mind, my heart, my gut, my soul – clearing the way for possibility and creation.

4. Holiday candles: Yep. I am a sucker for a good pine tree scent. Oh so good.image by The Bojon Gourmet

Chris DiMinno, Executive Chef of Chris King Precision Components

The holidays for me are an eating an drinking festival. I keep a bike at a shop near my family’s home and try to get out every day, even if it’s just for 10 miles. It’s important to just get the blood flowing and focus on hydration. Lots and lots of water.

Chris Chandler, SoulCycle

One way I take care of myself during this busy time is living under the reminder that the holiday season is rooted in joy — pure, unadulterated. This holiday, I’m committed to experiences that elicit joy [i.e.- baking cookies, putting up Christmas lights, volunteering, and spending time with my loved ones doing absolutely nothing].

Your personal health thrives when joy is the centerpiece of your mind.

image by lululemon

Gabby Etrog Cohen, SVP of PR & Brand Strategy, SoulCycle

For me, it is super important to stay grounded around the holidays. Every year I make time to give back. My favorite day of the year is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving where as a team, we at SoulCycle go up to the Caldwell Soup Kitchen in the Bronx and prepare an ENORMOUS Thanksgiving meal for those less fortunate for the next day. I always bring my kids (they help prep food as well and make decorations). I want to make sure they understand what giving thanks truly means and how fortunate they are to have food on their table and a safe place to call home.

Molly Ritterbeck, fitness editor at Greatist.com

I have to confess: I don’t love yoga. There, I said it. Despite being super active and working in the fitness industry, I deeply struggle with enjoying yoga. But since I know the physical and mental benefits, I’ve tried to commit to practicing yoga just once a week. I live in New York City, I am constantly overstimulated, and I do nearly everything at warp speed. I mean, my keyboard is sparking small flames as I rapidly type this.

But simply taking an hour each week to slow down and give my mind and body a break has proven to be really beneficial.

I leave feeling a little less stressed and chaotic and a lot more focused and limber. I still don’t love it! But I’ve never finished a yoga class and regretted taking that time for myself.

image by The Baking Fairy

Lentine Alexis, pastry chef and recipe developer (Skratch Labs cookie mix)

A few years ago, I stopped shopping for gifts and eliminated the list of things to “buy” for the people I care about. Instead, I’ve started hosting more parties and gatherings, making more baked goods to share when I see friends and loved ones, and thinking of ways to creatively show the people who are important to me how much I love and adore them.

This is something that feeds me – because I love to bake and so often don’t get the time I want in the kitchen during the year – but also because the hustle, bustle, stress and pressure of the season seems to melt away.

This makes more time for me to have lazy mornings to read, to get out on my bike, and makes me truly feel like I’m connecting and renewing myself in a season designed for just that.

Maya Watson, OWN

My go-to fix for the holidays is trying to unplug from my phone. I don’t get much time throughout the year to have dedicated time to enjoy my family. So instead of checking social media and responding to texts, I turn it off for most of the day. Pull out the board games, cozy up and watch movies, pull out old school pictures (hard copies) to reminisce, have long conversations over a great bottle of wine, and look the people you love in the eyes and cherish the time. After, I feel so renewed and ready to come back to work and back to my reality.

image by Whimsy and Row

Mikaela Reuben, Mikaela Reuben Nutrition

During the holidays I try to get outside everyday and drink lots of water. I live near the beach so getting out in nature and going for a walk is something I make mandatory during the holidays even when it is cold and rainy. I drink water all day because I know it is also the season for excess wine, lack of sleep and indulgent food.

I commit to hydration no matter what happens. For me, it is easier to maintain health in smaller achievable goals.

Abby Watson, Business Analyst, Adidas

During the holidays, I make it a point to have a goal that keeps me focused on something other than the next social event. While it’s typically sports related for me, it doesn’t have to be (one year it was painting a room in my house). I look for a goal that helps me overcome the cold, wet, dark weather and try to enlist the help of a friend. Unlimited yoga pass for the month of December with a friend to keep you honest about going, training for a big run, really anything that fits into your life and is enough of a challenge. I think the key is mixing it up and landing on something you’ve always wanted to do or try. Think of it as a gift to yourself, what do you want to make the time to do this holiday season?

yoga outfit, pilates reformer studio


image by free people

Frank Rappa, Senior Director of Retail, Equinox Fitness Clubs

There is nothing more important than sharing love, especially over the holidays. Also, let’s face it, willpower is hard when holiday cookies are so good. I add in a second workout session every holiday to lose the guilt. The second session is a half hour that I add into my work calendar ahead of the week so it’s always planned ahead.

Overall when I think about “Taking Care of Myself” I think of having a good time and smiling. I don’t think of it as “Oh no, I can’t have another drink” or “Oh no, that was too many appetizers.”

Cristina Fisher, Event & Content Manager, Urban Outfitters – Space 24 Twenty

I openly love everything about the holidays but find it super easy to fall off the wagon with exercise, cooking/eating healthy, or working on any one of my random creative endeavors. While this definitely doesn’t solve all of those problems, I absolutely cherish my morning time to do things for myself. I guess you have to be comfortable with an alarm clock for this one, but starting the morning with a neighborhood walk and podcast, yoga, or grabbing coffee with a book does wonders for stress, creativity and staying on track, even if just a few days a week!

See more from Kelly’s “Living Kindly” series here!