For many, the holidays are some of the happiest times of the year—a season filled with family and friends, delicious home-cooked meals, and sentimental traditions (not to mention presents). It’s also a time that’s jam-packed with social obligations and to-do’s, and as any overscheduled elf can attest, sometimes stress creeps in despite an abundance of holiday spirit. No one knows this better than globetrotting yoga instructor and holistic health and wellness coach Koya Webb. “Between scheduling plans to see family, traveling, and getting gifts for those close to me, holiday stress is something I deal with every year,” says Koya. If you can relate, you’re not alone. The good news? “You can absolutely counteract it, and it’s simpler than you might think.” By adopting a few small, straightforward habits, you can have an outsized impact on your everyday routine—and on your overall well-being. Read on to discover Koya’s go-to tips for unleashing your happiest, healthiest holiday season ever.
Make a gratitude list
“Remembering what you’re most grateful for is one of the most powerful tools we have for overcoming stress and negativity in our lives,” Koya says. “Is it your health? Your family? Your morning cup of coffee?” Practicing gratitude can be as simple as taking a moment to pause and reflect, but if you’re looking for a more hands-on approach, consider putting pen to paper. “I love writing down what I’m grateful for each morning,” says Koya. “It’s a great way to start the day, and it’s also satisfying to look back on when you’re going through tough times.”
Help others help you
Sure, you could single-handedly take on the full load of Santa’s workshop, baking cookies, wrapping gifts, and trimming the tree all at the same time, but what’s the point of proving you’re a holiday hero if it means running yourself into the ground? “There’s nothing wrong with asking for help,” says Koya. “You’re not dealing with holiday stress alone—everyone else can relate.” And they’ll be happy to lend a hand, especially when tasked with a specific project to pitch in on. “Remember, most people want to help, but they might not know how best to be useful.” Asking a party guest to pick up ice on their way or inviting your sibling to team up on decorating duty for the family festivities gives them a concrete way to feel involved, invested, and of value.
Practice mindful eating
What you eat has a direct impact on how you feel during the holidays—and since you can’t count on that neighborhood potluck or the fast food joint outside your kids’ school to offer something that will leave you sated and energized, it’s important to take a proactive approach to your holiday diet. Prep a portable stash of healthy snacks each morning—Koya recommends cut-up fruit and veggies and pre-portioned nuts—and get in the habit of hydrating (with one full glass of water) about an hour before each meal—particularly the big, family-style ones where it’s tempting to overindulge. Speaking of which: The easiest way to guarantee there’s going to be a healthy dish at your next potluck is to bring it yourself. “It not only ensures that you’ll have something nutritious to eat, but it’s also an excellent way to introduce a fresh and delicious meal to fellow guests,” Koya says.
Schedule your screen time
Open Instagram during the month of December, and you’re guaranteed to be bombarded with a barrage of picture-perfect ice-skating excursions, flawlessly decorated Christmas trees, and professional-grade gingerbread houses. “It becomes so easy to compare your life to others, and it can be discouraging to feel like everyone else has their holiday plans together, especially if you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed about your own,” says Koya. “But it’s important to remember that not everything on social media is as it seems—and it’s equally important to unplug and focus on yourself and on spending time with loved ones.” Koya’s preferred approach to limiting screen time? “Allow yourself set times each day to pop online—then put your phone away and be present in the moment.”
If visions of sugarplums (or lingering holiday checklists) are dancing in your head and preventing you from snagging your requisite Z’s, it’s time to stop them in their tracks. “A great way to prevent distracting thoughts from disrupting your sleep schedule is by meditating—it’s one of my favorite things to do if I’m having a hard time falling asleep, especially after traveling,” Koya says. Never meditated? Not to worry. “Just lie down in bed and bring your attention to your breath, letting all your other thoughts leave your mind. Place your hands lightly over your stomach and feel your belly rise and fall with every inhale and exhale.” Your mind and body will relax, and before you know it, you’ll be ready to doze off—and when you wake, you’ll feel energized, restored, and ready to tackle the rest of your to-do list with a smile.
Reconnect with yourself
In the midst of all the holiday hubbub, it’s important not to lose sight of who you are and what makes you happy—which can feel like a tall order if you’re spending lots of time in communal situations, especially those involving family. “Make time to do the things you love,” says Koya, “whether that’s journaling, watching a movie, or practicing yoga.” Carving out time for the things you’re passionate about will help you stay centered and strong and in the present—and might even supply a fresh topic of conversation to explore with distant relatives who had no idea you were into improv or swimming. And if you’re still feeling less than your best, consider incorporating positive affirmations into your daily routine. “There’s nothing I find more helpful for curbing negative feelings,” says Koya. “Simply repeating, ‘I will overcome all obstacles,’ or ‘Good things will happen to me today,’ every morning makes all the difference.”