How to Stay Healthy and Sane During the Holiday Crush

Somms and bartenders share their tips for getting through the busiest season of the year

How to Stay Healthy and Sane During the Holiday Crush
Illustration by Jeff Quinn.

For anyone working in hospitality, the holidays are not all goodwill and cheer—they often involve long shifts, late nights, and stressful interactions with guests. While everyone is aware of the benefits of drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, and exercising, there are a number of other easy things you can do to stay healthy—and sane—throughout the holiday season. SevenFifty Daily spoke with sommeliers and bartenders to get their tried-and-true tips for maintaining health and wellness during the busiest time of the year.

Take time for yourself.

Jessica Railey, the general manager and sommelier at Toutant in Buffalo, New York, emphasizes the importance of taking time out to decompress. Making time for ourselves becomes increasingly difficult—but even more important—during the busy holiday season,” she says. It’s not enough to just carve out space in the calendar, Railey says—she dedicates any time off she gets to doing activities that bring her joy. That might mean spending an hour playing with her dog or going out for a manicure. Digitally unplugging and staying present, she says, is paramount for this enjoyment: “I try my hardest not to look at my phone or answer work emails—it’s the only way to stay sane.”

Wear barefoot shoes.

Max Pierson, a bartender at The Wren in New York City, recommends wearing barefoot shoes—a style that’s designed to mimic the natural shape of your feet—during shifts. “Barefoot shoes can help anyone in the service industry who experiences knee and foot pain,” he says. “The bottom of the foot is a map of our organs [according to reflexology], and the 15 pressure points that access these organs can be put to work simply by walking ‘barefoot.’” The shoes take some getting used to, Pierson says, but they “can soothe painful arches.”

Try this quick qigong meditation.

If you’re in the thick of service and a break is not an option, Jules Aron, the founder of The Healthy Bartender in Palm Beach, Florida, offers a simple technique that she’s used “many times behind the bar” for a quick energy boost. It involves the principles of qigong—an ancient Chinese practice that combines meditation, breathing, and movement. “First,” explains Aron, “stand with your heels together, your toes pointed about 45 degrees to the sides, and your hands with your palms up in front of your stomach. Inhale, bend your knees and raise your hands straight up in front of your chest.” For step two, “Turn your hands palms down and push your arms straight down. Straighten your legs and rise onto the balls of your feet. Hold the position for three seconds, then let your heels drop naturally and bounce them on the floor. Keep your feet on the ground, bouncing on your heels in a steady rhythm, for at least seven [bounces].”

Visit nature.

Spending time in nature can be an effective way to reduce stress, according to numerous studies, including one published in May this year in the journal Behavioral Sciences. But even if you can’t get away to the woods or the beach, or even a local park, Amie Hendrickson, a certified sommelier and the general manager of Edmond Wine Shop in Edmond, Oklahoma, says that even just stepping outside her shop during her shift and taking a few deep breaths in the fresh air is helpful. “I always make a point of going outside during the day,” says Hendrickson. “This time of year it’s easy to get to work before the sun comes up and arrive home after dark. A moment in the sun regardless of the temperature can really help.” It allows you to step away from stress and recalibrate.

Fuel up with balanced meals.

Proper nourishment (and no, holiday cookies don’t count) also helps keep you going during a long and busy shift. “I’ve found that meal prepping has been a big help,” says Harrison Peaks, a bartender at Patterson House in Nashville. “Night after night of takeout, burgers, and inconsistent [staff] meals can really take a toll,” he says. If Peaks doesn’t have time to cook a meal, he’ll put together a simple assemblage of healthy foods. “I typically eat a couple of hard-boiled eggs, a Clif bar, some nuts, and a banana,” he says. “It’s good and filling, with a lot of proteins that will carry me through the night with less of a reliance on [staff] meal.”

Staying healthy during the holidays doesn’t require a big overhaul. Small changes can be enough to keep you feeling merry and bright until the ball drops. And who knows? These little practices could be a kick-starter for some healthy New Year’s resolutions.


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Shana Clarke is a wine, sake, and travel writer, and the author of 150 Vineyards You Need To Visit Before You Die. Her work has appeared in Saveur, Fortune, NPR, Wine Enthusiast, and Hemispheres. She was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer 2020 International Wine Writers’ Awards and ranked one of the “Top 20 U.S. Wine Writers That Wineries Can Work With” by Beverage Trade Network in 2021. She holds a Level 3 Advanced Certificate from Wine & Spirit Education Trust and is a Certified Sake Sommelier. She will always say yes to a glass of Champagne. Learn more at and follow her @shanaspeakswine.

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