Photo by Dustin Gaffke/flickr
Don’t Let Holiday Travel Stress You Out
The busiest travel time of the year is upon us. The AAA auto club predicts 98.6 million U.S. residents will hit the road or the skies this holiday season. While regular travel is stressful enough, holiday travel adds a whole new layer of difficulties. Not only do you have to worry about missed flights and traffic jams, there’s also the added stress of buying the perfect presents, dealing with difficult relatives, and pretending you like fruitcake. It’s enough to make anyone hide under the covers and watch It’s A Wonderful Life on repeat rather than face the season. But holiday travel doesn’t have to be stressful. As a psychiatrist and the co-founder of Good To Go, I would like to offer you the following tips for staying sane while on the road.
Feeling like you have no control over a situation can increase your stress levels. While you can’t control traffic or when your plane lands, you can control what time you leave for the airport and how much sleep you get before your trip. Create a packing checklist, or download one here. A few days before you leave, start putting together your bag. The more packing you can do in advance, the more time you have to relax - and, more importantly, sleep - the night before you leave. Set your alarm 20 minutes earlier than you originally planned the morning of your departure. Better to have a leisurely breakfast than to spend 15 minutes frantically trying to find your travel toothbrush while the taxi driver honks in the driveway.
Adjust Your Expectations
Flights can get delayed. Highways can get congested. People can be jerks. These are facts of life no matter what the time of year. If you accept there might be disruptions during your journey, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them. Our thoughts affect our emotions. Plan to stay flexible and roll with the punches. You’ll be a lot less stressed if and when difficulties arise.
Maintain Healthy Routines
Try to stick to your normal eating, drinking and sleeping schedule as much as possible. Pack healthy, high-fiber snacks to munch on during your travels. This helps prevent irritability caused by dips in blood sugar. Dehydration can also lead to irritability, not to mention constipation. Bring a water bottle you can refill often while you’re on the road and after you get to your destination. Stay hydrated to stay happy. Finally, try to maintain your normal sleeping schedule during your trip. Avoid excessive alcohol at holiday parties, and be mindful of how that after-dinner cup of coffee will affect you at bedtime. If you’re a light sleeper, pack an eyeshade and ear plugs so you can rest undisturbed.
Take Time For Relaxation
Despite our best efforts to plan ahead, manage our thoughts, and drink plenty of water, stress still happens. If you feel yourself getting anxious, don’t fight it. Recognizing and accepting stress is the first step to dealing with it. Don’t leave home without a good book, an engrossing podcast, or your favorite play list. It's important to spend some time relaxing and distracting yourself from stressors that arise during your journey. By listening to your body and knowing when to relax, you can keep any trip-induced anxieties under control.
Enjoy the Holidays
Have fun with the holidays. Sure, all the pressures, social obligations, and travel can be stressful. But if you plan ahead, you’re more likely to enjoy yourself.