how to avoid stress during holiday travel

5 Ways to Avoid Losing Your Sh*t During Holiday Travel

Lines longer than a CVS receipt and delays can’t let you down this time.

Cue up the music: Dashing through the snow in an airplane, car, or train. Over the fields of people we go, audibly sighing all the way. Bells on speakers ring, making spirits dry. What un-fun it is to ride and be delayed on your day-long trip tonight. *ahem* Now that we got that out of the way, we regress. Holiday travel, compounded with everything else that comes with the season, can be stressful. But this year we’re determined not to let the little things muddy up the festive season. To help us keep our internal temps from bubbling over, we gathered intel from Cognitive Neuroscientist Dr. Jared Cooney Horvath, and healer and best-selling author of “Mastering Affluence” Carol Tuttle, to give us five ways to avoid stress this season and beyond.

1. Visualize

“The brain does not draw a strict distinction between reality and imagination. This is why visualization exercises are so effective in combating and changing the stress response.

“In the weeks leading up to travel, spend 20-30 minutes a day visualizing (in detail) the aspect of travel that makes you stressed and/or scared. You might visualize walking up an airplane aisle, driving along a busy highway, or seated next to strangers in a bus.

“During this visualization, imagine yourself calm, collected, and relaxed. These visualizations become, in essence, practice for the real deal—so the more you can visualize how you want to feel, the easier it will be to access those feelings come travel time,” explains Dr. Cooney Horvath.

2. Use Technology to Your Advantage

Dr. Cooney Horvath continues, “Today there are a ton of music/podcast/relaxation apps available for free that can help you get into a good headspace during travel. In the weeks leading up to travel, take some time to create an audio ‘playlist’ that calms and relaxes you. Listen to this list frequently—especially during your visualization exercises. In this way, you can build a link between the music and sensations you desire, thereby making it easier to enter into a relaxed state when you are in the real situation.”

3. Get Enough Rest

“Get the sleep you need so you feel balanced and energized when you are traveling,” suggests Tuttle.

4. Set Aside an Entire Travel Day

“One large source of travel stress concerns timing: traffic, delays, and cancelations. Holiday travel is rarely easy and almost never straightforward. As such, set aside an entire day for any traveling you must do. On your travel day, do not plan for (or expect to engage in) any other activities other than travel,” Dr. Cooney Horvath recommends. “Cancel dinner dates, meetings, or anything else you were hoping to do once you ‘arrived’ at your destination. With no additional plans, you eliminate any unnecessary stress and worry that may come with change or delays in travel plans,” Dr. Cooney Horvath advises.

Tuttle agrees. “It’s stressful enough when traveling, let alone having a looming to-do list to get through. Let go of some of the should-dos and focus on getting ready to travel. Really think through your to-do list, and pick three to five things that you feel like you should do that you really don’t want to do before you leave for the holidays. Think twice about how necessary they are. Good chance you’ll cross them off the list!”

5. Target Your Body

“If the stress response hits during travel, your best option is to target your body directly,” says Dr. Cooney Horvath. “First, take long, deep breaths. Five-second inhale; five-second hold; five-second exhale. This simple breathing pattern will trigger the release of chemicals that slow your heart rate, relax your muscles, and temper your thinking.

“Next, you may wish to undertake progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with your feet, inhale and tense your foot muscles as hard as you can for five to 10 seconds. Next, exhale as you relax your foot muscles, feeling all the tension and stress flowing away. Repeat this with your feet a couple times, then begin moving up your body, targeting your leg muscles, your torso, your arms, and your head.

“Finally, try not to simply add new ‘chemicals’ into the stress mix. Alcohol, nicotine, and other substances rarely change the stress chemicals in your body—they simply layer atop them. As such, don’t rely on external substances to abate stress—rely instead on your own actions and behaviors to change your chemical milieu,” he concludes.

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