How to Stay Sane During Holiday Travel

The holidays can be a wonderful time of year, filled with pumpkin spiced lattes, family, friends, events and decorations. However, having to brave airports, trains, and ride shares during that time can quickly change your cheery attitude into something out of a horror movie. This year doesn’t have to be like all of the rest though. This year can be the year that your travel plans don’t ruin your holiday fun!

5 Ways to Not Let Travel Problems Ruin Your Holiday Spirit:

1. Plan Ahead

This sounds simple, but in between the Turkey Trot, tree decorating, shopping, and holiday plays you may not have made the time to review your travel plans and problem-solve the many things that can go wrong. Problem-solving is doing exactly what it sounds like. It involves spending time thinking of solutions to common problems. Many people believe that planning ahead is just another form of worrying about things, but mindfully finding solutions to problems is actually more likely to reduce your anxiety, than it is to increase it. WARNING: There are a few exceptions to this rule though. If you are someone who always makes detailed lists and spends hours and hours worrying about all of the things that could go wrong, then this strategy may not be for you!

stay sane during holiday travel

2. Enlist Support

Social support is key to dealing with stressful situations but not all social support is created equal. Pre-selecting safe friends or family members to vent to, who can help you see your problem from an unbiased point of view are a good way to help you get back on track when the unplanned happens. They can also help distract you after your flight was canceled, or remind you of the coping skills that you have forgotten in that moment of chaos.

3. Self-Inventory

Taking a self-inventory is paying attention to your body and how you are being affected by the things that are going on around you. One thing people often notice during this process is how their body is feeling. Are your shoulders up under your ears? Are you aware that you are holding your breath? Does your back hurt from carrying around the stress of today? Noticing how you are being affected is the first step in finding a solution to your problem!

4. Breathe

Deep breathing helps calm your whole body in a matter of minutes. If you have an Apple watch, there is actually a deep breathing function that can help keep your breathing on pace. If not, it is very simple to do:

  1. Sit up or stand up straight, close your eyes, and place your hand on your stomach just below your ribs
  2. Notice your breathing
  3. Breathe in through your nose slowly, then hold it for a moment
  4. Breathe out through your mouth even slower
  5. Pay attention to your breathing, and see if you can slow your breath down even more
  6. Try to continue your breathing for a whole minute
  7. You’re finished!!

Now that you have managed to calm your body down, you should feel more relaxed and be more level headed when making the many decisions in your travel journey. The other benefit of this is that it can be done in your plane seat, in the bathroom or anywhere else your travels take you!

5. Self-Care

Self-care means taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and professionally. It can be anything from getting a massage to taking a walk, to petting your dog, to realizing that you need a moment to yourself, to having appropriate boundaries with family members. When traveling, remembering to take snacks and water with you can make a world of difference in the way you feel.

Do you have an animal that helps you feel more calm? Making sure you arrange to bring him on your trip could be a way that you take care of yourself. Is meditation what really helps you feel relaxed or spiritually fulfilled? Downloading a meditation app or guided imagery audio file for your flight can help ground you and drown out the noise going on around you. The gist is, no matter what helps you feel more like yourself, and regain your center, make sure you have made a space for it in your hectic travels!

Many people feel stressed and triggered during the holidays.

If you believe that your struggle more than others during this time, or finding the right skills to help you cope and relax even when it’s not the holidays, give us a call!

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Dr. Rebecca Crecraft

Dr. Crecraft is a postdoctoral fellow. She is a trauma specialist, transitions expert, and family disorder healer. Her specialties include emotion regulation, healthy boundaries, and moving on from your past.

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