Travel stress


Reducing stress when travelling

The problem with travel is that there are so many things which can go wrong that are out of our control. We all know what it is like to sit in a traffic jam because a set of traffic lights has broken down. And who has not been held up at an airport, waiting for a plane that has been held up by fog, a storm or a strike?

Even the simplest journey can be blighted by roadworks and, especially for those of us who live in towns and cities, commuting or taking the children to school can become a major source of stress. In fact, for many of us, travel is just another word for stress.

In ‘Symptoms of stress’, we looked at how evolution has equipped the human body to respond to a crisis. All the stress mechanisms fire up at once and our aggression rises ready for fight or flight. If you sit in a traffic jam with little hope of it clearing quickly, frustration can bubble over causing you to fight because you cannot run away.

Some people who are normally polite and well-mannered turn into vengeful manics when they are sandwiched in a bumper-to-bumper crawl. They take it out on their cars by banging the steering wheel or by shouting obscenities at other drivers.

All this fury will, however, have little effect on your situation – it certainly will not get the traffic moving any quicker. All that happens is that you arrive at your destination late, angry and frustrated. But travelling does not need to be like this.

Be a travel survivor

The best way to deal with travel stress, is to recognise that it can be stressful and to prepare yourself before you start a journey. A few simple measures can turn travelling into an opportunity rather than a crisis – then, the time you spend travelling will have fewer bad effects and more beneficial ones. The following tips apply whether you are using public transport or are travelling in the comfort of your car.

Be realistic

It almost goes without saying, but leave for your destination in plenty of time. Because most of us hate the hassle of travelling, we put off leaving until the latest possible moment. This is where most travellers’ troubles begin, so, do not cut it too finely.

The closer you are to your destination the easier it is to do this. You may theoretically live just twenty minutes form the airport but you only have to encounter two red lights, an old person crossing the road, and a broken-down car, for your journey to catch a plane to turn into a heart-stopping dash if you leave with exactly twenty minutes in hand. Is that extra five minutes in bed really worth it?

Travelling to a new place

When you are setting off for somewhere new, planning is essential. Prepare yourself by studying maps and routes. Ask around, someone at work or a friend may have made the same journey and may be able to give you tips on short-cuts or the roads to avoid. There are plenty of online route planners which can plan your route for you.

Plan for a hold up

You never know when you are going to hit a trouble spot or a major delay, so be prepared for the worst. Take with you on your journey a good book, a personal stereo, or even work from the office – anything that will help to pass the time. While you may not be able to control what is going on outside, you can run your own show and take control of the situation if you are well prepared.

Practise relaxation exercises

Some of the instant relaxation techniques described in ‘Seven instant relaxation techniques’ will give you just the quick fix you need to help you stay calm. Do not, however, play the relaxation audio.

At regular intervals roll your shoulders and stretch your legs. Stops at traffic lights can be a signal to loosen up and adjust your body position.

Enjoy the time

If you are sitting in your car in the middle of a traffic snarl up, avoid listening on the radio to the news of the disaster that has brought your journey to a stop. Replaying it over and over again will only serve to wind you up. Instead, listen to a different radio station or play one of your favourite tapes.

Day dreaming

Travelling is often a good time to plan other activities – your holiday, new business strategies, or even menus for the week. Solutions for all sorts of problems can be wrestled with while you are forced to sit still. If you can, keep a portable digital/cassette recorder in your car and use it as a note book – empty your thoughts on to it or dictate letters.

Alternatively, while away the minutes by watching and observing other people as they hustle their way to work or browse in shop windows. Watching other people is a truly fascinating pastime!

Study while you are stationary

When your car is forced to a standstill, your brain does not have to do likewise. Use your travel time to learn a new skill or brush up on old ones. For example, you could learn a new language by listening to CDs/MP3s/Tapes.

Have a mobile phone

Most people have a mobile phone these days but make sure you take it with you on a journey. If you’re stuck in traffic you can let people know that you’re running late – this in itself can ease your mind and reduce anxiety and stress.

The next section will deal with how you can achieve a lifestyle balance.

Achieving a balanced lifestyle >>

Text Copyright © Alix Needham
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