Whether you’re hitting the road by plane, train, automobile, ship or skiff, traveling can take a toll on your emotional wellness. Hyper-awareness of departure times, making sure all your documents are in order for yourself and your family, and adjusting to new locations, foods and altitudes can elevate your stress levels, even on trips that are supposed to be all about relaxation. Though simply getting to where you’re going might bring on more stress, there are a few key things you can control, to reduce tension as you make your way to your final destination and while you’re away from home.
Make a schedule and share it with everyone
Whether you’re traveling for work or toting the spouse and kids along with you, create a clear daily schedule of travel and activities. If you’re traveling with kids, tell them the plan for the day or make a visual list with pictures and cross things off as you achieve them. This reduces the number of times you need to answer questions about what’s happening next, where you’re going and what everyone needs to prepare.
Plan plenty of free time
Sure, there is likely lots to see and do wherever you’re headed but make sure to schedule a few mornings, afternoons and evenings to do “nothing,” i.e. sitting in a café, eating a leisurely lunch or taking the time to quietly enjoy the sunset. Specifically dedicating time to relax and unwind gives your mind and body a break.
Bring along nutritious snacks
Resist the urge to reach for the chips or candy bars at airports or train stations. Salt and sweets will key you up and keep you awake at a time when peaceful rest is already hard to come by. Hunger causes irritability in both adults and children which can compound already elevated stress levels. Instead, bring along dried fruits, nuts or whole wheat crackers to satisfy those hunger pangs in a healthy way.
Take breaks for exercise and meditation
Physical restriction can have a major negative impact on your emotional wellness during travel. Moving your body releases endorphins which elevate your mood and alleviate travel-related stress. You can turn any trip into a mini fitness retreat by taking the time to do daily light yoga or stretching in your hotel room or in a quiet corner of the airport terminal. Take the stairs instead of an escalator whenever possible. Use sound-blocking headphones to drop into a quick, emotion-leveling guided meditation.
Make relaxation a priority
Whether your vacation involves stealing away to hidden wellness retreats or pounding the streets of Paris, make the time to slow down. Schedule a massage, yoga class or spa treatment to help you relax and focus on the present moment, not where you’re headed next. By resetting your mind and body, you can actually enjoy the act of traveling.
It sounds simple but this is actually a crucial tip. The stress of missing a flight, making the hotel check-out time or arriving on time for a dinner reservation causes your body to stay on high alert, which can mentally and physically drain you. Give yourself plenty of time between activities and wear a watch. A quick glance at your wrist can reassure you that you’re on track. It’s a better idea than constantly fishing in your bag for your phone, which simply adds another layer of tension.
Bring along lots of things to entertain your kids
Remember that traveling can be even more stressful for children. Their comforting routines have been replaced with strange new environments, unusual activities and frazzled, short-tempered parents. Bored children tend to fight unnecessarily, which can compound your stress levels. Bring along familiar items that give your children comfort and remember that they need a balance of stimulation and relaxation. Find both active and quiet activities to manage their inevitable emotional highs and lows.
Travel can be arduous but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Follow these simple steps to make your own emotional wellness a priority. When you feel tranquil and centered, you’re more likely to enjoy the journey as well as the destination. Happy travels!