Heart Health and Resilience: Managing Stressful Travel

I remember the days when travel was fun. Looking forward to flying, going somewhere new, bringing new treasures back home. Now it’s long lines for security, small middle seats on overbooked airlines, diminished travel rewards, and overpriced hotels that consider cleanliness a chore. 

No wonder people dread travel. Despite this disgust, we are traveling more than we did twenty years ago. Jobs are geographically diverse, families move away… sometimes to different states or countries, and our thirst for learning about our small planet continues to fascinate us.

So how can we manage the stress of travel so that we may enjoy it once again? Well, we can’t fix the Delta’s of the world, but we can use a few travel guru tips to make it a wee bit easier:

  • Practice mindful presence. I agree it’s tough when a child is screaming behind you… or worse, it’s your own kiddo causing the ruckus. But for both, bringing yourself into presence will calm the mind and allow compassion to fill your heart. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it makes you resilient to the stress.
  • Have one carry-on bag packed with your essentials: power cords, power hub, headphones, band-aides, gum, earplugs, chapstick, medication, water bottle, wipes and sanitizer, sunglasses, business card, pen, iPad, iPhone, tissues, and vitamins. With this I can stay hydrated, fight off the overwhelming germs all around me, stay entertained, help myself if I get sick, and tend to minor needs as they arise. IMG_0659
  • Sometimes I bring: a travel pillow (for neck or lower back), tea/coffee, other supplements like my favorite MCT oil (Brain Octane), Himalayan salt, and protein bars/snacks. If you pack a swiss army knife, be prepared to have it taken no matter the size. Some TSA will let you keep the very small ones, but be aware.
  • Make sure your carry on bag is travel friendly. It should be able to securely hold your stuff. Many pockets and places to organize, zipped compartments, and no metal. It should also be as lightweight as possible, and fit under the seat in front of you (it should NOT need to be stored above).
  • Wear comfortable clothes, slip-on shoes, a sweater or light coat, and no metal. Be light with your jewelry, so you’re not targeted for theft, or lose something valuable.
  • Get the the airport or station early to avoid feeling rushed.
  • Have appropriate identification readily available at all times. For domestic travel that’s a state issued ID, like a drivers license. For international travel it’s your passport.
  • Keep some cash on you, but not too much. Same with a credit card… keep one or two, but not several. Do bring medical information if appropriate (allergies, significant medical needs, etc).
  • Have your travels plans/itinerary printed and stored in a few locations: carry on bag, luggage, and a copy sent to your own email. I recommend sending copies to family, along with a copy of your passport and Visas, just in case.
  • If you’re in presence you’ll be aware of those around you. This is good to avoid stress, but also keep yourself safe.
  • When you check into your hotel do some local shopping for water and snacks. I also buy comfort things like my favorite shampoo, conditioner and soaps. Set the room up right away to make it feel more personal. Hang clothes, set up the bathroom, clean if necessary, set the temperature. Locate clocks and phones and adjust as needed.
  • If you’re on holiday ensure you pack the type of cloths and shoes that are appropriate. Support and temperature control are often the most cited issues for discomfort. Wear the right shoes for walking several miles, and layer your clothing so you can be content as the air warms and cools throughout the day.
  • Bring your favorite first-aide items. Bandages, pain relief, anti-diarrhea, and antihistamine are great generic choices. I also pack a lot of vitamin C (along with my normal supplement stack).
  • No matter where you’re going, understand you’re not home. Expecting anything to be like home will open up the opportunity to be disappointed. Cable, internet, communication, comfort, food, water, and hygienic needs can be anything from slightly different to unknown to us. It can be frustrating, but remember the culture you’re visiting has lived (and thrived) like this for decades. Find your way to be comfortable, and bring yourself into presence. I’ve heard people complain about not being able to watch their favorite TV programs while on holiday. Keep it in perspective.
  • Know that it’s okay to want more alone time while traveling. Being somewhere different, around people you’re not familiar with, is emotionally draining. Take time for yourself to meditate, reflect, and relax. It’s best to stick to your normal sleep schedule too. There’s some flexibility, plus or minus a half hour, but both your mind and your heart favor a personal circadian rhythm. You’ll manage stress with much more resilience when you’re well rested.
  • Speaking of being well rested, here are tips to sleep well when not at home: keep the room cool, but not cold. Make your pillow as comfortable as possible, and don’t hesitate to ask for more. Turn off all lights, close the shades, and remove as many electrical items near the bed. A glass of Natural Calm before bed will also help.
  • Remember airplane etiquette: keep your second bag/case/etc on the floor by your feet- not above you taking up space, don’t bring strong scented food on board, don’t wear strong scents as perfume or lotion, stay within your seat and don’t lean or cross over into your neighbors, share the armrest, trading seats to be with your partner/family is only acceptable if you’re trading up a better seat, appreciate your neighbor’s desire to be quiet, plan travel with your children to make it comfortable for them and the other plane-mates, and everyone on the plane paid to be there and deserves our respect.
  • When In Rome: Even though you’re on holiday, most people live there and have places to get to- be a respectful tourist and pay attention to those around you. Respect the culture and people you’re visiting. Leave it as you found it- clean up, leave nothing behind.

I’ve mentioned being mindful and present a few times, but I cannot stress this aspect enough. Through presence you will manage your anxiety and stress, while being more open and compassionate to others around you.

Nothing makes a trip more beautiful than being at peace.

Have questions? Feel free to contact me. And, if you’re interested in working with me, check out my coaching program.

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