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Managing the Stress of Air Travel

Posted Oct 07 2010 11:45am

My sister and her family moved to California this summer and I just returned from my first visit.  While we had a great time, I have to admit, air travel can be stressful.  Wondering “What if” becomes tiring after a while.  It’s easy to say “control what you can control” and much harder to put into practice. With my sister’s move, I expect travel to the west will increase on an annual basis, so practicing will be important to my travel well-being.

Below are a few of the ways I try to manage any stress associated with air travel.  It feels good to have these tools available when I need them.

Pack light. It’s taken me a long time to learn how to pack.  I no longer check a bag I carry on. I buy toiletries upon arrival, wear my sneakers and in general bring as little as possible.  Besides, not checking a bag saves you money – at least $25 each way.

Get up and stretch. Get up and move your body especially if traveling on a long flight.  You’ll feel better when you arrive at your destination and it’s good for your health and circulation.  Don’t worry about what you look like.  Worry about what you feel like.  If stretching feels good, do it.

Check in at home. These days most airlines allow you to check in and print your boarding passes from home.  We flew United and by checking my mom’s bag online, she even saved $2 on the checked luggage fee.  When not checking a bag, printing your passes at home affords you the luxury of heading straight to security when you arrive at the airport.

Drink plenty of water. According to FlightHealth.com , “…the effect of alcohol on the body is multiplied at altitude…” Because of recycled air and cabin pressure, planes can cause dehydration. You’ll have an easier time with energy and jet leg if you stay hydrated.  Avoid alcohol if possible and drink plenty of water.  Water is free on the plane, or a few bucks at the gate.

Keep yourself busy. Bring a book, magazine, knitting project, portable DVD player, iPod, headphones, something to keep you busy and help pass the time.  Often, I’m asleep before even leaving the gate.  Sleep works, too.

Exhale. I traveled with my mom on this trip.  As the plane taxied down the runway I noticed her body stiffen, her knuckles turn white and her chest expand. I could see the tension increase.  “Exhale,” I told her.  She looked at me and chuckled.  Holding your breath, although a common response, won’t help you feel better.  When you inhale, always remember to exhale.

Breathe. When I found myself getting into “What if” scenarios, I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths.  This took me out of my head (my thoughts) and into a more relaxed place. No sense stressing about a story when in that moment it’s not reality.

How about you? Do you find it stressful to travel?  How do you manage the stress?

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