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  • Posted November 21, 2023

Holiday Travel Sends Stress Levels Sky High: Here's Tips to Cope

TUESDAY, Nov. 21, 2023 (HealthDay News) --Traffic, crowds and unforeseen delays and disruptions can turn holiday travel from celebratory to chaos in a flash -- especially if you're prone to anxiety.

Being aware of your triggers can help you be ready for any glitches that arise.

"Triggers might include uncertainty of traffic, flight delays, being in public places, or seeing friends and family for the holidays," said Dr. Asim Shah, a professor and executive vice chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "Based on your triggers, you can make a plan."

A good plan starts with getting plenty of rest the night before your trip, eating healthy, and avoiding alcohol and drugs, which can make anxiety worse, Shah said in a Baylor news release. He suggests working out before you head out the door, because the endorphins released during exercise help ease anxiety and nervous energy.

"Have a plan, distract yourself and reassure yourself that you are safe," he said.

If flying makes you anxious and time permits, take the car instead of a plane, but try to stay off the road during rush hour, Shah suggested.

If you are traveling by air, consider booking your trip so you can arrive a day early. Shah also recommends leaving in the morning and having a backup plan in case your flight is delayed or canceled.

"Don't waste time," he said. "Get to the airport early to prepare for long lines and parking issues."

Take a direct flight if you can, he recommended, and have a change of clothes, medications and important items in your carryon if you'll be checking luggage. A book, a game or movie will distract you in the air.

With passenger disruptions on the rise, some people are nervous to be around others and may get worked up over small things, Shah pointed out.

This combination of discontent and disruptions is directly related to a brain system that reacts abnormally to disruptive situations instead of responding peacefully, he said. Try to keep your cool.

"Being calm, polite and professional can help to reduce the chaos and build allies among other passengers," Shah said.

One disruptive passenger can cause anxiety and distress for everyone else on the plane, Shah noted. He emphasized that passengers should not attempt to intervene in disputes. They have no authority and may make matters worse, he noted.

If a problem develops, stay calm and quiet and notify the crew. Then, come to their rescue if they need support when they arrive to intervene, he added.

More information

The Federal Aviation Administration has tips for preparing for a trip by plane.

SOURCE: Baylor College of Medicine, news release, Nov. 20, 2023

What This Means for You

Planning ahead and giving yourself plenty of time to reach your destination can help take the anxiety out of holiday travel.

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