6 Therapist-Approved Wellness Tips for the Highly Anxious Traveler

I’m of two minds about the holidays—on the one hand, I adore twinkly lights, peppermint lattes, and any excuse to plaster my face with glitter. On the other, holiday travel is my actual worst nightmare. When winter rolls around, vacationing becomes a sinister odyssey in which I have to confront and conquer delayed flights, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and the potential for family drama before I can even think about getting hygge. This year, instead of gritting my teeth and texting my therapist, I decided to consult a panel of experts on what I can do to avoid a mid-trip meltdown this holiday season.

First off, I needed to know why getting around during the holidays—a time devoted to generosity, community, and mulled wine—stresses me out so much. I live in Los Angeles; it’s not like I don’t sit in traffic the rest of the year. But I’m not alone: a 2015 Healthline study found that 61% of millennials reported an increase in stress around the holidays. Another study confirmed that holiday travel, in particular, is crazy-making: One third of participants reported that they’d yelled at a stranger during past travels, while nearly a quarter said that stress had forced them to cancel a trip altogether.

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Photo:

Stocksy

“We can count on the fact that for most of us, the holidays are chock-full of last-minute credit card swipes and lack of vitamin D,” says life coach Bridget Chambers. “Family! Finances! The flu—oh my.” Drained bank accounts, scheduling, and seasonal illnesses can compound already stressful travel plans. Explains Neu Co. founder Jules Miller, “By the time it gets to the holidays, most of us are running on empty. In between the gift-buying, last-minute arrangements, and multiple bugs flying around, we can get pretty run-down. When you add into the equation you’re more than 100 times likely to get a cold during an airplane flight, the odds aren’t looking good by the time you get home!”

An important thing to realize, though, is that holiday stress isn’t always due to external factors. The number one stressor that Chambers sees in her clients? “Holiday joy. Life in December is lightning-quick, and the pressure to be perfect brings out the not-so-perfect in all of us,” she notes. Adds psychotherapist Shaina Singh, “Most people’s expectation of the holidays are of this joyous time and celebration, and they expect everything to be perfect. We often forget that holidays and holiday travel can be quite stressful for people and families.”

So what can we do to de-stress? I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there were a number of simple and effective hacks, tools, and products to make traveling a little less miserable for the anxiety-inclined. Whether you’re facing off with your problematic cousins or snowed in at the airport en route to your sun-soaked island getaway, we have the ultimate guide to taking care of your body and mind during holiday travel season.