Sawubona: Travelling without tears

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From planning to check-in to the flight itself, it’s no secret that travel can often be stressful. The Stress Management Society shares some practical tips on how to fully relax and make the most of your travels.


To ensure a stress-free flight and a relaxing holiday, you need to take time to wind down before your departure. Allow your mind and body to get into a calm state to avoid feeling overwhelmed and aggravated, as these emotions will make you feel anxious about the flight. Make sure all your work’s completed before your holiday so you aren’t taking any with you. Prepare all your travel details well in advance, from packing and transfers to itineraries and excursions. Check lists are a great way to organise yourself and ensure nothing’s left behind. Delays and setbacks are likely to occur, so being ready and open to this will ensure less stress on holiday. Make contingency plans to help you deal with unexpected stumbling blocks. Remember, you’re never powerless – you can always choose how to react to problems.

Time-keeping: Getting to the airport early will prevent stressors like traffic delays and long queues.


Prepare your in-flight entertainment: Load your favourite movies and music onto your devices to avoid boredom on the flight.

Check in online: This is a good way to give yourself extra time on your date of departure and allows you to book your seat of choice.

Familiarise yourself with the latest requirements and/or security restrictions: Make sure you’re aware of the restrictions regarding luggage and children’s visas so that you aren’t forced to unload your suitcases and leave items behind, or panic about what documents you need to present to customs control.

Summary and timings: You may find it helpful to create a simple timetable, such as: “Leave house/Arrive at airport/Car parking booked/Flight departs”. Add the times these things are due to happen, as well as contact information and other details, so you have a summary of everything you need to know in one place.

Get a good night’s sleep: A bad night’s sleep is both a cause and a symptom of stress. Allow your body and mind to relax before you sleep by creating a winding-down routine. Prepare for a good night’s sleep before your journey by removing all stimulants and doing something relaxing instead of last-minute packing. “We all know that the night before travelling is often frantic. Our bodies can cope with having one bad night’s sleep, but a week of sleep deprivation affects our immune system, making us tired and drained,” says stress expert Neil Shah from The Stress Management Society. “You don’t want to spend your holiday recovering.”

Maintain a positive mindset: Positive thinking will not only alleviate stress, but will also boost your mood. Remind yourself that this isn’t a stressful situation and you’ve prepared in the right ways to ensure you’re ready for the journey. A positive mindset will also help you deal with unexpected situations such as long queues. Choose a self-affirming mantra to repeat to yourself, eg: “I’m going to have a wonderful, relaxing break.” Repeat it to yourself whenever you feel tense.

Manage time well: Being on time puts you in control. Include buffer times to deal with unexpected or emergency tasks and delays that could arise. “Rushing around doing last minute things creates more stress. Your mind and body are already coping with a change in routine, extra things to do and the excitement of going away. If you don’t manage your time effectively, you’re adding extra stress – turning yourself into a pressure cooker. How is that going to help you relax and enjoy your holiday?” asks leading stress trainer Naomi Martell Bundock from the Stress Management Society.


Consider upgrading to Business Class, if possible – this will allow you to have a comfortable flying experience. If you can’t do that, follow these guidelines:

Exercise your breathing:
• Sit or stand in a relaxed position.
• Closing your eyes can often help you focus.
• Slowly inhale through your nose, counting to five.
• Let the air out of your mouth, counting to eight.
• Repeat several times. That’s it!
• As you breathe, let your abdomen expand outwards, rather than raising your shoulders. This is a more relaxed and natural way to breathe, and helps your lungs fill themselves with more fresh air, releasing more “old” air.
• Do this just a few times to release tension, or for several minutes as a form of meditation.
• Try constricting your throat as you exhale so that the air comes out like a whisper. This type of breathing is used in certain forms of yoga and can also help relieve tension.

Acupressure points: These can be found on either side of the bridge of your nose, around your eyes, on the soles of your feet and on your fists. Rub gently or press these acupressure points to release tension.

Get into holiday mode: Enjoy being away from the stressors and pressures of daily working life and do something relaxing during the flight. Watch a movie, read a book, do a puzzle, listen to music or sleep.

Avoid stimulants: When stressed, your body naturally goes into “fight or flight mode”, becoming stimulated with adrenaline. Using stimulants such as coffee and alcohol will only prolong your state of stress and contribute to dehydration. Instead, drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated while travelling.

Release muscular tension: Our bodies respond to stress with muscle tension and sitting down for long periods of time isn’t beneficial. A short walk around the plane or some exercises while sitting down will get the blood flowing and boost your feel-good hormones.

• Pull your shoulders up towards
your ears, then relax them.
• Stretch your arms away from
your body, reach as far as you
can, then relax them.
• Extend your toes outwards,
then pull them towards you
and relax.
• A small hand-held stress ball is
a great distraction.


So you’ve arrived – now ensure you make the most of your downtime: Light exercise combined into your daily activities will help you sleep better, giving you energy for each day.

Don’t over-schedule your days: Avoid cramming too many activities into a single day: instead spread out your plans and allow yourself to rest. Ensure long excursions are followed by time to unwind and relax at the pool.

Try something new: If someone wants to do something that isn’t your top choice, why not give it a go? That way you can experience things outside of your comfort zone.

Be technology-free: This means enjoying your surroundings, the people you’ve travelled with, the culture, the food and the beautiful sights. Avoid using social media or checking your emails. As Shah says: “If your body’s on the beach, you don’t want your mind to be at the office.”