Contributed by Dr. Deborah Rozman, CEO and president of HeartMath
On vacation, you’re supposed to sip margaritas poolside, shop your little heart out or spend some quality time with kids, your partner or friends. It’s supposed to be relaxing and a chance for you to recharge your batteries away from home. However, traveling can be extremely taxing when you’re constantly thinking about what’s going on at the office or dealing with lost luggage and flight delays at the airport. In fact, a recent study from Concur found airports in some of America’s top vacation destinations are among the most stressful: Miami, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles to name a few.
Not only can stress ruin a trip, it has serious effects on the body. Its long-term effects will stick with you long after your not-so-leisurely vacation: Stress ages us; it creates mental and emotional overload; creativity, clarity and decision-making abilities decline; it causes aches and pains; adds fat to our belly area and it fragments our thinking. Stress also makes us irritable and unpleasant to be around, and it’s no surprise that when you let stress take over, it sets the tone for the rest of the trip.
Don’t let stress take over your vacation! Keep these stress-free travel tips from HeartMath — widely recognized for its science-based stress solutions — in mind before you jet set:
Resist the urge to overpack by making a list of what you’ll need, and lay out each outfit — trying to mix and match as many of the same pieces together. Roll, don’t fold clothes to save room and do not check essential items. Anything that would stress you out if it ended up lost in your luggage should be kept in your carry-on bag. Think a small makeup bag, a quick change of clothes and medication. You can get most replacement toiletries from the concierge at your hotel. When it comes to babies and kids, pack only their essentials — don’t bring the whole toy box — and think about the things you can buy once you are at your destination. For example, diapers take up a lot of room in your suitcase, and can be bought anywhere.
If you’re flying, try to book the earliest flight of the day. The earlier flights are more likely to be on time because they have not been pushed back by other delayed flights. Plus, you’ll get more time that day to spend at the beach! Arrive early and double check you have necessary identifications and must-have travel documents. Checking this before you leave helps with the unexpected — and be sure to add in a little extra time to allow for things like difficult airport parking, lines at security checkpoints or the possibility of the airline overselling a flight.
Traveling with little ones isn’t easy. If you are going on a road trip with your kids, consider leaving later in the evening — so they’ll be sleeping (and quiet) while you are on the road.
It’s OK to check in at home
If you’re constantly thinking about work, the kids you left at home or your pet poodle while you’re away, it’s OK to check in — but don’t overdo it. Call the babysitter or pet hotel once a day, see that everything is OK, and then put it out of your mind. If it’s being away from work that gives you anxiety, monitor email via your phone once a day, but don’t respond to anything. If something is urgent, forward it to a colleague you’ve asked in advance to help with projects while you’re away. Knowing what’s going on back at home will help eliminate anxiety and ultimately let you enjoy yourself on vacation.
Do things to promote rest and relaxation such as leisurely walks in the mornings or evenings, an afternoon nap, an evening swim, sitting and listening to nature; and instead of emails read a book. Consider high-tech tools like the Inner Balance trainer, which provides a specialized three-step technique, and real-time feedback to help you retrain your mind-body response to stress. This techno stress reducer has become widely popular with health professionals that want an effective solution they can suggest to patients. It’s also extremely discreet and portable, so it’s very easy to use while traveling. For example, the Inner Balance trainer can help give you inner peace and eliminate anxiety during turbulence.
Don’t make it a marathon
Don’t try and cram too many activities into just a few days, which can often feel stressful and more of a marathon rather than a vacation. Instead, select a few activities that will really allow you to enjoy the time away. Returning from a vacation in the evening and starting the work week the next morning can cause anyone anxiety. Allow yourself one extra day once you return to re-boot and acclimate before the routine kicks back in.
About the author
HeartMath was founded by Doc Childre and is a cutting-edge performance company providing a range of unique services, products and technologies to improve health and well-being, while dramatically reducing stress. HeartMath clinical studies have demonstrated the critical link between emotions, heart function and cognitive performance.