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Travelling can be stressful. You’re putting your body under a lot of pressure by changing climates and timezones, and you’re in new situations which demand new reactions.

Plus, you’ll probably spend at least some time in airport queues, which deserve a stress category all of their own.

While you might not be able to do all the things you’d normally do at home to de-stress, there are a few things you can do anywhere.

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1. Take a deep breath.

Really, it’s one of the best things you can do. Close your eyes and count to ten while breathing deeply — in through your nose, out through your mouth.

2. Exercise

It’s not always possible to go swimming or for a run, certainly, but you can almost always go for a walk. Even on a plane or train, or in a confined space, you can walk up and down or just on the spot. Star jumps are great for indoor exercise, but get outside if you can, and get as much sun as you can to get your vitamin D.

Oundle sunset river Nene UK
Go and see a sunset if you can!

3. Treat yourself

Find something really small you can do to treat yourself — don’t spend too much (that might cause more stress), but something as little as an extra ten minutes in bed or a chocolate bar can really help. Or better, get your travelling companion to get something for you.

4. Think about the positive stuff

Don’t focus on what’s gone wrong, think about what’s gone right. More things go right than wrong, so why dwell on the negative? Think of five things that are good about today, even if they are tiny; at the moment, one of my small blessings is that we’re living near the sea. Just one glance out the window can help put me in a good mood.

Sachsische Schweiz saxon switzerland national park - dresden
Do you get to see cool things?

5. Make a list

What exactly are you stressed about? Write it all down. Some things you will have control over, and others you won’t. Look at the items you don’t have control over, and say to yourself “I don’t have control over this, so why worry about it?” Then look at the items you do have control over. Put them in order of importance, and decide what you’re going to do about each thing. Make a decision about each item, even if it’s planning to think about it tomorrow.

6. Tell yourself the truth

This one’s a hard one to stomach at times. If something goes wrong and it’s your fault, you need to accept that, not stress about it. But remind yourself that you’re human and it’s human to make mistakes — even such terrible ones as the one you’ve made. Or if you’re worried about the future, tell yourself that you’re strong and capable and will be able to deal with the future when it comes. Find a mantra that works for you — I find “shit happens” to be really useful when things go wrong — because it’s true.

Craig's in charge of our passports!
Craig’s in charge of our passports!

7. Spread the load

You can save a lot of travel stress by dividing up some of the tasks you have to do. Plan in advance to get as much done as possible, and — if you’re travelling with someone — share the jobs among the members of your party. In our case, Craig’s in charge of passports on travel days; I plan the route. This way one person doesn’t have all the task-related stress on their shoulders.

Travel stress doesn’t have to affect your trip – slow down and use these seven ways to de-stress on the road, and you’ll see and feel the difference.

This post was originally published as an article in 2009, and was recorded as a podcast in 2016.

This episode of the Indie Travel Podcast is sponsored by Select Italy.

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This episode of the Indie Travel Podcast is sponsored by Allianz Global Assistance.

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Your thoughts on "How to deal with travel stress"

  • Why go if one is going to be stressed, right? Good ideas! I think the best way to destress with travel is to go slow and not try to do too much. Immersing deeply is so much more rewarding than rushing here and there. Less is more. Take two or three hour meals with new friends, take whole days off just to play.

    on January 9, 2009 at 8:49 pm Reply
  • I agree - actually, trying to do too much is probably the cause of a lot of the travel stress out there. There should always be time for a three-hour dinner!

    on January 10, 2009 at 5:36 pm Reply
  • These are some great tips! I agree with long meals, when we do that in Italy, all our cares melt away. A little wine here and there doesn't hurt, either. :)

    on January 13, 2009 at 2:15 am Reply
  • I think the best way to destress is to go for a walk. And to make a large part of the travel on foot. Johann Gottfried Seume wrote: 'You only can study a country by walking. You can not get in touch with a country by driving' Seume wrote this about 200 years ago and he didn't mean automobiles. He spoke about horse-drawn carriages! :)

    on January 13, 2009 at 8:34 am Reply

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