Whether you’re travelling on business and have to make a tight connection to get to an all-important meeting or are herding easily distracted children through a busy airport to go on holiday, travel can be stressful.
Experts estimate that up to 75 percent of us get stressed at some stage of a journey, whether it’s packing, getting the family through airport formalities or attending an important event when we arrive.
Over years of jetting around the world, British Airways strategic commercial development manager in South Africa, Daniel Bainbridge, has learnt to mitigate some of the factors which can lead to travel stress. Here are his top tips:
Manage your time: Plan ahead and create time buffers to deal with unexpected circumstances. Leave enough time to get to the airport, so you don’t arrive sweaty and stressed. Also allow enough time between connections, so even if there’s a slight delay you still have enough time to make the next flight.
Use technology: Where possible check-in online using your mobile phone, or check-in at home or at the hotel and print out your boarding pass. This effectively enables you to jump the check-in queues at the airport. British Airways also offers facilities such as manage my booking which enables you to select a seat 24-hours in advance, pay an upfront discounted rate for excess baggage and even book a car or hotel.
Remain calm: Admittedly this can be easier said than done. When something unexpected happens it’s easy to react negatively by arguing endlessly or fuming silently. It’s much better to take a deep breath, stay calm and accept that there are some things in life you just can’t change. Use your time constructively, for example if you have to wait for a delayed flight, play 'I Spy' with your children or catch up on some reading.
Stress experts suggest that consciously monitoring your breathing helps. When people get stressed they tend to take shallow breaths, reducing oxygen intake. This can lead to feelings of panic or anxiety. Try to breathe in deeply for the count of four, holding for 16 and breathing out for a count of eight. This exercise can help balance the serotonin, the chemical that regulates happiness.
Stay hydrated: When you’re feeling stressed you might be tempted to reach for nicotine, alcohol, caffeine or chocolate to calm down. The problem is that these substances all contain stimulants. Rather turn to healthy snacks such as fresh or dried fruit or nuts and keep topping up on water. Longhaul flying can be dehydrating so it’s important to drink plenty of water and limit you intake of alcohol and caffeine.
Tackle tension early: Stress can affect your neck, shoulders and back. Some simple techniques can help alleviate the tension build up. Sit up straight against the back of your seat, with your arms and hands open and relaxed. Take a deep breath and raise your shoulders up. Hold this for a few seconds before slowly breathing out and dropping your shoulders. Repeat this a few times.
Place your left hand on your right shoulder and squeeze gently. Repeat down the arm to the elbow. Do this several times before changing arms. Place the fingers of both hands at the base of your skull. Apply slow, circular pressure down from the base of the skull to the base of the neck.
In-flight, try to stretch or move around the cabin. This will help maintain circulation and prevent cramping.
"There isn’t any magical formula for alleviating the stress of travel and what works will differ from person to person. I’ve found that some planning, a dose of common sense and the anticipation of good book to read on board are the best combination for me," says Daniel.