I’m not taking a whirl on the December-New Year’s holiday travel-go-round this year. But I expect that a bunch of you folks will be out there, braving overcrowded airports, icy roads, and contentious family gatherings.
Here are a few quick tips you can try to mitigate the inevitable stress of holiday travels:
Limit time with family, especially if there’s history of stress in the house
My family can be the most wonderful and supportive bunch of people in the world, but they can also be a source of unbelievable stress. If you’ve got the money to stay in a motel rather than at the family homestead, do it. Being able to leave a tense dinner or budding argument over the gifts is a great stress (and pain!) busting tactic.
But in this economy, a room of your own may not be possible. In that case, make plans to ditch the fam for at least a few hours a day. Catch the Christmas movies, hit the gym or the yoga studio, go last-minute shopping (whether you need to or not), take a hike–whatever you can think of to spend some time decreasing stress and pressure.
Drive during off-hours
If you’re spending the holidays in an urban environment, try to stay off the road during peak local traffic times. When I’m on vacation, I feel no need to join the local commute.
Every day, do something nice for yourself. Take a hot bath or an extra-long shower. Book a massage at a local spa. Indulge in your favorite form of retail therapy. (On my budget, that means a used book store.) Watch a favorite movie. Eat something that tastes good. Drink a delicious cup of cocoa or spiced wine.
But don’t overdo the holiday cheer
Much as I’d love to advise otherwise, I know from cheerless personal experience that it’s best to keep a careful eye on how much eggnog, mulled wine, and spiked hot chocolate I consume. It might seem like a good idea at the time, and it always smells so nice, but too much alcohol is contraindicated with many medications as well as being rough on even the healthiest of bodies. Plus, a buzz diminishes my better judgment, which keeps me on my med regimen, stretching regularly, and being polite to my not-favorite relations.
Accept the inevitable, and don’t let it get to you
The airport will be crowded, flights will be delayed, the weather will suck, pharmacies and doctor’s offices will be closed. Turkeys will dry out, and holiday festivities won’t live up to perfect greeting-card standards.
These things happen. What makes the difference between a shrug and a stress-based pain flare is my attitude towards the inevitable. If I expect it, plan and pack for it, and remember that my overbearing relatives don’t actually control the weather, I’ll get through it with a better attitude and in better physical health.