Ever feel a twinge in your stomach on the way to the airport? Many people are nervous travelers to begin with, and when you add things like leaving behind something important or running late for a flight, it can be a recipe for extra stress (perhaps especially around the holidays).
But here’s something that’s quick and easy that anyone can do if they’re feeling anxious about traveling, courtesy of my friend Elisha Goldstein, PhD. Elisha is a Clinical Psychologist in private practice, Co-founder of The Mindfulness Center for Psychotherapy and Psychiatry in West Los Angeles, and author of the book The Now Effect: How This Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life.
The holidays are already upon us, and for many people that means trains, planes and automobiles as a means of traveling to see friends, family, or just getting out of dodge. During this time, one of the most unwelcome companions that often travels with us is stress and anxiety.
According to the VALK foundation in the Netherlands, up to 40 percent of people have anxiety around flying, not to mention the millions more who are stressed out by traveling in general.
But there is a quick and simple way that can help you stress less during holiday travel.
Science shows that one of the things that can help us shift out of stress and anxiety is to become present – to get outside of our heads and widen our perspective. We can learn to apply mindfulness and compassion to our traveling experience to not only decrease stress, but build in resiliency.
Compassion is the understanding that someone is suffering with the inclination to want to help them. I’m fortunate enough to have worked with a number of people who struggle with the stress and anxiety of traveling, and in this work I often find some wisdom that I now get to share with you.
So here’s a one-minute tip that combines mindfulness and compassion that can be found in Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind. You can use this anywhere and anytime while traveling to begin neutralizing the stress and stepping into what really matters.
Be an Ambassador of Compassion
“When sitting on a plane (or substitute your mode of transportation), see the ‘choice point’ by considering all the other people on the plane who are also struggling with being an anxious traveler. Remember, up to 40 percent of people struggle with some form of anxiety about traveling. Be an ambassador of compassion, connecting with your heart and saying:
“May you feel safe and protected.
May you be at ease.
May you be free from fear.
May you be happy.”
The fact is, stress around traveling is more prevalent than we usually imagine. Just practice this as an experiment over and again without expectation and see what you notice.
If you want to apply self-compassion, just turn these phrases onto yourself saying, “May I feel safe and protected, be at ease, be free from fear and be happy.” To make this a short formal practice, you can also play with a brief lovingkindness meditation practice. Just holding these phrases in mind can be helpful in getting out of your own head and back into your life.
What would life be like in the days and weeks ahead if more people practiced being The Ambassador of Compassion during this high travel season?
We might not only reduce stress, but bring the joy back to traveling.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.