Let’s face it: traveling is stressful. Even when a trip is meant to be a relaxing vacation, you can find yourself dripping in anxious sweat when things don’t go as planned. Booking flights, filling out travel paperwork, and stuffing everything you need into a carry-on and personal item is an overwhelming experience for just about anyone. Even travel pros can find themselves in tricky, stress-induced situations, too. According to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers, the stress of travel can take a toll on your mental health. "Travel stress can trigger or exacerbate an existing mental health condition. Persistent feelings of stress can also lead to anxiety or depression," according to the organization. "Even if you have no prior history of mental illness, mood changes, substance misuse, and extreme anxiety can potentially disrupt a trip."
With travel stress so prominent of an experience for so many, you’ll be happy to know that experts have outlined simple ways that you can manage trip-induced anxiety.
Getting in a quick pre-trip workout could lower travel stress
Travel stress affects travelers in unique ways depending on their adaptability, support systems, and mental well-being, according to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers. Signs of travel stress can include difficulty concentrating, nausea, fatigue, headache, and irritability.
Even fifteen minutes of exercise before you depart for your trip could help you regulate your nervous system and avoid some of the symptoms of travel stress. The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders suggests working out before getting on a plane because of the chemicals produced in your body during exercise. "The endorphins from exercise are calming and will help dissipate your nervous energy," the website says. "If you can’t exercise before your trip, try walking around the terminal to distract yourself and to keep your muscles loose, which helps reduce travel anxiety."
Tim Brown, the co-founder of Allbirds shoe company, told the Wall Street Journal that he tries to exercise before every flight, as long as it’s not too early. He said, "There’s something about sitting for so long that I think is not always the nicest feeling, but if you’ve exercised or done something strenuous beforehand, it somehow feels better and you feel like you’re recovering, rather than getting antsy."
The International Association for Medical Assistance for Travellers also recommends checking in with a healthcare professional for tips on staying healthy while away from home.
The best workouts to do before a trip
Pre-trip workouts can prepare your body for the physical toll of traveling. According to HealthyWay, certain exercises can get your body ready for the uncomfortable positions you put it in when taking long flights.
"Within 24 hours of your trip, find a workout … that combines both strength training and stretching. You’ll stimulate your immune system and promote circulation, making for less muscle stiffness while on the road," Jessica Schreiner, MS, told HealthyWay. You’ll want to opt for exercises that highlight strength and resistance training. Squats, planks, and push-ups are effective options, according to Schreiner.
"Do 10 to 15 reps of each exercise. You can make it a circuit and do three or four rounds of each exercise. You might also want to flow through some vinyasas, as doing some yoga exercises can open up your hips and increase your shoulder mobility," Schreiner told HealthyWay.
Spending as little as 30 minutes stretching and getting your blood flowing with a workout can have plenty of positive effects on how you’ll feel when you land at your destination.