Surrendering to Holiday Travel Stress

By Jessica Glynn, LMSW

There are so many situations in our everyday lives that we have no control over, such as subway traffic, long lines at the airport, waiting for a late friend or arriving too early to plans later in the day. In these situations, we tend to become inpatient, frustrated and on the verge of an anxiety attack. These situations tend to become more common around holiday time, especially while traveling.

I was recently stuck on a security line in the Atlanta airport that was moving at a glacial pace. My boarding time approached and then passed, and I had still made little progress toward the front of the line. A common response to this situation could be to ask myself (or my husband) all of the questions that can’t possibly be answered in that moment: Why is it taking so long? Why is that TSA employee not helping customers? Why is that line closed? What if we miss the plane?  However, this response only leads to anxiety. So instead, I decided to surrender to the fact that all of this was out of my control and none of these questions could really be answered (nor would knowing the answers really help). Since there was nothing I could do, why not just relax? As I watched others around me frantically going on their tippy toes trying to see to the front, stomping their feet, huffing and puffing and ultimately raising their blood pressure, I realized that I was much better off just accepting that if I missed my plane, I would deal with the logistics of finding another flight if, and when, it needed to happen. 

Fortunately, it didn’t happen. I made my flight and it took off on time. I realized I was again in a situation that can be anxiety provoking for many people. Flying! Instead thinking about all of the ways I could entertain myself, I continued to accept that being in this plane for the next two hours is going to happen no matter what and there is nothing I really need to be doing in those two hours. This sounded really nice to me as a typical day is filled from start to finish with running around and tasks that need to get done. So, I turned and looked out the window of the plane and really enjoyed the beauty of being amongst the clouds. (And also check out our blog post, Are You Afraid of Flying, for support with holiday travel.) 

Accepting these occurrences, even outside of the holiday season,  can help keep our stress levels down. If you get to your subway station and the line is down, there is nothing you can really do but find an alternative route. If the train stops for an extended period of time, there is nothing to be done except to wait until the problem is resolved. Trust me, it will be resolved at some point. Ask yourself, what purpose would it serve to get fired up over this? You might find that it doesn’t serve much of a purpose and mostly just causes undue stress and anxiety. The MTA isn’t fueled by your stress, so it really won’t help the situation. Remain calm and proceed to the alternate route. And if you are late to work, train issues is usually a fail-proof excuse. It will all work out in some way, and hopefully you will be able to move on with your day without carrying the stress.

Jessica Glynn is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy.  If you would like support with anxiety and stress, visit cobbpsychotherapy.com and learn how therapy can help.