5 Ways to Take the Sting Out of Holiday Travel

Put Your Practice to Work this Holiday Season

Instead of enjoying a blissful sleigh ride over the river and through the woods, most of us will be enduring endless airport lines or bumper-to-bumper traffic to get to grandma's house this holiday season. It's not exactly a recipe for serenity, or even good cheer.

"Travel takes a toll on your sanity and your mood because you're at the mercy of forces beyond your control," says Kate Hanley, author of The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide. "To top it off, you're breathing stale air, forced to sit for hours at a time, and more likely to be eating junk food and not drinking enough water—all of which leaves you feeling cranky and depleted."

Here are five simple remedies—drawn from meditation, yoga, and acupressure—Hanley suggests trying when your holiday travels send your stress levels skyrocketing. Most take only a few seconds and can be done even while crammed into a middle seat of a crowded airplane. "While these tips won't get you where you're going any faster, they will help you arrive in a decent mood and with enough energy to enjoy your destination."

Press for peace.

There's an acupressure point located in the center of your palm known as the Calming Point that calms the heart—which can start racing when you're racing for a flight or dodging aggressive drivers—and soothes apprehension and anxiety. To stimulate it, curl your ring finger in and press it gently into your palm, making a loose fist with the rest of your fingers. Breathe naturally and release the pressure after a minute or so.

Bring nature along.

Carry a small stone, leaf, or pinecone in your pocket or purse. "Every mind-body tradition considers the earth to be a source of support, strength, and energy," Hanley says. When you've been stuck in the car or inside an airport all day, touching your little piece of nature will help relax you and boost your mental and physical stamina.

Breathe it out.

If you're struggling with flying anxiety or road rage, release some of those pent-up emotions by extending the length of your exhales. "In the yoga tradition, exhaling for longer than you inhale is considered to be a cooling, calming breath," Hanley explains. To capitalize, inhale for a count of three and exhale for a count of six; continue for one to two minutes.

Sanctuary on wheels.

If you're driving, turn your car into a peaceful retreat: place orange peels and cloves in the ashtray to create a festive scent, tuck a picture of your loved ones in your sun visor (so you'll remember why you're putting yourself through this agony in the first place), and lay a blanket on the driver's seat to give yourself a cozy place to sit. "With a little bit of preparation, you can start creating a holiday atmosphere from the moment you depart, which helps you arrive in a calm, festive mood," Hanley says.

Let 'er rip.

When a difficult ticket agent or fellow driver threatens to ruin your day, de-stress with an exercise derived from yoga’s lion pose. To have the privacy you'll need to really let go on the plane or in an airport, visit a bathroom and sit up tall on the toilet. Clench your fists, squeeze your eyes shut, and tighten all the muscles in your face, then open your eyes and mouth wide, splay your fingers, and stick out your tongue and exhale with a loud whisper noise. This move drains tension out of the jaw, face, and throat; expels anger; and helps you get things off your chest without ruining anyone else's day. You can also do this at a red light or before you get out of the car after arriving at your destination.

Kate Hanley is a professional writer who specializes in exploring the mind-body connection. 

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