Dec. 14, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 49



Put the brakes on holiday travel stress

Traffic jams, airport delays, lost luggage — just some of the travel troubles the 34.6 million Americans heading home for the holidays may face. But it is possible to turn those travel troubles into triumphs, without stressing out.

Dr. John H. Casada, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Health Science Center, offers three rules for a stress-free trip: allow plenty of time, don't over-schedule activities and have realistic expectations.

"What should be a pleasant holiday spent with family or friends often looks like a workday. Many people wind up with a schedule that's crammed too tight," Dr. Casada said. "If you are driving, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to stop and enjoy the trip. If you are flying, and it is absolutely essential your plane land on time, you have probably over-scheduled your activities."

Even the best plans can go awry, so Dr. Casada also recommends a little flexibility. He said travelers who do get stuck should prioritize their activities, focusing only on the events they will be able to attend. He also recommends bringing extra activities to occupy the family.

"These activities should reflect your values," Dr. Casada said. "If you value family time during the holidays, bring activities that your family can do together in the airport or the car. These activities will make you feel you have met some of your vacation goals, even if you don't get to participate in all your family gatherings."

Dr. Casada's last two pieces of advice: don't take out your frustrations on people who don't deserve it (such as your relatives) and use alcohol in moderation. Alcohol causes physical impairment and can elicit a poor response to stressful events.