8 Ways to Stay Sane During Holiday Travel

Take this ultimate opportunity to learn to let go.

Back in the summer of 2010, I wrote a post called “The Business Travel Diva’s Guide to Summer Vacations.” I meant it to be tongue-in-cheek when I wrote it but you know that saying that there is truth behind every joke? When I reread it for the first time in several years this morning, my thought was “Wow, the guy who wrote that was an ass!”

The thing about it was there was no way I could have come up with all of those tongue-in-cheek rules for my family unless I had actually practiced them myself. Just reading through them today made me tense. Which brings us to the upcoming holiday travel (and hosting) season. Among the many reasons that the holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year, traveling (or hosting the people that travel) can top the list. Traffic, weather, confined spaces, uncertain timelines, strange beds, strange food, strange people, disrupted routines – it can all add up to make you feel a little nuts.

So, with the benefit of five years of yoga and meditation-infused perspective since I wrote the Business Travel Diva post, here are eight suggestions for how to stay sane during the holiday travel season.

1. Let go of attachment to outcomes. The holidays are the ultimate opportunity to learn how to let go of what you can’t control. As Ward Maillard said to me when I interviewed him for Overworked and Overwhelmed, “If you want to be stressed in your life, if that’s your goal, be attached to the outcome.” You can’t control the traffic on I-95, the delayed plane, the cranky kids or the cranky in-laws. Let it go.

2. Be flexible. When you don’t get stuck on what “should happen,” you can stay open and flexible to what is happening. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, I was making a connection at O’Hare at the end of a long business day. Just as my flight was beginning to board, they delayed it by two hours. Back in the day, I would have likely freaked out about getting home at 1 a.m. instead of 11 p.m. These days, it’s more like, “Yeah, this too.” Keeping my cool allowed me to figure out how to be the last person who got on a previously delayed flight that was boarding as mine was canceled. Gotta’ stay flexible.

3. Embrace the suck. This is perhaps the greatest phrase to come out of the U.S. military in the past 10 or 15 years. Yeah, things can suck. We can whine about it or deal with it. The choice seems kind of obvious when you frame it that way.

4. Keep your perspective. The chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re probably not doing so from a forward operating base in Afghanistan or some other god-forsaken place. It kind of puts the holiday stress in perspective, doesn’t it? Perhaps it even sparks some gratitude for all the people who do the really hard work every day.

5. Keep your sense of humor. There can be a lot of humor in absurd situations. You’ll probably find yourself in some of those during holiday travel season. If you were watching John Candy and Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, you’d probably be laughing your butt off. What would happen if you pretended you were in the same movie?

6. Keep breathing. If you’re feeling stressed, you’ve gotten yourself into a state of fight or flight. Counteract that by activating your rest and digest response. Three deep breaths from your belly is a great and easily accessible way to do that. I offer more ideas on breathing routines in this post.

7. Keep moving. If you’re not careful, you may end up spending even more time on your butt during holiday travel than you do in your office. With meals, visits and travel, the seat time can add up. Remember, sitting is the new smoking. Be intentional about getting up and moving every hour or two. You’ll feel better – physically, mentally and emotionally.

8. Keep smiling and connecting. Stress is contagious. So is well-being. The best way to spread the latter is to smile and connect. Take the extra moment to ask the question or give the compliment or offer the thanks that establishes a little bit deeper level of human connection.

That’s my list! Hope there’s at least one or two ideas in there that will help a little bit in maintaining your sanity during holiday travel. And speaking of that, stay safe and have fun. This is my last post for 2015. Thanks for reading and happy holidays to you and yours. See you back here in 2016.

(Image via sparkstudio/