Stress is one of the great public health challenges of our time. It can be a significant factor in mental health problems including anxiety and depression, as well as being linked to physical health problems including heart disease, immune system issues, insomnia and digestive problems. It is important to understand what causes our personal stress and then learn the steps to take to overcome it.
Holidays should be the perfect time to relax and unwind, but without adequate planning or the right state of mind they can quickly turn into a stressful experience and not the enjoyable time we’d hoped for. In honour of Stress Awareness Month, we’ve put together a guide for stress-free travel and managing stress.
What is stress?
Stress is primarily a physical response - when stressed the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals including adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action.
This causes a number of reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles, to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion. That heart pounding, fast breathing sensation is the adrenaline; as well as a boost of energy it enables us to focus our attention so we can quickly respond to the situation.
The issues around stress come when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimised, this can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’ and if we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health.
Tips for managing stress
These days it can be hard not to get overwhelmed once in a while, between juggling work, family and other commitments you can become too stressed out and busy. But it is important to set time aside to unwind or your mental and physical health can suffer.
Learning how to manage your stress takes practise and is personal for everyone. The Stress Management Society who organise the annual Stress Awareness Month has a wide range of free resources available to help: Stress Awareness Month 2022 - The Stress Management Society
A holiday is actually a great way to relieve stress as it offers a chance to escape the everyday demands. Whether you're relaxing, exploring or experiencing, there's good evidence that a change of tempo and routine allows you to recharge and rejuvenate.
And the benefits come on quickly – almost 9 in 10 people in one survey saw their stress levels drop within a couple of days, regardless of what their health was before the trip.
Top five tips to enjoy stress-free travel
- Make a wardrobe menu
One of the things people find the most stressful about going on holiday is packing. The best way to overcome this is to make a list of each day and how you plan to spend your time, for example visiting a museum, eating out for dinner, heading to the beach etc. Once you have this diary make a list of the clothes you need for each activity. By doing this you can make sure you have the right clothes for each day and avoid over packing or worrying about whether you have the right clothes to enjoy your trip.
- Know your baggage limits
Airline baggage restrictions have become stricter than ever and vary depending on who you are flying with. Make sure you check the carriers website and measure your luggage so you can be sure to pack the right case. Being given a hefty fine at the airport for an over-size suitcase is a sure-fire way to bring unnecessary stress at the start of your holiday.
- Plan for the travel
The travel element of holidays is often cited as the most stressful part of the holiday, but with the right planning you can help ensure this part of the holiday is also relaxing. Particularly if you are travelling with children it’s important to make sure you’ve got enough entertainment ready to keep them busy and happy during the journey. For example, everything from sticker books, colouring crayons and mini-games are great ways to pass the time without having to reach straight for the iPad! Also, crucially if you are flying, catching a train or a coach you must make sure you plan enough time to get to your departure location.
- Agree your budget
Particularly key for if you’re travelling with others who you don’t often holiday with, it’s important to agree the budget you want to spend before you head off. Feeling under pressure to spend more than you planned or frustration about not being able to do the things you’d hoped to due to lack of budget, can cause unnecessary stress. Agree in advance what you plan to spend and stick to it. In addition, be sure to ring your bank to notify them of your travel so they don’t block access to your cards or accounts while you are away
- Get the right cover
Knowing that you are covered for the unexpected on holiday is very reassuring and a great way to reduce stress when travelling, particularly if you have any medical concerns. Even if you have a pre-existing health condition Medical Travel Compared can help you; you can compare specialist cover from lots of providers that have tailored policies for those living with different illnesses. You can use our straightforward quote tool to compare quotes for travel insurance in minutes.