Travel is stressful for a panoply of reasons, not the least of which is the backdrop of hostage planes and terrorist attacks. In times of stress, our minds have a tendency to jump to worst case scenario. However, there is a way to grab hold of the reins on this wandering line of thought so that you feel more control and consequently less stress.
- Knowing your surroundings is important in order to feel comfortable in them. This psychology is actually ages old in our biology, and you can see it in almost all species. For example, mice look for sides of cages, dark corners, and ways out when placed in a new surrounding (which is one reason those mazes work so well with them). They do this to know how to escape and have control of their safety. In airports and on planes, we can do the same. Try this: look at all the exists and plan your escape or defense assets (things you can duck behind, skinny people who don’t block the aisle, fat people who do, fire hydrants, security placement). Mentally play McGyver as you peruse the inventory.
- Evaluating those around you can act as both a comfort and a precaution. In addition to knowing how to interact with others to avoid stress (i.e. being aware of highly stressed people, being aware of people with dogs and babies, knowing who is a friendly face) can help you behave in a way that avoids unhappy run-ins. It also helps you evaluate the threat around you. Most of the time, everyone seems pretty safe. Try this: make a game of finding all the red shirts and blue shirts or briefly psychoanalyzing everyone’s shoe choice.
- Taking the emphasis away from what others may do to what you can do in case of emergency puts you in a proactive, worry-limited state. I always know I have a really strong kick as a strong asset in an emergency situation, and I know how and where to aim (soccer + Miss Congeniality training). I like to ask 2 questions: What do I wish someone else would do if I were in their position during an emergency (if they were a hostage or evacuating a plane or near a jerk or something)? and How can I do it? Research backs up the idea too. When you give yourself a choice and evaluate your options in a situation, your stress decreases.
There are many factors we don’t have control over in travels: TSA, lost baggage, and flight delays are out of our hands. However, when we do have the opportunity to take control (at least in our minds) we should jump on it.
Safe and happy travels 🙂