The holidays are fast approaching. That means people are preparing to criss cross the country by plane, train, and automobile. In 2017, 51 millions Americans traveled some place to see loved ones, share a meal, or open gifts away from home. This got us thinking, what type of cumulative stress is about to befall our country?
What we found was surprising. In a survey of 1,000 Americans on 75 questions related to types of stressors, we found a little over 25% of people report feeling either a lot or a great deal of stress when traveling.
Even more interesting, this stress is causing almost one-third of would-be travelers to scrap their plans altogether and stay home.
Flying seems to be the most anxiety-inducing form of travel—roughly 35% of all respondents listed planes as their top stressor—compared to driving (21%), taking the subway (14%), or using a ride share service (8%).
And when flying, one-third listed turbulence as causing the most worry, followed by delays (25%), and TSA lines (18%). Approximately 12% of respondents listed “other travelers” as the primary cause of anxiety.
While these stats alone are plenty stress-inducing, there are several healthy ways to ease travel-related anxiety.
Experts at the Institute for Applied Positive Research say that while pinpointing stressors like turbulence and delays are important, how we respond to these tense situations is what really matters.
According to researchers, we tend to respond to stress in three semi-overlapping stages. These include:
According to the authors, understanding your reflexive response to stress is the first step in crafting a healthier approach. Essentially, by shifting our reactive behaviors, including responding more constructively and fixating less, we can teach our brains to handle stress more effectively.
For example, the survey revealed that 65% of respondents listed getting stuck in traffic as more stressful than going through TSA. In this situation, a simple stress-reducing fix is to build in a little extra time when heading to the airport. This can at least remove “traffic delays” from your list of potential stressors.
While planning ahead is inherently a good idea, we’re not always fortunate enough to anticipate tense situations. Turbulence, delays, lines, getting sick, or disruptive passengers are enough to make even the most seasoned traveler a little anxious.
So how exactly do you face something like turbulence head on? In this case, therapeutic remedies might give you that touch of relaxation you’re looking for.
Anti-anxiety medications, ranging from prescriptions to an herbal supplement, have been around for a long time and many travelers—approximately one in three, according to the Remedy Review survey—report taking something to ease travel-related stress.
According to the survey, 12% take an herbal supplement to ease anxiety, 12% use over-the-counter medication, 11% take prescription medication, and 4% use cannabidiol oil, or CBD.
You’ve likely heard of CBD by now. Its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years thanks largely to the changing legal landscape around marijuana.
CBD, the non-psychoactive extract of cannabis, has been around for decades but it is relatively new in the travel world. It’s being studied—and used—across the medical landscape as a potential treatment for PTSD, intractable pain, addiction, and yes, anxiety.
Although its anti-anxiety properties are not wholly understood, researchers believe that CBD can bind with many different receptors in our endocannabinoid system, the system responsible for managing things like mood, memory, pain, and stress, and can help balance the chemicals in our brain that are responsible for feelings of panic, depression, and anxiety.
Groups like the World Health Organization report that CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile with “no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
A growing body of preclinical and clinical evidence is reporting the same. For example, a 2011 study evaluated the effects of CBD when 24 patients diagnosed with social anxiety were asked to give a public presentation. Patients that received 600 mg of CBD showed a significant reduction in anxiety, cognitive impairment, and speech discomfort compared to the placebo group.
A 2004 study involving ten healthy adults found that CBD “significantly decreased subjective anxiety and increased mental sedation, and a 2018 study concluded, “CBD has the ability to reduce psychotic, anxiety and withdrawal symptoms.”
First and foremost, read up on CBD and know where it’s legal and where it’s not. Although it will not get you high, it is still an extract of cannabis and is illegal under federal law. And if you don’t like spending time with TSA (and we know from the survey that you don’t), do not pack it in a carry on or checked bag.
Second, if you live in one of the 47 states and the District of Columbia that have some law supporting cannabis or CBD, take a look at some CBD products before your next trip.
Third, think of CBD as part of an overall step towards “solving” (as the Institute for Applied Positive Research puts it) problems more effectively by adjusting your default response to stress. Instead of avoiding your next trip or suffering through it in a tense state of worry, consider how CBD and other stress-reduction techniques might be able to help you manage stress more productively and even enjoy the journey.
Let’s face it: traveling can be exciting, but it comes with its share of unknowns. But with these stress management tips in mind, your next travel might be as easy as securing your tray table.
For this survey we polled 1,000 Americans via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk about their level of stress when traveling. Of the total 1,000 participants, 47 percent identified as male and 53 percent as female. Respondents varied in age from 18 to 75+.
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