You’re stuck at the airport. You’re stressed. You’re worried about being late to your destination. You’re tired. What can you do to chill out on the spot?
Luckily, you can make self-care your top priority wherever you are. You don’t need a yoga mat, a dark room, and tons of lit candles around you in order to remain relaxed. Just follow these tips and you’ll keep stress from ruining your trip. (See also: 7 Ways to Stay Calm in Stressful Moments)
1. Breathe deeply
Even if you’re stuck standing in line with a pile of luggage, you still have enough room to take a deep breath. In addition to easing anxiety, deep breathing stabilizes blood pressure, and slows the heartbeat.
One of the fundamentals of yoga (which was created as a method of relaxing the mind for meditation) is abdominal breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing. If you have never stepped inside of a yoga studio, don’t fret. There are apps for this. Breathe is a default breathing app for the Apple watch and iPhone, but Universal Breathing and Breathing Zone also have many fans. (See also: 14 Smartphone Apps That Make Self-Care a Snap)
If you’re already in the habit of breathing deeply, you might as well work on your meditation skills, too. Although relaxation is not actually the goal of meditation, it’s often a happy side effect of the practice, along with reduced stress, lower blood pressure, and better circulation. Really, the goal of meditation is to stay in the present moment. There are many types of meditation, so choose one that feels comfortable to you.
3. Wash your hands
Actually, washing any part of your body in warm water will calm your nerves and muscles. But washing your hands with soap has the added benefit of killing germs that can make you sick. Planes, with their recycled air and filthy buttons, are flying disease factories.
4. Eat a healthy snack
Airports are of full of junk food. A sugary snack might provide a quick pick-me-up, but the resulting sugar crash will not improve your mood. Seek out fresh, raw fruits, veggies, and proteins from the newsstand or sandwich shop in your terminal. (See also: Eat These 6 Foods to Stay Healthy While Traveling)
Knit. Twirl your fidget spinner. Try to peel an orange in one long spiral-shaped piece. Try your hand at tying nautical knots with a loose string on your coat. Lace your shoes in new and dramatic ways. Busy fingers will quiet a busy mind.
6. Clean out your purse or your inbox
Yeah, you should have done this before you left home, but now is the perfect time to remove all the old gum wrappers, random pen caps, and other assorted junk that is literally weighing you down from your bag.
And once you’re done with that, head over to your inbox and start deleting. Seeing that unread number go down within minutes will put your mind at ease, leaving your digital space much tidier. (See also: 5 Easy Ways to Declutter Your Digital Life)
7. Move around
If the idea of doing stretches on the airport carpet grosses you out, there are many modified yoga poses, and other quick workouts you can do from the comfort (or discomfort) of your seat at the airport or even on the plane. Even a short lap around the terminal can put more pep in your step. (See also: 10 No-Sweat Workouts Perfect for the Workplace)
8. Imagine paradise
You might be on a layover from hell, but you can use creative visualization to take a fabulous vacation inside your head. Imagine yourself at your dream location. What are you doing? What music is playing in the background? What are you wearing? What delicious things are you going to order for dinner? Who are you traveling with? Since it’s all in your head, nothing is too outrageous or silly.
In addition to stress relief, creative visualization in a powerful training tool for your mind. It can help you solve problems by getting you to think outside of the box. There’s a reason why everyone from professional athletes to artists use this brain hack to reach their goals. It works.
9. Laugh out loud
Laughter is the best medicine. OK, maybe not the best, compared to actual medicine. But it’s certainly one of the best free ways to manage stress. So watch a funny movie, trade jokes with the person sitting next to you, or simply think of your most hilarious memory. Even if you can’t release a giggle, the simple act of smiling can reduce stress.
10. Do a little journaling
Yes, keeping a gratitude journal does sound like something that your new-age aunt would recommend. But Auntie is right! A study out of Stanford University found that keeping a gratitude journal can reduce stress by 27 percent. Research subjects at Yale reported that that a keeping a gratitude journal resulted in higher alertness, determination, and energy. So put pen to paper and record all the reasons your life is good.
Study after study has shown that unplugging from the phone and other devices is a quick way to reboot the brain. Hyper-connectivity takes a toll on people, psychologically and physically. Also, light-emitting devices like smartphones, e-readers, and tablets have been shown to negatively affect circadian timing. If you are trying to use your flying time to get some rest or combat jet lag, avoid looking at your devices before you go to sleep. (See also: How to Fall Asleep When You Can’t)
12. Hug your loved ones
Hugging releases oxytocin, a stress-busting hormone, into the bloodstream. In addition to lowering blood pressure and anxiety, getting hugged improves pain tolerance, and boosts immunity. In a 2014 study, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that hugging protects people who are under stress from the increased risk of colds.
But hugging doesn’t just help humans feel better. If you are traveling with an animal, petting has been shown to give similar benefits to both the person giving the pets and the animal receiving the pets. (See also: 23 Tips for Traveling With Pets)
13. Call a friend
Loneliness is a killer. If you are feeling disconnected, call someone, even if it’s just to say hello. They will most likely be delighted to hear from you, and you’ll kill some time while the two of you catch up. If none of your friends are available to chat, give your parents a call. Your mother would love for you to call her more often anyway.
14. Take a nap
This seems obvious. However, many people are afraid to nap at airports for security and scheduling reasons. As someone who sleeps in airports, and as a money and time saver, here is my three-step solution:
Secure your luggage.
To avoid oversleeping, set an alarm clock.
Write “Please wake me up at (insert time)” on sticky notes and stick those to yourself.
Now that you have my top-secret airport-sleeping trick, please go rest. You deserve it.