snowyroadAll my life I’ve traveled: as a young girl and adult woman; for pleasure and for business; in cars, trains and planes. But it’s taken me all these years to realize that travel can be less stressful by doing something basic, simple and free: breathing and relaxing! I realized this today as I started out on my commute in yet another snowstorm.

I’m actually a good driver in bad weather. But as I slowly made my way down a big hill that gets me to the highway I noticed I was holding my breath and gripping the wheel. My leg, which was carefully applying just enough pressure on the brakes to maneuver the pitch and the curves, started to cramp. Of course stress under these circumstances can be a good thing; it helps ensure I’m particularly careful and cautious given the conditions. But I also realized my physical reaction was conjuring up “bad stress” that surely was not good for my overall health and wellness.

Looking back, I realized shorter breaths, tight grips, and body tension have always been a travel companion. Rushing from place to place I most likely didn’t manage my stress management as well as I could. The result has been back pain, neck strain, headaches and tiredness.

Here’s two ways I’m learning to reduce stress when I travel, in good or bad weather:

“Yoga breaths”. As I went down the hill today, I started to do the deep breathing I learned in yoga. Slow deep breath in, slow deep breath out. I felt my focus clear and body relax right away and actually felt more control.

“Loosen the grip.” Years ago I learned that when you work out on gym equipment you shouldn’t squeeze the handles because it could raise your blood pressure as you worked out. When I used to run track, we were told to pretend we were “holding an egg” in our hands so we wouldn’t tense up and make fists. As I drive, I’m becoming more aware of loosening my grip on the wheel, which in turn releases the stress up in my arms to my shoulders to my neck and back.

Of course, in bad weather if you can stay off the roads in bad weather do so! But if you have to travel, get where your going safely…and with special attention to maintaining health and wellness along the way.