With all the traveling and work that you have to commit to, how do you deal with the stress/anxiety that comes with it?
Hi! Thank you for the question. I have really struggled with this at times, so your question is poignant for me. I am going to break my job down into the various aspects of travel/work to properly cover it for you!
First off; I don’t really get stressed traveling anymore – at least not with the actual flying/transferring aspect of it. I find transferring to be like a computer game (especially in Madrid airport amiright?!) and actually quite enjoy it. However I think we can all agree that flight delays suck, and I do find myself getting anxious when I am in large crowds of people. My myers-briggs is INFJ, with the I being Introvert, and being around a lot of emotional people tends to make me more emotional and stressed out too. However, awareness is half the battle, and so I tend to avoid large groups of people congregating at a gate. When there is no other option but to wait, I always make sure I have a book to lose myself in. In the same vein, whenever I feel a wave of anxiety come up I make sure to shut my eyes and do some deep breathing. I tell myself that this is not a threat – there isn’t a tiger out to eat me, and it always passes. We humans have come a long way in our environment; and our nervous systems haven’t had time to evolve beyond recognizing a threat to our existence, and emotional stress. So our nervous system reacts slightly out of proportion to day-to-day stresses!
Another hugely important point for me is that when traveling gets tough, I get nicer. I absolutely HATE seeing people scream and shout at gate agents. It isn’t their fault there is a thunderstorm grounding the airport, or the flight attendant’s inbound aircrafts are delayed an hour. So be nice to them. Especially if you want to change a flight, or try to upgrade. They are people, with family like you, and this is their job. Be cool.
When I am alone in a hotel room before a job, I can find it tough. Luckily this doesn’t happen too often, and all depends on the sort of week I have had before. But I have trouble at times sleeping in a room that is foreign to me (or that my husband isn’t in) and that can get to be too much at times – depending on how worn out I am from all the travel. Again, awareness of the warning signs is paramount here. I try to combat this first off by exercising. If I am in a new location I will go out for a run to get fresh air and get a feel for the place, or failing that, I will do a cheeky Body By Simone workout in my hotel room. Anything that works to get the blood moving, and can dislodge me from my head a little bit. Then I usually go and hang out with the team if I know them (at this stage of my career I do usually know most people which is lovely!) and have some dinner together. Again, as an introvert this is probably the hardest balance to hit for me. I need time by myself to recharge and relax, and my natural instinct is to ensure this happens – but being around people I love always makes me feel a million percent better. I also try to instill pre-emptive calming practices. If I know I am worn out, and have been losing my fight to anxiety lately, I make sure I have a phone call with my therapist or my husband scheduled for when I am alone in my room. If only for a quick check in – I find it helps to remind me that I am not alone and I can handle this.
When it is bedtime I have a nighttime routine that is un-negotiable. I take magnesium and GABA, and relax and watch an episode of 30 Rock. That TV show is like a safety blanket of hilarity for me; and it always serves to unwind and relax me. Then I lie there, focus on my breath, and try to relax. I work to ensure that mentally I am detached from the outcome of sleep – I know that I can do my job no matter what – so I just try to enjoy the feeling of resting in bed. I also remind myself that there aren’t any tigers lurking in the shadows, I am safe and that usually calms my anxiety. Sometimes if I just can’t settle down I take some Kava-Kava to relax, as prescription-sleeping tablets are a hard no for me. And if sleep is proving to be just impossible I call my husband. Whenever I am traveling, no matter the time zone, he keeps his phone on and beside him at all times. He is the absolute best thing ever 😀 Most of the time, this knowledge is enough to soothe me and get me to sleep.
My morning routine of meditation is a godsend for dealing with the stress of my job. Every single day, no matter what, I make sure to get at least fifteen minutes of mindfulness. I find it helps to remind myself that perceived threats are not real, and adds perspective to my entire day.
Finally – I need to address the “have to commit to” part of your question. I don’t have to commit to anything if I don’t want to; nobody does. This year has been incredibly important for me in this regard; my mental and physical health always comes first. I love to work and travel, and have always said yes to jobs that take me to far ends of the globe. It is one of my favorite parts of my awesome job! But after a particularly bad run in with anxiety attacks earlier this year, I have learned to really check in with myself before accepting jobs. I always make sure to schedule a bit of hard off time after a long flight, and while I don’t mind doing back-to-back travel, I always make sure I am mentally and physically well to do it.
Peace and love,