Stress: Perspective Helps! Dr. Peter Rice
My Unexpected Travel Adventures
Most people have learned to tune out airport announcements the way they’ve learned to tune out their mom or spouse nagging at them. But some stress sounds or words capture our attention immediately. So when a man – looking to be about 30 years of age – cried out and began wailing at the Phoenix airport, it captured my attention.
I was traveling home following my bicycle adventure on the Erie Canal. I had been taxi’d from Rochester to Buffalo for a change in flight through Phoenix instead of Orlando. The weather had diverted us to Tuscon and delayed my arrival into Phoenix, but I was pleased to find my connection to Denver had been delayed even longer. Things were looking good and I was fortunate to have arrived just before everything closed, so I had some time for a cappuccino and pastry before my flight.
The young man’s wail signaled the cancellation of two flights: one to Denver and one to Indianapolis. The airport monitors confirmed the bad news. He continued to moan loudly while he waited in line for customer service at the gate. I hoped his situation was not as serious as it sounded as I joined the rest of the herd heading down to the second level where there were more (about four) customer service agents.
Guard your mental health!
- Life is full of unplanned bad events that come our way.
- Maintaining a network of supportive friends and family can help us when things go awry.
- It helps us stay afloat if we can meet the challenges with cheerfulness and a sense of adventure.
- It helps when we have someone to call.
Most people whom we are concerned about disappointing understand that events are sometimes out of our control. Things are OK in the end.
There are some things we can do to help us maintain that positive attitude. Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, our “fight or run”, panic response. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly can help balance that stress and need to respond and physiological tendency to panic into dumb actions.
Stress is worse when we are tired or hungry.
- Sometimes we can’t solve the “tired” easily, but we can usually work on the “hungry”.
- A soothing cup of tea, a nice cup of coffee, or a cold beer might provide some individualized solace in the face of adversity.
- Don’t forget chocolate!
- But think about the drug effects along the way; if caffeine makes you more anxious, coffee, tea or cola might not be the best choice for you.
I was around 30th in a line of 200 or more people, but was able to access a smartphone app to book a seat on the first flight out the next morning. By the time I made it to a service agent, it was just to print my ticket. Others in line were delayed almost two days returning to Indianapolis.
As soon as I got my ticket I started looking for the best place to sleep in the airport; by then it was only about five hours until my flight. About eight years ago I had been “homeless” for a night in a London airport and remember getting unceremoniously scooted around by the airport “Bobbies” before eventually finding a quiet spot with several other airport sleepers. Airport seating is often designed to preclude stretching out, and that’s how it was in Phoenix, but I found a seat with a nearby table on which to rest my feet.
When it’s all over, we have stories to tell. At the time, it was an unexpected night in Phoenix. Afterwards, although it could not rival Homer’s Odyssey, I realized I’d had an adventure about meeting various challenges while traveling home. And it was good to finally get home.
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