Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Traveling is an integral part of the holiday season for
many people. While traveling any time can be a major source of
travel (loaded with gifts and baggage, with the kids along, through possible
wintry weather, and on common crowded pre and post-holiday travel dates) is even
more nerve racking. TSA screening guidelines have increased the stress levels of
traveling by air. Although you can't eliminate the stress associated with
holiday travel, these tips can help you lessen the impact of holiday travel stress.
Accept the situation and plan ahead. Crowded airplanes and highways, wintry weather, harried personnel,
and unexpected delays are all aspects of your trip which are beyond your
control. Assume you're likely to encounter most or all of these obstacles and
that you aren't going to be able to change them. Instead, focus on your
reactions to these stressors. Anticipation of
stressful occurrences, and
forming a mental plan for remaining calm and
dealing with them, will greatly reduce your perception of stress.
Give yourself enough time. Whatever your mode of travel, allow yourself more time than you can
possibly imagine that you will need when traveling for the holidays. This is
particularly important for heavy-travel days (such as the Wednesday before
Thanksgiving in the U.S.). On these days, just about everything including
check-in lines, finding a cab, and airport parking can be expected to take
longer than usual. Business travelers accustomed to a travel routine may also
find that traveling with the family along doesn't run quite as smoothly or
efficiently as when traveling solo. Knowing that you have adequate time to
deal with any unexpected occurrences can help prevent
anxiety and stress. Should you arrive at the airport early, remember that sitting
in an airport lounge working or reading is far more relaxing than sitting in
a traffic-stalled taxi 20 minutes before your flight departs.
Make a few contingency plans. Consider the truly unexpected circumstances.
For examples, you drive to the airport and the parking lots are full, or a
snowstorm is approaching your destination city. Always check weather,
traffic, and parking reports before departing, and have some backup ideas
(leave earlier, leave later, use another mode of transportation) ready to
Check your bags. If you're traveling by air and dedicated to your
carry-on, consider the advantages of checking your luggage. The risk of
delayed or lost baggage is actually very small, and the freedom of movement
gained during your journey is often worth the risk, particularly if you'll
have layovers in crowded airports. Think about possible delays and decide if
you're up to hauling those carry-ons everywhere you go. Planes (and overhead
compartments) are going to be at their fullest capacity. If you take regular
medication, make sure you take this with you on the plane just in case your
luggage is delayed.
Keep the kids happy (and well fed). Travelers with
young children will want to plan for amusements and
distractions for long waits, drives, or flights. Having a few "surprise"
novelty items to hand out at intervals is a good technique to combat boredom
and fussiness. Since children (and adults!) tend to be more anxious and
stressed when hungry, bring along some snacks (preferably of the non-sticky,
non-melting variety) and a bottle of water. Don't count on the airplane meal
appealing to your child's tastes or even being served when you'd like it.
Likewise, plan for long highway stretches and traffic jams, which mean you
won't have instant access to food vendors. Another advantage is that you yourself won't fall
into the trap of becoming cranky due to hunger pangs.
Think about changes of clothing. If your children belong to the
baby/toddler set, consider having
an accessible change of clothing for you as well as for the little ones, since
your little frequent flyer may decide to spill his food on you rather than on
himself. You can also dress in layers which can be removed if necessary. If
you must arrive looking your best, think about traveling in comfortable
clothes and changing on the plane or at a rest area before you reach your destination.
Plan ahead for next year's holidays. This is the last thing you're likely to want to do in the midst
of holiday stress. But if you find that your holiday travel is unbearable, use
this year's get-together to discuss alternate plans for next year. If family
"tradition" dictates that you meet at a far-off or inconvenient location for
you, suggest a change to a more accessible place for next year (or offer to
act as host yourself).
You may even feel you need to skip travel and family gatherings altogether
next year. A tactful announcement that you're planning to do something
different next year is much easier to make now than three weeks before next
year's festivities. If you remain committed to traveling at holiday time,
make a note in your calendar to arrange plane reservations for your trip
months in advance to avoid inconvenient flight times and connections.
REFERENCE: Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2010.