A variety of tips to reduce travel stress

Travel is stressful. Changes in diet, air quality, movement, worry about catching the connection, lack of good sleep and much more adds to our stress. All these tiny (or not so tiny) events add up to increase the stress you encounter when traveling.

Below are some tips that can reduce or even remove some of these stressors and make your travel a much more enjoyable experience.

Accept that things go missing, are lost, damaged or forgotten. It’s really rare they can’t be replaced. Even your money falls into this category. Most hotels will happily give you cash at a really bad exchange rate. But losing a few dollars is worth it if it saves you stressing over not having the cash to do something.

Those few things that can’t easily be replaced by spending a few extra dollars (prescription drugs, young Janie’s favourite rabbit, prescription glasses) either have a spare or make it a standard procedure to confirm the item is still in your possession. For example, I carry usually carry a spare set of contact lenses and my old prescription glasses. The glasses are not perfect any more, but if I’m stuck they’ll do the job. Another example for those irreplaceable items, a friend uses a collar and leash for their child\’s rabbit when traveling.

Have standard procedures for what you do regularly. Similar to packing things in the same place, do things the same way every time. Build that ritual. Eg, when leaving a hotel I pack my bags, lock them, place them on the bed. Then do a final search of the room, checking on and under tables, chairs and bed. Opening the cupboards and anywhere else I might have placed something. I also check the wall plugs (Another procedure I have is to use only one plug – usually the one nearest the desk) for powercords. Then another final check for my passport and wallet – making sure those two irreplaceable items are with me.

Accept you can always get a cheaper deal. I’d booked a return flight for two weeks holiday in Tokyo. All up the flight cost was a little over $800. A good deal at the time. A month later, two months before I was to leave, the same airline offered me a ‘special deal’ for a new ticket at $400. So if I didn’t book the $800 return flight, I would have had a $400 return flight. That would have been annoying if I didn’t accept I could get a cheaper deal. This rule extends to many other things, bargaining for a shirt, buying dinner, getting a taxi.

Have something to do. Planes are delayed, trains run slow, buses get stuck in traffic. Having something to do makes the time go faster. As the old saying goes, a watched kettle never boils. Same holds for travel. If you\’re stuck in a seat for the next 8 hours, having something to do can make it more enjoyable and useful. I always carry a book (or two), a laptop to do some work with, and a few DVD’s I only watch when waiting.

Accept what happens and deal with the problem at hand. You might have just missed the last flight because your taxi broke down. Situations like this can be the toughest things to recover from when traveling. Take a breath, and start working towards a solution. As the old saying goes, don’t cry over spilt milk.

What are your suggestions for having a stress free trip?


There are quite a few methods you can use, covertly, encourage and shape the behaviour of the people around you. These methods work wonders.

And, you can take the ideas behind the methods too far. When you do, not only is the effect reduced, but it achieves the opposite!

Several years ago, a friend of mine had just started a new relationship. She was telling me about how every time she met this new man, he would do something ‘spontaneous’. He’d arrive at her work with a bunch of flowers, leave notes in her car and around her apartment, and send her random SMS messages. She really enjoyed the attention.

Everything was going well for about two weeks, until one day, she’s waiting for him to come pick her up from work. He’d done it every day for the past two weeks, and she had grown accustomed to it. After waiting for an hour, she gets in a cab and races around to his place, expecting to find him in the arms of another woman.

Sure enough, when she gets there she finds him on the couch in his boxer shorts with his attention fully focused on the xbox.

Apparently at seeing this she starts screaming at him. Can you imagine it?

Jane had become accustomed to these little rewards, so accustomed that they became expected, and as soon as one was missed, she felt that something she was entitled to had been withheld and damaged the relationship.

This works the same in a company. If you’re doing a good job, and your boss gives you a bonus, research shows that chances are you’ll do a less good job next time. Especially if the bonus you expect next time doesn’t arrive or the bonus you do get isn’t as much as you expected.

This is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Most of us like to work for the work itself (intrinsic). Very few people I know work just for the money (extrinsic). So if the work is interesting in itself, we might forgo an increased salary in another company because we already know its not just about the money.

If you want to give rewards for good behaviour, how do you give rewards in such a way as to not have them expecting it every time? One of the easiest ways is to vary the times you give the reward, and sometimes even the size of the reward itself. So one week you might reward with a compliment, another time reward with buying lunch.

Another aspect to rewards methods I’ve experimented with is to keep them out of conscious awareness and as such tend to enhance intrinsic rewards rather then encourage extrinsic rewards, but more on that elsewhere.

What are your favourite rewards? Add them into the comments below.

You are your biggest problem!

I say it almost every day:

Stress Magement is really Self Mangement.

One of the way this saying helps me is keeping my mind focused on removing constraints.

Reminding me to remove the things in my life that stop or slow me down.
Reminding me to remove the things in my life that add stress.
Reminding me to focus on my goals and ignore obstacles that are unimportant.
Reminding me that I am the real cause of my stress, which returns the power.

And reminds me that I have power, even when I think I don’t.

When stressed, your brain stops

And it’s worse than that. Under stress not only does higher order reasoning stop, but under ongoing stress, we become less likely to be able to make good decisions. Another way to describe this is: The path to burnout. We become so stressed over time that we can’t think of any solutions. This is the exact situation I found myself in years ago.

Now there is some research that shows that when we are stressed, the brain changes in ways that keep us stressed! In short the researched shows that under chronic stress, the rats stopped making their usual decisions.  Instead relying on their last choice – even when it didn’t serve.

I’ve seen this behaviour many times in the people I work with. They are so stressed, they miss vital information. This vital information is often in the form of feedback from the world in relation to their decisions. This feedback is not taken as information for a new decision but instead feeds straight into the stress. Increasing our stress and thus making our decisions even less useful. A vicious cycle. And the people I work with keep doing the same things that cause their stress at the same time they are unable to think of a way out.

As I’ve said many times before, if you’re trying to change your stress while under stress you’re fighting an uphill battle. First you need to catch a breath, make some space, or just take a break. Then you can learn and train the skills needed to keep that stress managed.

So here is the test: If you think you can’t make the decision to take a break or you don’t know how to take a break, you’re too stressed to make that choice! Your biology is working against you. If that’s the case, take a break RIGHT NOW. Stop what you’re doing and go for a 5 minute walk outside. It doesn’t matter if you’re in your pyjamas, or that it’s raining or snowing outside. Go for the walk, you need it more than another 5 minutes surfing the web.

Link to the research.

How to get an hour of free time

You, like me, have an open door policy. This policy works well and can be good, however, it can distract and derail your thinking. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of working on a challenging problem, only to have someone walk in and ask a simple question that derails your whole train of thought. Studies show it then takes an average of 20 minutes to get back to where you were interrupted. How long does it take you? Do you know?

If you are being interrupted throughout the day, there is a very simple thing you can do to get an hour or two uninterrupted.

Invest in a $2 “Do Not Disturb” sign. While this does not always work, with training, the people in your office will get the message. You can also add a “Will return at X O’clock” so they know when you will be available.

Let everyone that visits the office know what you’re doing, and why.

Then be consistent. For example every three to four pm be unavailable. It might take a little time, but soon everyone will know you’re unavailable during those times. And almost like magic, you have a solid block of time to focus on your work, not someone elses.

Create a Safe Place

From the earlier post, I discussed the place you go or activity you do that recharges you. That you go to ‘get away from it all’.

Over the years, I’ve had many people ask me, “So what happens if you don’t have a safe place?”

My answer is usually, “Create one intentionally.”

The best place (to start with) for this is probably your bed. You go there every day to sleep anyway, this just adds more relaxation to it already. (and doing this is still a good idea for anyone with a Safe Place as well!)

Remove any stressors from on, or around the bed. Anything that causes, or induces a stress response. This includes your phone, a TV etc.

When I travel, I use my phone as my alarm clock (after one too many broken hotel alarm and failed wakeup calls). I still don’t have the phone near my bed, instead leaving it across the room. At home, my phone is across the house and I’m unable to hear it when it rings.

Clear away the mess.  Having it in a basket is fine, but get the mess out of the way and out of sight.

Make it a personal rule to not bring any stress to bed. In the book I discuss using a notepad and pen next to the bed to write down ideas and problems that come to mind as a way of dealing with insomnia. This idea applies here as well. So you don’t have to carry the stress to bed, knowing the stress will still be there when you wake up.

(This might also require negotiations with your partner. I can’t really help you with that in this post. But simply telling them the TV has to go for your sanity will likely go a long way…)

Where is your Safe Place

Everyone needs somewhere they can relax and unwind. For some, like myself, it’s usually alone with my thoughts, for others it might be in the company of others.

This event, location or activity I like to call your ‘Safe Place’. It’s somewhere you can go to let go of your problems, concerns and issues.

Regardless of what you do it your Safe Place, it recharges you and there are a few common things across everyone I’ve ever spoken to about it.

First, is that’s it’s free, or close to. No need to spring for a holiday away, simply a walk in a nearby park, or visiting a local beach will do. Sure, a holiday away is always nice, but that itself can be stressful in it’s own way. The event or events I mean here are things you can do every day. Might be having a shower, pottering in the garden, playing computer games, etc.

Second, is that there is activity involved. It might be mental activity, as in reading a book, but still activity. Few people ‘do nothing’ when they are trying to recharge.

Third, many new ideas and problems are solved in this safe place. Solutions to problems that you might be struggling with in your work seem to just pop to mind.

Finally, that it recharges you. There might be hard work involved, but you still love doing it, and find even though afterwards your body is tired, your mind isn’t.

So where do you go for your ‘Safe Place?’

Is a holiday enough?

For the longest time, before I learnt what stress management really meant, I thought that a holiday would alleviate the stress I was under, revitalise me and allow me to work happily for another 50 weeks.

So one day I’d had enough and decided to call in my time-in-lieu, all of it, at once. My boss at the time was not very happy. He was happy I was taking some time off, just not happy I was taking a month of time off.

This time was meant to revitalise and re-energise me. Instead I slept late and went to bed early. And for the first week I fought off a cold that ‘seemed’ to arrive just as my holiday started. I was lethargic and unmotivated for the rest of the time.

I would check email almost every day. Although every time I did I felt dread and guilty I was ‘cheating’ on my holiday. Every time I didn’t check email I felt guilty for letting the team down. I answered calls several times a day, and each time I looked at my phone, I frowned sadly.

This holiday wasn’t much of a holiday for two main reasons:

First I expected it to take away all my problems, when I was the problem. If you’re read or listened to my thoughts on stress and stress management at all, you’d know that all stress management is self management. Having a holiday, break or anything as a single event, without dealing with the underlying stressors (ie, the things you do that cause you stress) means that you might get a break, but nothing changes. It’s exactly the same as a hospital giving you morphine for a broken leg then sending you home. Sure, you’re no longer in pain, but you’re leg is still broken. Much more effectively than taking that month off would be for me to change my behaviour around and within the work I was performing. That is the entire goal of the book and this site.

Second I didn’t plan anything other than the start and finish of the holiday. Related to the above, (and somewhat in opposition to) using a holiday as an episodic distraction is much more effective when you have activities planned. Take for example my two week ski holiday I planned once I finally quit that work. Two weeks, without access to a computer or phone, doing hard (but still fun) physical activity in a foreign country. In that environment I was unable to fall back into my conditioned work/stress patterns. I was forced by everything in the environment to change my behaviour. And because of this I was incapable of keeping myself stressed.

That holidays are your stress relief matches the general corporate idea still active – your X weeks of holiday a year is all you need for a happy work-life balance. If you listen closely to the media, you hear it implied by how relaxing a trip to a beach, or to some foreign country is. You see it in the pictures of happy people walking along a beach.

The idea is wrong.



I didn’t start working with the intent to write a book. In fact the work I did do I fell into, not really having a clear goal in mind. Despite that (or because of it) … My work used to cause my life to be A TOTAL DISASTER!

In fact, just a few short years ago, I was one of the most stressed, hardest workers around. Happily putting my health and sanity at such risk, it’s a wonder I survived. So let me do a bit of ‘reverse bragging’ … to tell you the sad, true story of just how much of a work-a-holic one person can be and how it almost killed me.

So much overtime, and nothing to show for it

Let’s start by telling you about my work with an international consulting firm. Such an exciting time. After a few introductive years in the Information Technology field, I joined a well respected, large company that will remain nameless. The position offered me a substantial pay rise, travel opportunities, and much more. I was able to work with millions of dollars worth of equipment. I was introduced to many of the most powerful businesses in Australia and the rest of the world and was in a position to make them grow. Surrounded by other like-minded professionals this was my chance to show the world what I can really do!

Give me the responsibility!

After two months, I was working on average, over 80 hours per week. I was willing to start work at 2am, to get those critical changes done. I was later to do that 3 days in a row! Which does sound much, till I mention I didn’t finish till 6pm. I loved working on the weekend, or late at night, as there was less interruption!

Maybe your current situation is a lot better than mine, maybe you are the type of person who already works happily, and just wants to do even better. But if you aren’t doing very well and really never have, I can tell you, I truly sympathize because I’ve been there and done that.

Anyway, getting back to my story, this escalated over the next year or so. At first I thought I handled it very well, but it soon started to pile up. Simple things that normally I’d breeze through were taking more and more time. A simple error or mistake would send me into fits of rage. I would drink roughly ¾ of a bottle of rum each night, and on several occasions cried myself to sleep. There were times I was not sure if I could cope. It took many of these signs before I realized I had a problem coping with the stress. But it would take one single frightening event before I finally understood just what this stress was doing to me.

I spent many sleepless nights attempting to find a solution to how I could keep my existing workload, while having more free time. I read every book on time management, stress relief, work improvement and optimization I could get my hands on. I went to coaches, teachers and seminars, even to be thrown out as a disruption because I wanted the answers NOW!

Now, speaking to you as a person who wants to live the good life, and enjoy it to the fullest, how could anyone just accept this kind of thing? Who could just accept the problems I had during those terrible, stress filled years? Problems like;

  • No time for lunch, let alone a holiday
  • Having a large bank account, but with no time to spend it
  • Being pulled in multiple different directions by the other people in the company
  • Missing out on friends and family important dates and parties

Take for example late one Sunday evening. I was having one of the rare relaxing times at a friends place. It was about 8pm and my phone rang. Every time my phone rang I would cringe, as it would mean I’d be back to work. As I answered the phone, the voice on the other end was angry and accusatory. “Where the hell are you? I’ve been waiting for over an hour!”

My world collapsed. My heart thundered in my throat. A cold sweat broke out on my forehead. I’d forgotten something. Not something small either, something large and important. On the Friday before I had organized to meet and assist a customer while he makes some changes on his system. Nothing special, although once again it wasn’t put through my HR department as overtime. It really was a simple favour for a valued customer and I had completely screwed it up. That evening, as I look back now, was the beginning of the end.

I do remember coming out of my daze once the alcohol had taken enough effect and thinking, “this has to stop”

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I spent years working my fingers to the bone. But then, a few months after the event above, late one night, while I’m stuck in the bowels of a building, sweating over a broken computer, like a bolt of lightening, I realized I had enough. The responsibility that I craved and asked for, had changed into overwhelming stress. Something within me snapped. I left the computer I was working on, splayed like an alien autopsy. I left my phone (something I had within reach 24 hours a day for the past 16 months). I left my bag and remaining paper work. I caught a train home. I don’t remember the trip home. I don’t remember how I got into my home when my keys were still in my bag at work. I don’t remember buying a new bottle of rum, or drinking most of it. I do remember coming out of my daze once the alcohol had taken enough effect and thinking, “this has to stop”. But for the first time, I did something to stop it.

With my drunken disorientation I sent my boss a short and pointed email. Yet already it was too late, my work style would be forever scared.

In the next few weeks, all the books and seminars began to made sense. The reason they didn’t work for me is because I didn’t put them to work. I expected a magic pill, to take the stress away. In that moment my mind changed forever and I realized I needed to work at being happy with work. I needed to work at being relaxed and stress free…

Little did I know that that day would form the basis of the system now being taught and successfully used by employees in every part of the world. At that time, I only knew I was saving myself from an early grave. And the only principle I had to guide me was the one key principle I’ll reveal right now, the “golden key”, and secret to success and freedom from stress. And even though I’m sure you won’t believe it just yet, the secret is…

Stress Management is Self Management.

Now, in order to translate this secret into real world, practical stuff that works, I had to do a lot of research. I got my hands on every stress related book, website or training product I could. I got into the face of therapists and counselors to discover their secrets. I used combination after combination on myself, and others around me till I knew what worked and what didn’t.

Over the next few years, dealing with other stressed and tired individuals became a rewarding adventure. I discovered that people, really amazing, strong-willed, tough, workaholics were out there, waiting for someone with the skills like me, to free them from their self imposed prison, someone who could offer them an escape route, a solution to their fast approaching early grave.

imagine back to what you felt when you first started your career

I kissed that wasteful, stressful, difficult work goodbye and replaced it with the fun, enjoyment and excitement I had from childhood. In fact, I don’t know if you can imagine back to what you felt when you first started your career, full of vigor and bounce?

Again, I don’t know if you can imagine this yet. But let me tell you there is no feeling like the certain knowledge that every day you wake, alert and refreshed, is a new day to enjoy your work even more.

How would you like to wake up every morning with the insatiable desire to get to work, not because you have to, but because you want to?

Now, let me take a minute to explode the myths about what it takes to be successful with these stress destroying skills, that guarantees you will have nothing but more stress, frustration and failure … unless you take the steps … to banish these beliefs from your mind.

Myth #1 – It will work overnight

This is a dangerous lie taught by slick marketers. If you are very lucky, it can work overnight, but for the rest of us it takes practice, dedication and effort to overcome the years of habitual stress. Using this book you will receive tools and techniques to relieve the stress overnight, but it will take a little longer to train yourself to enact those tools automatically.

Myth #2 – Knuckle down and you’ll break through it

Well, what a fairy tale that is! This is the kind of insidious rubbish that is just guaranteed to keep us where we are, stressed and out of control. You’ve been knuckled down for how long now with no ‘light at the end of the tunnel’?

Myth #3 – I can deal with it by myself

Yes, maybe right now you are dealing effectively with stress. Unfortunately stress levels can and do change instantly due to an unexpected bill, accident or worse. And even if this does not happen, dealing with stress can be like swimming. When you start it’s easy, but after many hours it becomes harder and harder to keep your head above water.

Myth #4 – If I get free of stress, I can do more work!

This is not really a myth, but an idea shared among workaholics. It is true, every word. If you do get free of stress, you can do more work. Unfortunately, having done it myself and watched the results of many people who have this idea, you will only ever get more work and more stress, until it kills you (and if it does not kill you, it’ll put you into intensive care, a nursing home or mental hospital). As such, if that is your goal, I urge you to put this book down now. I am not doing this work to allow you to be more stressed. I’m not doing this so you can further burden yourself. I’m doing this to help you be happier, more fulfilled, and more successful than you thought possible.

These are the main myths I want to cover up front, others I’ll expose throughout the book.

The book you hold in your hands represents many years of work. Not only my work, but years of work from others as well. I thank all those people that have helped me along the way. Either by allowing me to help them with their problems, they helped me with mine, or they committed to helping others. It’s been a long road to travel – sometimes difficult and stressful. But we’re here, and ready to get started.