Last updated on April 23rd, 2022
Breathe Easy & Stay Healthy
by Evelyn Hannon, Founder, JourneyWoman
Women travellers are likely to be subject to particular stresses whilst travelling, certainly until they’ve reached a certain plateau of self-confidence and familiarity with cultural “rules”. Keeping a constant vigil against sexual harassment, feeling nervous about appearing vulnerable and naive, concern about social taboos for women (“Am I doing it right?”) can all easily combine to create a great deal of mental and physical stress. Stress may manifest itself in: anxiety attacks, irritability, insomnia, lack of self-confidence, lack of appetite, tiredness, inability to concentrate.
Get things into perspective…
If you know you suffer from stress, really try to take things easy and not let events get out of proportion. If you can do anything to make life easier, spring into action, if not… let it go!
Try to prevent a build-up of stress by incorporating a period of relaxation into your day. Simply sitting quietly for 10 minutes and stilling the mind with a repeated word or number can be beneficial.
Many people who suffer from stress are prone to hyperventilation, that is they breathe far more than is necessary, causing a cycle of anxiety. You may like to try relaxing with an anti-anxiety breathing pattern. It can actually be used at any time or place where you feel anxious, be it the bus station or whilst waiting in a hotel lobby, and is extremely effective for calming nerves. The key to this method is a slow but fairly short inhalation phase, followed by a slow, but significantly longer exhalation phase. A two to three-second inhalation, followed by a continuous seven-second exhalation is an ideal to aim for but may take several weeks of practice.
Eat the best way possible…
Depending on where you are travelling pay attention to your eating habits, but don’t become obsessive about them. If you can have peelable fruit and freshly cooked chicken fine, but if your host family exists on tough mutton and rice gruel it’s unlikely to harm you for a short time. Continuous worry about food, health and hygiene can cause a great deal of stress to travellers, and most of the time you don’t have any control over it – you have to eat. Do as much as possible to prevent disease – boil your water, avoid flyblown food stalls, be scrupulous about your own hygiene…and then relax!
Learn a few reflexology points…
Reflexology uses massage on particular points of the feet which correspond with specific body areas. As well as feet, these points are believed to also exist on the hands and tongue. For stress, massaging the center of the palm with the thumb of the opposite hand is believed to be beneficial. Massage slowly and breathe deeply.
Stimulate your mind…
Becoming involved in something – reading, writing, watching a play or film, painting, playing cards, anything that focuses your mind can all help you unwind. Anything creative – from sketching to photography – can be particularly beneficial.
Exercise your body…
Exercise acts on the pleasure centers of the brain, causing you to feel positive and boosting self-esteem. It also disperses any build-up of lactic acid which fatigues the muscles, causing a feeling of dullness and lethargy. Non-competitive exercise is recommended if you are stressed – yoga jogging, swimming, skipping, dancing are all worthwhile. For optimum health, it is suggested that you exercise for at least 10 minutes daily or for 20 minute periods four times each week.
Take charge of yourself…
Take control. If there are any factors that are causing stress, but which can be altered- a particularly depressing hotel room, belittling companions, lack of privacy – take definite steps to make changes.
(Source: Lee Roland, Journeywoman Magazine File, Issue Seven, The New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women, The Women’s Travel Information Pack, Women’s Travel Advisory Bureau, United Kingdom)
Women’s Words on Stress…
The trips when I was the most worried were also the trips when I got the sickest. I’m still not sure which condition came first — the stress or the illness.
Evelyn Hannon, Editor, Journeywoman
Worry is like a rocking chair — it keeps you moving but doesn’t get you anywhere.
Corrie ten Boom, Prison Letters (1975)
We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap all our energies.
Etty Hillesum (1942), An Interrupted Life (1983)
Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.
Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind (1990)
Calming thoughts for the road…
Mama’s chicken soup…
I always carry a container of instant chicken soup when I travel. When I start to feel out-of-sorts, I boil up some water, mix and enjoy. Voila, it’s like having my Jewish mother right there, holding my hand, chatting and comforting me. Calm returns.
From Journeywoman Files
Get Thee to a Nunnery…
Many monasteries, temples and convents of all the world’s religions accept visitors and pilgrims. They offer a night’s lodging for little or nothing. Balance, contrast, variety. I recommend it.
Richard Sterling, Travellers’ Tales, The Fearless Diner, 1998
Women’s calming words…
Like water which can clearly mirror the sky and the trees only so long as its surface is undisturbed, the mind can only reflect the true image of Self when it is tranquil and wholly relaxed.
Indra Devi, Life Through Yoga, 1963