Do you ever feel SO exhausted after getting off a plane?
You land, grab your bag, but then you get hit with a wave of "I need to crawl into bed for 12 hours."
You might need silence.
You might need alone time.
You might need an oat milk latte the size of your head.
Maybe the security lines were long. The person next to you hogged the armrest.
Or maybe you just weren't in the mood to be around 1,000 people that day and now you're wiped out.
And I'm not just talking about the logistical stuff you already know about like long lines and delayed flights.
I'm talking about energy.
You might get overwhelmed by crowds, loud noises and cramped quarters.
In the case of flying, which includes all these things, it can leave you feeling completely drained.
You might even be a sensitive person or empath - someone who picks up on the energy or vibes of others.
Let's get one thing straight. Being sensitive is awesome.
It helps you feel. It helps you empathize. You might even feel like you intuitively just know stuff.
But without proper support, you can totally feel exhausted by something like travel.
I know this firsthand because I used to land from flights in LA and wanna crawl into bed with a bucket of Red Vines for like three days. Seriously. I felt so drained and it felt like I’d spend the first part of my trip recovering and feeling “off.”
So after years of "research" aka feeling cranky after I travelled from NYC to LA, I've put together a list of things you can do when you travel to help you feel more calm.
Here are my favorite travel tips if you're a sensitive person or empath:
: Take a Minute Before You Go
I used to run out of my apartment on travel days, obsessing over whether I turned off all the lights or forgot my curling iron.
It was like the Home Alone scene where the parents overslept and have to run around like maniacs.
Remember that one? They're so frazzled they forget their son.
Now, after my clothes are packed, I do this thing...
I sit on my couch.
I sit down on my couch and take a minute before I run out of my apartment and jump in an uber.
Why do I do this? It sets a tone for my day and helps me feel more anchored in my own energy versus frantically running out the door wondering if I forgot my toothbrush.
: Find Some Airport Alone Time
Once I get to the airport, I like to find my gate right away. It's just a habit. But after that, I like to wander around and find a location that has less people.
I know this can be hard at times, especially during the holidays when any amount of free space feels like a goldmine.
BUT, I've meditated in a bathroom stall. I've wandered around listening to podcasts. And I've definitely sat at an empty-ish gate that doesn't currently have a scheduled flight.
Sometimes you just need 10 minutes to regroup without tons of people around if you're an empath. A little bit can go a long way.
: Let Go of The Small Stuff
I know it's not always easy - delays happen, security takes forever, the person in front of you orders a complicated Starbucks drink and backs up the line.
There are just more people around. And if you're sensitive you can be aware of every little thing that goes down.
In grad school I learned this technique called the Buddha Half Smile.
It's exactly how it sounds - you make a half smile on your face.
It's used in a therapy called DBT.
You can try it right now. Make a little half smile on your face. Not a full cheese grin. Not a scowl.
You can use it when you're waiting for your plane to board.
You can use it when someone unknowingly bumps into you in a crowded space. Ouch.
I was skeptical, but it totally helps me feel a little more calm in a pinch.
: Take Advantage of Mid-Air Time
I know most planes have wifi, but I like to unplug for at least a little bit. If you're sensitive, you might relate if you get overwhelmed by too much tech time.
I'll journal. I'll listen to mantra music. I'l sit with my thoughts.
Some of my favorite journal prompts are: What do I want more of in my life? What do I want to release?
I also think I do some of my best processing planes? Maybe it's the being between worlds that gives me freedom to explore?
: Prepare With A Feel-Good Kit
I like to joke that when I have travel I have my makeup essentials and I have my empath essentials.
The stuff in my Empath Kit includes:
Impatiens, a flower essence that helps with patience. (Yes, please!)
Golden Yarrow, a flower essence that helps to strengthen your energy so you don't absorb other people's.
Lavender essential oil is also a staple.
In between journaling - I have movies that are gentle and soothing. No violent stuff. Now's the time when I watch soothing documentaries or one of my favorites, Pit Bulls and Parolees.
Other fun ideas:
Eye masks, organic dark chocolate, nature sounds, mantra music, stress balls, scalp massager, noise cancelling headphones, feel-good novels, ear plugs, and book of poems.
You can throw in anything that makes you feel good and strengthens your own energy and sense of calm.
: Indulge In A Bath
Once I land, I try to get into water ASAP.
I use essential oils and epsom salts.
Water is sooooooo amazing for empaths and sensitive people. It cleanses the toxins and vibes from the day.
More than just the physical act, it's psychological, too - I'm washing away any energies and experiences from the day that no longer serve me.
It's a fresh start for your trip.
I hope at least one of these tips, hopefully more, is helpful to you or someone you know.
And by the way, I'm SO not perfect at sticking with everything on this list 100% of the time.
I consider it a good travel day when I've stuck to maybe one or two.
But it's all about progress, not perfection, right? And I find I'm constantly making mistakes and learning as I go, which is just part of the process of learning what you need.
And remember, when you take care of yourself, you'll show up feeling way more calm and fully present for other people.
What are your tips for staying calm when traveling?
That one thing you do that seems small, but makes a difference in taking your trip from blah to zen? Secret playlists? A juicy novel? Favorite snacks?
You never know - you might do something that you think is totally natural and obvious, but is actually really creative and strategic when you travel.
Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know! I'd love to hear from you!
From my heart to yours,
Devon McLeod, LCSW
P.S. I love the book Positive Energy by amazing empath expert Dr. Judith Orloff. I highly recommend it if you're a sensitive person or empath. Check it out here.
P.P.S. When in doubt, I’m gonna channel the vibes of these golden retrievers, who are trained to help stressed travelers at the airport. Yessssss :)