5 Expert Tips On How to Stay Calm At Congested Airports from Psychologist Dr. Rachel Goldman

Dr. Rachel Goldman, Ph.D., FTOS is a licensed psychologist practicing in NYC, specializing in health and wellness, including health behavior change, obesity, bariatric surgery, weight management, eating behaviors, and stress reduction.

How many times have you seen someone losing their cool at the airport? From yelling at TSA agents to ranting in security lines or screaming at others, airports can be incredibly stressful places where it’s easy to let our emotions get the best of us.

I recently met with Dr. Goldman to find out some science-backed psychological strategies we can apply for how to stay calm and sane during travel.

“Remember that there are some things in our control, and some things out of our control. Our behaviors and reactions are within our control; other people are not in our control,” says Goldman.

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Have you ever had your seat given away? Your first reaction might be to get angry.

Dr. Goldman says: “Take a mini timeout by taking a deep breath, so you are not reacting to the situation. When we are emotional, we become impulsive.  If we take that timeout or breath, it allows us to calm down and then approach the situation in a calm, rational manner.”

PHOTO: Dr. Rachel Goldman

5 tips on how to stay calm at congested airports

Dr. Goldman offers some sage advice:

1. Awareness and preparedness

Acknowledging that airports can be unpredictable is a good start for a happier experience. I’m all for taking action and changing what we can, but inevitably there will be people and situations we aren’t able to adapt.

Sometimes we can have a smooth, no-line, happy airport experience. Other times, the line in TSA is so long you don’t even get a chance to refill your water bottle or grab any food. It’s important to manage your expectations and be prepared to handle common airport problems like delays and lines.

2. Acceptance

Let’s face it, we love to travel, but most of us hate airports.

Begin by accepting your current reality. Your situation is what it is. No amount of wishing for something different or rejecting the situation (or yourself) will change anything.

Do away with the should-would-could thinking and accept the present situation as it is. If we can’t change a situation or an outcome our best option is to learn how to tolerate it with calmness.

3. Planning

Besides being organized and well prepared with your packing, it’s always important to get to the airport as early as possible. This allows enough time to handle any delays that might occur without inducing elevated levels of stress.

When we plan for possible frustrations, it allows us to experience more positive interactions with others and participate more fully.

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4. Acting

When we’re there facing these stressful situations, the key is to put our good intentions into action. We need to move from thinking to doing. When we are fully present, and in sync with the now, we can turn our thoughts into actions effectively.

We need to realize that our actions can have an impact on others and in turn our state of mind. When we act calmly, we encourage others around us to do the same, which initiates a positive feedback loop for everyone. Just by modeling the good behavior, we can change the outcome of a situation.

5. Learning

Learning from your past experiences is essential. It’s good to remember what worked (as well as what didn’t work). What did you learn from the experience and how can you use it to better prepare for and handle stressful situations next time?

Let’s challenge our thinking. If you think that everything is going wrong, then you’re going to feel and act like everything is going wrong. Our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all linked together.

In contrast, if you think that whatever is happening around you is a normal or common part of the airport experience, you’re more likely to accept it as is.

The key to how to stay calm at airports is remembering that we’re always in control of our own emotions and actions. Dr. Goldman explains: “We can all be the pilots of our life and behaviors.”

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