Fit for the Road

James Jailett | December 01, 2011

Beating the blues

Tip for drivers spending the holiday season away from home


It’s no doubt an unfortunate situation, says Nancy Irwin, a psychotherapist from Los Angeles, but being away on holidays “doesn’t have to be the end of the world.” And, with a little planning, it can be turned into a positive.

First and foremost, accept the situation for what it is, she says, and don’t make it worse by concentrating on the negative aspects. “State the reality — and yes it is unfortunate — but make it as tolerable as possible,” she says. “Whatever we focus on expands. You can make your situation more miserable than it has to be or you can make the best of it and learn from it.”

Jill Kristal, psychotherapist and owner of Transitional Learning Curves in New York, says staying in touch is important, but drivers should sit down with their families to explain the situation. “Have a conversation about the topic to let everybody know this is something that’s coming up and we want to plan for it, and that it can be something that might be difficult.”

Here are other ways Kristal and Irwin recommend coping with being away:

• Shift the celebration of the holiday to accommodate your home time. “Having it a few days or a week early or a week late may work for you,” Kristal says. “People get locked into the idea that Christmas has to be celebrated on Dec. 25, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be.”

• “Plan in advance exactly how you do want to spend the day,” Irwin says, “so you feel in control of your emotions instead of letting your emotions control you.”

• Take pictures of your family and place them somewhere on your truck’s dash so they’re a glance away, Irwin says. Put framed photos of family or loved ones by your bed, too, she says.

• Make use of modern technology, Kristal says, by using services such as Skype or other video chatting services. “Anything you can do to be talking to people and have that face time [helps],” she says.

• Set up a phone date with your wife or husband and children. “This will give you something to look forward to,” Irwin says.

• “Find a way to make the day meaningful for yourself,” Kristal says. If you’re in one place for an extended amount of time, find a place to volunteer, she says. Working in soup kitchens or helping at a nursing home can be arranged in advance, and, that way, “you’re still touching people,” Irwin says. “You can’t really be depressed if you’re helping the homeless or helping the children or elderly.”

• “Remind yourself what a good provider you’re being,” Irwin says. “Just because you’re not with your family geographically or physically doesn’t mean you can’t be close with them emotionally.”

• Lastly, try to find someone else in your situation and spend time with them, Kristal says. “For a lot of people, the tendency is that if you can’t celebrate with your family, you’re just not going to celebrate at all. Even if you can find one other person to go have a meal with or if you’re close to a church and want to go attend church on that day, make yourself feel part of the day.”