Traveling with anxiety isn’t always easy. Anxiety manifests itself differently for everyone which makes it especially tricky to manage. It manifests for me in shortness of breath and an upset stomach which can make for a very unpredictable travel experience! There are some things I do to always stay a step ahead of my anxiety when we go on trips and here they are.
#1. Have an anxiety plan.
Having a plan for dealing with what might happen should your anxiety rear its ugly head on a trip is very helpful. It creates a sense of comfort when you know exactly what you’ll do if you get anxious feelings while traveling. After all, anxiety is simply feelings of fear.
Before we set out for San Francisco, I had not boarded a plane in several years. I was very concerned about how I’d feel on the plane. Much of my anxiety is based in the fear of getting sick, so I packed extra OTC medication for motion sickness and heartburn knowing that it would be there if I needed it and had an issue.
I also packed an essential oil roller with an oil blend in it so I could use that topically. I respond well to essential oils, but I know not everyone does. It is all about figuring out the source of your anxiety and working on your mindset for that specific fear.
I still got anxious on the flight to California, but I sipped water, practiced deep breathing techniques, and used my essential oils and guess what? I survived the flight! (I actually had zero issues on my flights to and from Paris, but I did have minimal medication then. I don’t like being a zombie or completely wiped by medicine.)
#2. Have a travel plan.
There is a lot of peace of mind that comes from knowing where you are going and what you’ll be doing. Although we are not rigid with our plans, we definitely, at the very least, know what day we are going to see a landmark or do an excursion. We also always have a list of restaurants we want to try with us so that if we get hungry while we are out, we know which place we want to try!
#3. Do thought work. (Remind yourself that you are okay and nothing has actually gone wrong. )
If you should find yourself randomly anxious, as I have MANY times while traveling, it often helps to simply remind yourself that nothing has gone wrong and you are safe and okay. I have talked about this technique previously, but I want to expand on it a bit.
I don’t do well in overcrowded areas. Knowing this, I do my best to avoid them when possible. I have had to board trains that are incredibly crowded because I simply have no choice and I already know that my anxiety will be triggered.
When my anxiety is triggered because I’m in the middle of a bunch of people, I start to ask myself why this situation is bothering me and I really think it through. You can do the same by asking these questions:
- Why am I really anxious right now? (i.e. I’m in a crowded train)
- What specifically is bothering me right now? (i.e. I might get sick from being so close to people, something bad might happen, etc.)
- What can I do about this? (Normally the answer is nothing but if you were in a crowded room you could go outside and get air.)
- What is the worst thing that can happen right now? (most likely nothing)
- Can I actually do something about it? (Again, most likely you cannot on a train.)
After asking myself these questions, I have a sense of accepting my situation versus freaking out about it. The anxious feelings are still there, but when I realize I’m not in immediate control and that is OK, I feel better.
#4. Feel the feelings and move on.
Have you ever noticed if you are busy, your anxiety is not as bad? Maybe it’s the opposite for you, but I find if I get some fresh air, take a walk, or simply do something, I can recover from an anxious feeling much quicker.
Don’t wallow. Don’t think negative things like you’ve ruined your whole trip. Just think, man that was a rough few minutes and move on!
It really is easy as that. We create SO much noise and drama in our minds.
#5. Make your trip about you & setting limits.
Again, it’s all about doing the work on yourself and establishing what your specific travel fears are and working around those. There are certain levels to your fears and what you will allow yourself to feel.
Example: I don’t like heights. I went up into Willis Tower and out on the glass (it was freaky), but I will never go skydiving.
If you are afraid of water, you may be okay with being out on the water for 30 minutes, but not a whole hour. Plan around that. Or maybe, for you, it may look like avoiding all water activities. There is no right and wrong way to travel. You are always in control and you have to remind yourself of that.
#6. Find alternatives if you need to.
There are always alternatives, you just have to find them. We decided we wanted to take a train to the airport because it was cheaper. I didn’t plan for the train to be crowded (there was some sort of ComicCon-type event happening near the airport that day) and when it was, I felt like something had gone wrong.
I technically could have chosen not to board the train. I could have gotten an Uber instead, but I didn’t because the train was already there and I knew my brain was telling me it was bad when it actually wasn’t.
Nothing had actually gone wrong, and nothing bad happened on that train.
If something bad did happen? There was no way for me to ever predict that so it was not a useful thought to me and I immediately stopped thinking about it.
When you are faced with something you are fearful of, always remember that you really are actually in control. You can choose to do whatever it is you want to do.
#7. Realize that you actually ARE in control.
The best part about taking trips is that you can do whatever you want to when you travel! You can get there how you want to and do whatever activities you want to do. It’s all really your choice. You are actually always in control of yourself even when it may feel like you are not. (Your brain is lying to you about not being in control.)
Think you can’t sit on a plane for 10 hours? That’s what I thought too, but I put in the work on my mindset and I did it. I couldn’t believe it. I always loved the idea of traveling, but the flights always held me back. Now, I have zero concerns about my capability to board incredibly long flights because I’ve already done it.
Your brain is telling you that you can’t do something when you are (in all normal scenarios) very capable of doing it. It’s simply a thought and you have to remember that.
The good news? You can create new, positive thoughts!! Instead of doing a negative thought loop. Is it a quick fix? No, it takes a lot of hard work. It takes journaling and re-training your mind to think the right, good thoughts. But you can do it! I know you can.