With warmer weather upon us and the world opening back up again, travel will have an upswing for many people. This can mean traveling for vacation, business travel, or solo getaways. If you haven’t traveled recently or have had bad travel experiences in the past, your travel anxiety is likely to be a companion during this time.
What Is Travel Anxiety
The definition of anxiety is:
“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
Travel anxiety, then, is when you feel uneasy about travel. You don’t need to have an anxiety disorder to experience travel anxiety. Given all the unknowns during a journey, this feeling is normal and not uncommon. Many people develop travel anxiety because of negative travel experiences.
However, travel anxiety shouldn’t stop you from seeing new places, meeting new people, trying new things, or collecting experiences. This post is about how you can control and overcome your travel anxiety to make the most of the summer season and relax!
Ways To Overcome Travel Anxiety Before You Leave
There are some steps you can take before you go anywhere. Nothing can change overnight, but small changes and actions leading up to your trip can make a big difference.
The practice of meditation, in general, is a great way to ease anxiety, reduce stress, and help you re-focus your thoughts. By meditating regularly while at home, you will be well equipped to meditate while you travel – thus helping you stay calm and focus your mind away from anxious thoughts.
Travel with a companion
Having a friend with you can help ease travel anxiety. Knowing that you have help with navigating a new place, dealing with the crowds, and the craziness can go a long way to making the entire experience less stressful.
Sometimes a good outcome occurs because we imagine it. Imagine arriving at your destination safely and having a great time. Imagine a smooth flight, and think positively about the experience. Instead of worrying about delays or the food being unappetizing, think about the entire process as an adventure. Get excited to try something new and collect all the stories you’ll be able to tell afterward!
One way to reduce anxiety is to write down your thoughts. Journaling is an excellent habit to relieve your mind of your worries. Seeing your thoughts black and white can also help you view them objectively and give you a new perspective.
So, in preparation for your next trip, start to write down everything that worries you, concerns you, or scares you. Then go back and read it all. You may end up resolving some of the issues on your own!
Plan ahead and prepare
Often, anxiety comes up because we are worried about what may happen. With so many unknowns that can occur when we travel, it’s an understandable feeling.
You can reduce your travel anxiety in this case by planning and preparing as best as you can. Of course, you have to understand that there will always be things out of your control. Identify what you know you can control and try to plan around that.
For instance, things you can control:
- Which mode of transportation you’d like to use to get from the airport to your hotel
- How you spend your time at the airport
- How much you pack
- How you’ll spend your time at your destination
- Where you’ll stay at your destination
- Activities you’ll do once you’re there
Things you cannot control:
- Flight delays
- Other people’s behavior
- Lost luggage
- The weather
You can prepare for the things you can’t control by having a contingency plan for each. Pack layers, don’t put anything valuable in checked bags, distance yourself if you see rowdy behavior, and be prepared to pass the time in the event of delays. You’ll not only feel better for having a plan in place, but you’ll also be traveling smart and ready for anything!
Speak with a professional
As with any issue that affects us, speaking with a mental health professional can help tremendously. A therapist can help you understand the causes of anxiety that you experience and healthy ways to cope. In addition, certified specialists can offer cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT). This treatment offers a safe way to revisit past bad experiences and separate your current state from your past.
If you know you have a big trip coming up, then connecting with someone and working on your travel anxiety before you leave can go a long way toward helping you relax.
On the Plane
Take supplements to help you relax
Don’t do drugs, of course, but something to help you sleep or relax can reduce travel anxiety and help pass the time.
Consider natural mood enhancers like 5HTP or herbal teas to put your mind at ease. You can also use sleep aids to sleep away the hours.
Listen to calming music
Calm those brain waves with soothing tunes. Music can work wonders!
Avoid alcohol & caffeine
While alcohol does have a calming effect, it can also disinhibit you. So any anxious thoughts you have while drinking may manifest in acting out or panicking. Avoid this scenario altogether by skipping the drinks and staying in control.
On that note, I also recommend avoiding caffeine. Being wide awake and hyperaware of your surroundings can further exacerbate your anxiety.
The hardest part of any flight is passing the time, especially if it’s a long haul. You can control for this! Plan to take things with you to help keep you distracted. Examples include books to read, games to play, arts & crafts (knitting or sewing), or watching movies or TV shows.
You can’t predict how your trip will go; all you can do is focus on the present. Bust out those meditation and mindfulness skills you’ve been working on and put them to use!
While on the plane, focus on just that. Absorb that experience as it happens and try not to worry about anything else. After all, you are already on vacation!
Use deep breathing techniques
In addition to mindfulness and meditation, use your breathing. Deep breathing exercises can help you decrease your stress hormones, reduce your heart rate and help your muscles relax. Focusing on breathing is another way to remain present and divert your anxiety.
If You’ve Been Diagnosed With an Anxiety Disorder
For those who have an official diagnosis related to anxiety, consider speaking with your physician or health professional before you travel. The anxiety medication you use can help you while traveling, and your doctor may have additional prescriptions that they recommend.
Travel anxiety can happen to anyone. However, it doesn’t have to control you or prevent you from doing everything you want to do. You have the power to overcome anything you set your mind to. Use these tips to practice reducing anxiety and controlling it.