Sweaty palms. Racing thoughts. Shallow breathing… If this sounds like what you experience when traveling, you’re not alone. You might have travel anxiety: a form of anxiety caused by traveling—often related to the lack of control you may feel when in transit or due to certain modes of transportation, especially flying in planes. Keep reading to learn how to help travel anxiety so you can enjoy your adventures!
How to Help Travel Anxiety: 12 Tips for Overcoming Anxiety
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1. Know what triggers your travel anxiety
Take note of what specifically triggers your travel anxiety, and when you notice those anxious thoughts arising, name it. Think: “This is my travel anxiety.” While it may not make it disappear entirely, often just recognizing that it’s simply your brain having an irrational and anxious thought can help you to breathe a little easier. Common triggers include:
- Flying in a plane (often stemming from a fear of crashing)
- Taking public transportation
- Missing a plane (or bus, or boat, etc)
- Foreign illnesses
- Getting lost
2. Prepare for the scenarios that make you anxious
Now that you know what makes you anxious, do your best to prepare for those scenarios to help alleviate your anxiety. Does flying trigger your travel anxiety? Educate yourself on just how safe it is to fly these days.
3. Make detailed plans for your first few days
Most of the time, anxiety stems from the feeling that you’re not in control of the situation. So it might help your travel anxiety to take back some of that control by planning out, in detail, what you’ll do the first few days of your trip.
Have fun picking out the restaurants you’ll go to, which museums you’ll visit and when, and the routes you’ll take to get there. You don’t have to stick to these plans once you get there, but they could help you to feel a lot more relaxed about traveling before you go.
4. Build in extra time to your schedule
While you’re planning out what you’ll do, build in plenty of buffer time between activities. Think it’ll take you two hours to stroll through the Louvre? Buffer it out to three, just in case.
And don’t be afraid to build in down time to your schedule! Leave room for naps and lingering breakfasts; you can even schedule time to read your book in a park or watch your favorite TV show in your hotel room. This is your trip, so you can spend it doing whatever you want!
5. Practice mindfulness to help with anxiety while traveling
Time and again, mindfulness and meditation have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. If you feel your travel anxiety cropping up, try out a few of the following techniques to recenter yourself.
- Take long slow breaths: Inhale for four counts, hold it for one, exhale for four counts, and hold it for one. Cycle through these slow breaths at least 8-10 times, or until you feel your heart rate lower and your body relax.
- Try the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding technique: out loud, name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. In no time, you’ll feel present in your body and calm again!
- Relax your body: close your eyes and slowly scan from the top of your head all the way down to your toes. When you pass over a section of your body, release any tension you sense there. Pay special attention to spots like your brows, your shoulders, and your abdomen.
6. Plan some distracting activities
Distracting yourself can be a great coping mechanism for lingering travel anxiety. For example, if flying or public transport makes you nervous, bring along new audiobooks or podcasts to listen to, as well as relaxing music that puts you in a good mood.
Other great options are activities that really take some brain power to do: think sudoku puzzles, crosswords, and travel board games. You’ll be so busy focusing on the task in front of you that you won’t have the mental space to be anxious!
7. When possible, travel with others
Travel buddies make everything easier, including dealing with travel anxiety! When possible, travel with friends or family who you can rely on when your travel anxiety gets triggered.
Let them know ahead of time that you deal with travel anxiety, and when you’re feeling nervous, they can help you to calm down by chatting to distract you or reminding you of the reality of the situation and that you don’t need to be nervous.
8. Exercise before you set off
Exercise is a great way to offset travel anxiety before it can even set in. That’s because exercise has been proven to release feel-good endorphins that help fight stress, and to elevate your mood overall.
Plus, it’ll tire you out, making your body and brain feel more relaxed and at ease before you set off on your journey!
9. Avoid alcohol to help travel anxiety
Many people make the mistake of thinking that alcohol can help to relieve travel anxiety (myself included), but it often has the opposite effect. For one, drinking will make you feel more out of control, which often triggers travel anxiety. On top of that, dealing with a hangover or lowered cognitive function when your travel anxiety arises is like a one-way ticket to more anxiety. So if you can, avoid alcohol when your travel anxiety is likely to be triggered.
10. Get plenty of sleep
Anxiety and lack of sleep are often part of the same vicious cycle. The more anxious you are, the less you sleep. The less you sleep, the more anxious you become. Try to nip this in the bud before you travel by setting up a good sleep routine that helps you to relax before bedtime and catch plenty of ZZZ’s.
11. Get to the root of your anxiety
More often than not, our anxiety is based in irrational thinking. While it feels very real when thoughts like “this plane is going to crash” or “we’re going to get lost and never make it home” arise, these thoughts just aren’t based in fact.
When your travel anxiety hits, take a moment to investigate. Nervous that you’re going to miss your flight because the security line is so long? If that were to happen, what would be the worst-case scenario? The airline would help you book a new flight, and you’d still make it to your destination. Not so bad, right?
12. Consider professional help
Like any mental health difficulty, travel anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. If it’s something you deal with on a regular basis and these travel anxiety tips aren’t helping, consider getting professional help. A licensed therapist can help you to work through your anxiety, address your triggers, and overcome the irrational thoughts that plague you when you travel once and for all.
With these 12 tips for how to help travel anxiety, you’ll hopefully be able to enjoy your adventures again. Let me know in the comments or by shooting me a DM on Instagram: what’s your favorite tip for how to overcome travel anxiety?
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