Learn To Enjoy The Ride: Overcoming Travel Anxiety
Traveling the world can be a rewarding and enriching experience. It can also seem very intimidating if you wrestle with anxiety. The prospect of navigating unfamiliar situations and dealing with logistics can be stressful, and you might worry that your fears will keep you from enjoying your trip. How can you manage your travel anxiety so that your journey is a success?
You can boost your confidence by planning out strategies for handling the complications of travel without getting overwhelmed. It may also be a good idea to build in time for relaxation and self-care throughout the trip, and to practice some simple methods for centering yourself when you’re feeling anxious. We’ll discuss these techniques below to ensure you’re well-equipped to deal with your anxiety while traveling.
What Is Travel Anxiety?
We’ll be using the term “travel anxiety” a lot throughout this article, but it’s worth noting that this is not a diagnosable mental health condition. It’s simply a way to describe the common phenomenon of feeling greater-than-usual stress, worry, or fear when traveling.
For people who are already living with anxiety, the stress of traveling (or planning to travel) may be a trigger that causes their symptoms to worsen. After all, travel almost always means confronting unfamiliar scenarios while far from your usual networks of support. Many different anxiety disorders can exacerbate difficulties with travel, including:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
This condition is characterized by disproportionate levels of worry and anxiety about many different concerns. It could lead you to feel more stress than usual about the details of your travel arrangements, or spark unreasonable fears about the things that might go wrong.
Panic Disorder (PD)
People with this disorder experience upsetting panic attacks, along with potentially disruptive fears about how these attacks may manifest in the future. They might find it hard to stop worrying about what would happen if they had a panic attack while stuck in an airport or in a place where they don’t speak the language.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Also known as social phobia, SAD involves an intense fear of being watched, judged, humiliated, or rejected by other people. Since traveling virtually always means interacting with strangers and being around large groups, it can be a trigger for those with SAD.
Someone with agoraphobia has an irrational and excessive fear of public spaces, unfamiliar surroundings, or open areas. It’s hard to avoid being in public when traveling, so this condition can make the process feel very intimidating.
Managing Travel Anxiety
So how can you avoid letting anxiety ruin your travel experience? The following strategies should make it easier.
Identify Your Triggers
Even if you feel anxious about the entire idea of the trip you’re planning, chances are that there are some particular aspects of travel that are particularly stressful for you. Many people with anxiety disorders have specific triggers that tend to provoke their worst symptoms. Recognizing these triggers and thinking ahead about how to deal with them can be very helpful in managing your emotions about travel.
What parts of the journey are you most anxious about? Is it the thought of looking foolish because of cultural norms you don’t know? Do you worry a lot about something going wrong with your flight? Are you concerned you might have a panic attack and be unable to get help?
Journaling — writing down your thoughts and feelings about traveling — could be an effective way to identify travel-related triggers. In addition to helping you figure out which elements of the journey are causing you the most stress, studies show it could reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression all by itself.
Have A Detailed Plan
You might be tempted to avoid thinking about what could go wrong during your travels, but this approach may only increase your fear. Instead, it might be best to confront the possible negative scenarios and create a plan for how to deal with them. For instance, if you’re worried about missing your connecting flight, you could research alternate travel arrangements and deliberately leave some wiggle room in your planned arrival time. This type of planning can help make the sources of your anxiety seem more manageable.
In addition to planning for the worst, you may also want to create a detailed itinerary to help you organize your travels. Research indicates that proactive planning can lower stress by reducing uncertainty. However, you may also want to remind yourself that it’s okay if some things don’t go according to plan.
Pack For Self-Care
It can be easier to manage travel anxiety if you have some small sources of comfort to fall back on. You may want to pack things that you can use to create little rituals of relaxation and calm no matter where you are. Possible examples include:
Scented sachets or pillows — aromatherapy can be an effective way to reduce anxiety
An eye mask to help you nap
Noise-canceling headphones to shut out distractions
Books, crossword puzzles, handheld games, or other ways to keep your mind occupied
Travel-friendly hygiene supplies to help you feel fresh
Workout clothes — a little exercise in your hotel room could decrease your anxiety
A scalp massager to reduce stress by helping release physical tension
Music, podcasts, white noise, or other soothing sounds that you’ve downloaded and can listen to without an internet connection
Plan And Budget For Relaxation
In addition to bringing items that can help you calm down, it could be helpful to set aside some time and money for self-care during your trip. Even if you’re traveling for work or simply trying to avoid spending a lot, it might be a good idea to sneak in a little bit of stress relief and self-indulgence along the way. You could try to find time for a massage, take one night in a fancy hotel room, or sneak away from your colleagues to dine by yourself at a fancy restaurant.
Learn Some Anxiety Reduction Techniques
Exercises for mental and physical relaxation may help you reduce your symptoms of travel anxiety in the moment. Learning and practicing some of these methods before your trip can prepare you to cope better with any difficulties that arise.
Sensory grounding.Grounding techniques redirect your attention to the world around you instead of your own anxiety, potentially short-circuiting panic attacks. A common method is to take notice of 5 things you can perceive with each of your senses. As a bonus, this can also help you take note of the novel sights and sounds of your travel destination.
Meditation. Mindfulness meditation has shown considerable effectiveness in reducing anxiety. You can practice it for 10-20 minutes per day by sitting still, taking slow, deep breaths, and noticing the thoughts and feelings that arise without judging them or trying to control them.
Earthing.Some studies suggest that being in contact with the ground may lessen symptoms of anxiety, perhaps by conveying a sense of stability and comfort. This is known as “earthing.” You can try it for yourself by sitting, lying down, or planting your feet firmly and paying attention to the sensation of touching the ground.
Expressive journaling. As we noted above, journaling can help with worry and anxiety. Writing about what’s making you anxious instead of bottling it up could provide a constructive outlet for your emotions. And recording the positive and interesting things about your travels could help cement the happy memories that you’ll want to look back on later.
Talk To The People You Care About
In the internet age, going to a new place doesn’t mean you can’t still lean on your support networks for help. When your anxiety gets particularly strong, you may want to reach out to an understanding friend, romantic partner, or family to let them know what you’re feeling. You may not be able to talk with them over the phone right at that moment, but writing out a text message or email may be comforting on its own, and you could try to check in via video chat when you have WiFi. This may go a long way toward helping you feel less alone.
Get Help From A Therapist
Talk therapy can be an effective way to manage and treat anxiety. If you’re getting ready for a trip and feeling anxious about it, reaching out to a therapist beforehand to discuss your worries could be a good way to mentally prepare for travel. And if you connect with a therapist online, you may be able to continue your sessions during travel! The ability to talk with a mental health professional from anywhere with an internet connection is a major benefit of online therapy platforms.
Research into online therapy supports the idea that it can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms. Studies of its effectiveness have found no difference between attending therapy online or in person. This appears to be true for a wide range of anxiety-related conditions, from generalized anxiety to panic disorder. BetterHelp can get you started with online therapy so you can be ready to deal with your travel anxiety.
The stress associated with travel may exacerbate symptoms of most anxiety disorders. Reducing uncertainty by planning ahead for difficult, potentially triggering situations may help you feel less anxious. You can also incorporate techniques for relaxation and mental grounding into your journey. Staying in contact with supportive friends and mental health professionals may provide additional relief when your travel anxiety feels most severe.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why Do I Get Anxiety Before Traveling?
The fear of flying is often the cause of travel anxiety. If you are scared of flying or anxious before traveling, it could be because you are no longer in your comfort zone or scared that something might happen while in transit which causes you to begin developing anxiety and related traits.
Also, you could be scared of flying because you are afraid of heights or you’ve lost a family through an air disaster. If you have trouble controlling your anxiety and the negative emotions surrounding it and the symptoms are affecting your daily life you may have a generalized anxiety disorder or another form of anxiety, like a panic disorder. It may be important to seek medical expertise from a professional for advice diagnosis or treatment to help you overcome your anxiety. Leaving mental illness untreated can have harmful psychiatric consequences and may even worsen symptoms.
What Relieves Flight Anxiety?
Before you board your flight, here are some tips for dealing with your anxiety and travel-related fears.
- It can help to work out before your flight so that you will be more at ease when you board the plane.
- Get to the airport early, take the airport shuttle, and enjoy the amazing view of your environment.
- Take late-night or early-morning flights so you can have less time for negative thoughts.
- Stay away from caffeine and alcohol because they can both increase your anxiety levels and worsen symptoms of anxiety.
How Can I Overcome Driving Anxiety?
Anxiety and panic attacks are a common occurrence that can happen if you are outside your comfort zone.
However, there are some ways to overcome driving anxiety disorder.
- As a rookie driver, get used to day-driving first before you consider driving at night. Don’t forget that even experienced drivers experience panic disorder. A lot of people experience anxiety and panic while driving at night and it’s because a lot of fatalities happen mostly at night.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Providing yourself with more time to get to your destination will allow you to take it slow, instead of potentially having to rush, which can trigger stress.
How Do You Relax When Traveling?
Travel anxiety medically reviewed articlesclaim that anxiety and panic disorder are a common occurrence for a lot of travelers. However, if you’re travelling and you are concerned about your mental health, here are some tips for managing stress while traveling.
In most cases, you could be having a hard time in your journey because you miss your loved ones. Take plenty of pictures to show your friends and family , so that you feel as though you’re closer to them. You can have the digital or hard copies, whichever makes you happy.
Have Enough Water And Snacks
As you leave your comfort zone and travel, one of the triggers of anxiety and panic disorder can be low blood sugar. Once you get thirsty and hungry, your mood can change quickly. This can happen to both children and adults. So, as you make your travel plans, consider bringing enough water and snacks to help keep you filled and manage stress.
Keep Your Mind Distracted
One of the reasons you’re scared of flying or experiencing panic disorder may be that you have a lot of things on your mind. So, one of the best relaxation techniques is to read books, watch movies, or play games on your smartphone or a handheld gaming device.
Talk To Someone
BetterHelp allows you to connect with a licensed therapist wherever you arewith servers located in countries all over the world. Find us on servers located in the country you’ll be traveling to straight from your mobile device or laptop wherever and whenever you need support or mental health advice.
What Is The Best Sedative For Flying?
If you experience a panic attack during air travel, it may be important to seek the advice of your counselor, psychiatrist, or doctor. They can provide treatment such as medication to help overcome extreme anxiety and a panic disorder. Your provider will speak with you and provide medical advice, diagnosis, and a recommended treatment. However, it’s important to remember to never take any medication without first consulting a medical professional.
Is Fear Of Flying A Mental Illness?
The fear of flying, also called aviophobia, is a common phobia. This mental disorder often stems from a fear of the plane crashing. If you have strong fear of flying or travel anxiety that affects your daily life it may be helpful to see a medical professional for advice, diagnosis or treatment.
How Can I Relax When Flying?
One of the relaxation techniques that you can employ while flying is to get on with activities that you enjoy as you board your flight.
Activities like reading can really help a lot, especially helpful links online for overcoming anxiety. Also, try to get to the airport early so you’ll have enough time to relax your nerves before you board your flight.
You can also start up a conversation with your seat partner if they are the chatty type. These tips may help to manage travel anxiety.
However if your symptoms of anxiety are impacting your daily life it may be beneficial to see a mental health professional for advice diagnosis or treatment.
What Helps Manage Anxiety?
Here are some tips for managing panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and your overall well-being.
- Breathe Deeply: According to research, those living with anxiety can leverage deep breathing exercises to calm themselves down and improve their well being. Breathing deeply can relax your body, increase your focus, and help you overcome anxiety.
- Watch A Funny Video: Laughter has been known to relieve stress and is beneficial to our mental health. Therefore, to alleviate symptoms of panic disorder, you’re advised to keep your mind busy by watching your favorite funny tv show and getting a good laugh. It may help to bookmark helpful links of videos for you to watch while traveling.
- Get Enough Sleep: Sleep deprivation can also exacerbate panic disorder and make you feel overly stressed. Try to prioritize your health and create a sleep routine that will help you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Limit Your Alcohol Intake: Too much alcohol consumption can trigger anxiety symptoms. Alcohol can change the levels of serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, glutamate and other neurotransmitters found in the brain. This is why you need to limit your alcohol intake.
- Get Daily Exercise: Daily workout can keep you your health in top shape and help manage symptoms of panic or anxiety disorders.
Is Driving Anxiety Common?
Yes, it is common, especially with beginner drivers in young adulthood who are new to driving. The neural correlates of driving may produce fear a vehicle accident or other things that can go wrong. The fear of driving is called vehophobia or amaxophobia.
What Is The Best Medication For Travel Anxiety?
Medications for anxiety disorders,panic disorders, or major depressive disorder aren’t a one-size-fits-all prescription. You need to seek the advice of your counselor, psychiatrist, or doctor if you’re seeking medication for anxiety. They can provide the proper advice diagnosis or treatment for your specific needs and help you overcome travel anxiety or other mental illnesses.
Can Traveling Relieve Stress?
Yes, it can. Traveling can take you out of your daily routine and comfort zone and introduce you to new surroundings. Traveling can help alleviate stress and also expand your mind.
Can You Be A Pilot If You Have Anxiety?
As a pilot, anxiety doesn’t have to ground you, and there are many different treatments that can help you move forward from anxiety in healthy ways.