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I honestly am so excited to share with you my tips for travel anxiety as they have helped me so much!
I recently went on holiday for the first time in years and had forgotten about the struggles I experience with travel anxiety.
Travelling with anxiety has often been a struggle for me but in the earlier years I didn’t recognise what it was. Feelings of anxiety can often be confused with excitement or anticipation.
Over the years through my self awareness work I’ve been able to recognise that the feelings I experience are anxiety brought on by travel.
For me, my anxiety usually starts to creep in just after booking a trip. I find the intrusive “what if” thoughts slowly start to enter my mind.
These thoughts can vary from slight worries such as “what if I don’t like the hotel or food”, to more catastrophic thinking such as “what if the planes crashes, what if I get attacked by someone”.
These intrusive thoughts are all simply a response to the feeling of being unsafe. The mind works in overdrive thinking up all kinds of scenarios in an attempt to keep you safe from the perceived “danger”.
Another intrusive thought I tend to get is “what if I feel anxious when I’m there?”
When I’m aware of myself having this thought I’m able to recognise it much more noticeably as an anxious response. Having the awareness of feeling anxious about potentially feeling anxious is just a circle of anxiety in itself.
Typically for me my symptoms will include:
Sharp pains and stomach cramps
Difficulty with concentrating
Thankfully I didn’t experience any anxiety while I was on holiday. However starting the journey home did trigger the feelings and symptoms which took hold of me very rapidly.
Whilst sitting in the airport I drew upon a breathing technique I’d recently learnt and I can honestly say it’s the best tool I’ve ever used for my anxiety.
I’m honestly so excited to share with you my tips for travel anxiety.
Top Tips For Dealing With Anxiety When Travelling
1. Practise Mindfulness And Focussing Your Attention
I always find it helps if I’m able to bring my focus to something other than my anxiety, but as with any new technique it does take time and practise.
I find mindfulness particularly helpful in social situations.
As soon as I recognise that I’m feeling anxious or have those intrusive thoughts I redirect my attention and really try to focus on something else.
Usually I will try to focus on something that I’m looking at, a conversation that I’m having or can hear from others. Really channeling your thoughts to one particular thing can help to calm a racing mind. It can also help by getting you naturally interested in other things around you.
This works by taking you out of your mind and grounding you. By shifting your focus away from the worries and anxiety and onto something more real and present you transition into a mindful state.
2. Pack With A Plan
Planning your packing is really practical as it allows you to be prepared and have things easily accessible to you.
In my hand luggage I keep my iPad to watch a film on the plane as a good way to pass time and to hold my focus and attention.
I pack this near the top so it’s easy to grab while on the flight. Have it preloaded with a variety of films and tv shows so that you have few options to watch.
I also pack a variety of magazines, a book and a lavender pulse point oil for relaxation. My favourite is this Stress Relief Treatment by Neom.
Before a flight I will also make sure I have a good selection of music downloaded from on my phone so I can listen whilst being offline.
The same also goes for podcasts and meditations through apps such as Insight Timer or Calm.
Keeping a small fan with you is a simple but helpful tool. I can often feel very hot and a little dizzy from anxiety as this really helps me make me feel cooler and a little calmer.
A few more essentials for me is food, drinks and snacks. Planes commonly don’t have the best variety of food and drinks.
If you’re someone like me who has to have alternatives/free from foods then I definitely suggest taking your own.
3. Question Unhelpful Thoughts
As I mentioned above, I often get intrusive anxious thoughts or catastrophic thinking.
I deal with these in different ways. I find catastrophic thoughts much quicker to notice as they are quite extreme and more unusual to think about.
Being able to recognise them is easier but still very important. Once you’ve become aware of the thoughts I find it helpful to question them.
I ask myself “how likely is it that this (catastrophic thought) would actually happen?” Realistically and statistically it’s actually extremely unlikely.
“What proof/evidence do I have that it might happen?” I have zero proof/evidence.
“What proof/evidence do I have that the thought won’t happen?” Honestly quite a lot, I’ve had the thought many times before and it’s never happened.
“Why am I having these thoughts then?” Because I’m feeling anxious and that’s exactly what anxiety does.
Questioning my thoughts in this way helps me to rationalise what’s going through my mind. It helps me to see my thoughts for what they really are, a simple product of anxiety.
This in turn enables me to relax and feel much more grounded.
If I’m experiencing more of a generalised worry I take a slightly different approach. I still question the thoughts I’m having but in a very different way.
Say for example my thought is that I won’t like the hotel or food, my question would be “Yeah maybe you won’t like them….so what?”
Even just this question alone can make me realise it’s not a big deal. But sometimes my mind will still try to validate the thought:
If I don’t like the hotel or food then I won’t want to be there and might not have much to eat. “So what can you do to fix the problem?”
I suppose I won’t be spending much time in the hotel anyway so I could just use it as a base to keep my things and sleep. There will probably be other places to eat, cafes, restaurants etc.
“So what are you worrying for?” I don’t know, it’s just my anxiety.
4. Plan Your Time Wisely
Planning ahead for travelling is what we all naturally do. However, planning ahead for times when we might feel anxious is something to consider.
Be careful not to plan ahead so much so that you end up anticipating and bringing on your anxiety. But a small amount of consideration has been really helpful for me in the past.
A common trigger for my travel anxiety is if I find myself with a lot of spare time on my hands and nothing to do.
This can be a common trigger for a lot of people but it’s a fairly new one for me, luckily I feel able to alleviate it now.
I love a holiday spent laying out in the sun, long walks and lots of relaxing, I’ve never really had an action packed holiday.
However, being aware of my anxiety potentially creeping in during this downtime, I planned a few activities in advance.
Researching things to do before a holiday can be a great idea as it will give you ideas of things to do, should you feel like it once you are there.
Good things to plan could be water sports, day trips on a boat, iconic landmarks to visit, towns to explore, historical places to see etc, you get the idea.
Having these things figured out in advanced helps to make you feel more at ease. Knowing that if you find yourself anxiously twiddling your thumbs, you have a back up plan prepared.
5. Breathing Techniques
There have been countless times in my life when I’ve tried focussing on my breathing to try and reduce my anxiety.
I’ve done A LOT of reading up on evidence supporting that using breathing techniques helps dissolve your anxiety away.
After trying and failing many times I gave up on it for years and assumed it was either nonsense or for some reason didn’t work for me. Oh how wrong I was!
A couple of months ago I read another article talking about breath work and how to use your breathing in times of stress or anxiety.
One night shortly after this I was laying in bed and hit with a bout of anxiety out of nowhere. Feeling quite unsettled, I decided to give breathing techniques another go.
I breathed in a deep breath and made sure my exhale was longer than my inhale. Repeating this sequence for a couple of minutes, I allowed my thoughts to come and go.
After only a few minutes I realised the anxiety had melted away completely. But in classic anxious style I then began to worry that because I had noticed, it would return.
I carried on my breathing exercise and didn’t feel any anxiety creep back. I cannot tell you how happy it has made me.
This was the exact same technique that I used in the airport just before my flight home during that unexpected hit of anxiousness.
I think understanding more about how it actually works helps a great deal.
Breathing techniques can in multiple ways. Firstly they focus your attention on something other than your anxiety.
Secondly by taking in a deep breath you are allowing your body more oxygen which helping to avoid shallow breathing often related to panic.
And thirdly the slow exhale is very important. A slow exhale signals to our parasympathetic nervous system that there is no danger and that you can relax.
I use this breathing technique so often now and it never fails me. It’s also the exact technique I use for managing my endometriosis pain. If you struggle to find relief with breath work please keeping practising as it really does work.
6. Give yourself a break
Finally I just wanted to talk about the importance of not beating yourself up about struggling with anxiety.
I’ve been there and it does absolutely nothing to help you, it just makes situations feel so much worse.
When you give yourself a hard time over feeling anxious take note of your inner voice. How you speak to yourself and the things that you say.
My inner voice used to be so critical and harsh until I realised I needed to change it.
Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their life and yes there are people who struggle with it more, myself included.
But that’s even more reason to show yourself some compassion and give yourself a break.
Stop any negative inner voices as soon as you hear them and turn them into something positive and supportive.
I always find it helpful to ask myself, “would I speak to a friend this way” the answer is always no.
Accepting anxiety is not an easy thing to do as the default reaction in us is to fight with it, or avoid it. Unfortunately neither of those things work.
The best way to deal with it is to accept it. Even to accept that you might always feel anxious from time to time.
The important thing is to learn skills and tools that you can draw upon whenever needed. Start working towards a future where anxiety doesn’t play as big a part in your life.
I really hope you’ve found my tips for travel anxiety helpful. I didn’t realise how much I had to say until I started typing!
If you do experience travel anxiety you are definitely not alone and there is always help available in so many different ways. Always talk to someone, you can even message me!
These are all great tips, especially the breathing techniques! I will be sure to read this again before my next trip.
Thank you Stephanie, I hope you find the breathing techniques helpful, they work wonders for me!
These are great tips for travel with anxiety, as someone with anxiety i appreciate these tips.
Thanks Tianna I hope you’ve found them helpful for your anxiety
Packing with a plan is a good tip! I travelled for work for many years and it was second nature to have a bag ready to go- now I question myself! Always worried about not having what I need.
Thank you Daphne! Yes I always find it so helpful and calming if I pack a bag mindfully and not in a rush. It’s a great way to help with feeling prepared 🙂
This is helpful! I always get anxiety while planning trips. My husband calls me “worst case scenario girl”. Planning well and remembering what anxiety does is so helpful. I will be sure to use breathing techniques next time.
Thank you Carrie I’m so glad you’ve found them helpful. I can completely relate to the “worst case scenario”, hope you get on well with the breathing techniques
I experience pretty extreme anxiety when I travel to the point that I have avoided traveling altogether in the past. The thing that has helped me the most is making lists ahead of time of what to pack, important itinerary info, etc. We’re actually going on a family trip next week for fall break (our first one ever!), so this post is super helpful and timely for me. Thank you for sharing!
Ah thank you Heather I’m so glad that you’ve found the tips helpful and that they have found you at the right time. I hope you have a wonderful trip! 🙂
Great tips, Alison. I love that you suggesting us to question our anxiety-inducing thoughts. It’s always a great idea to call out anything unwelcome. You take away its power to affect you.
Exactly Akansha! It really does help to reduce some of the anxiety if we are able to question those unhelpful thoughts. So glad you like the tips!
There are great tips. Mindset is everything!
Thank you Donna! I couldn’t agree more 🙂
Skye Sauchelli says
I love your tips to download meditations! I’ve done that for movies and music, but this takes it to the next level in terms of reducing travel anxiety! I just got back from a trip where I had to fly, and I found that sitting in the middle seat gave me some anxiety. I focused heavily on my breathing, and that simple practice made a big difference! Great post 🙂
This is great Skye I’m so glad that breathing techniques help you too. They are such a simple and accessible tool for us 🙂
I do a pre-vacation clean so I can get household stress away from my mind. Helps me keep the vacation going when I come home tired and the house is clean. Makes for an excellent first day home back sleep.
This is a great premeditative strategy! I know a few people who do a similar thing and from my own experience it feels great coming home to a tidy and organised space 🙂