If you suffer from anxiety, then you know that it could keep you from traveling. Being in new or strange places, away from the safety of your own home can make you feel insecure. And you might also fear that others will witness your anxiety attack.
This week, my husband has an out of town work meeting, so he decided to let me and our four legged child tag along. As much as I enjoy traveling, sometimes it can cause a little anxiety for me because I will start worrying or getting anxious about it in some form. Not exactly sure if its the idea of being somewhere new or just thinking about everything that needs to get done before traveling. I haven’t been able to pinpoint it yet.
Since my anxiety began, we have went on a few trips, but after the first trip (after my anxiety diagnosis), I knew that I had to come up with a game plan for how to deal with anxiety while traveling. I am just the kind of person that has a game plan for almost everything!
So how do I do it? There are actually a few things that I do to keep my anxiety at bay. The thing about anxiety is that it affects different people in different ways. I encourage you to take some time to figure out what will work best for you.
Here are some helpful steps you can take to manage your symptoms while traveling so that you can enjoy your trip.
First of all I just feel that I need to say here that it is okay to be anxious! Remembering this point has helped me tremendously since I began my anxiety journey. There are some people who might say that anxiety makes you weak, and that being anxious is not okay. But, it is perfectly okay to feel anxious at times, especially while traveling. I mean, you are in a new place, perhaps meeting new people, maybe even doing things outside your comfort zone. It is human nature after all to want to know what happens next and travel just doesn’t give us that luxury.
Plan & Prepare. I’m sure your thinking here that planning is just so BORING! But, if you are anything like me, and you can’t stop your brain from imagining certain scenarios, that probably won’t even happen, then perhaps doing a little planning and preparing will help you in the long run!
Now, just so you know, I am not saying here that you need to be rigid, and plan out your whole itinerary in full detail, by the hour. It is worth it though to take some time to sort out your transportation, lodging, and some of the other final details, the things you can control. But you also need to remind yourself that hiccups can happen during travel. Things can go wrong, but it certainly does help to have some kind of control over the situation in the first place.
When you are making your travel plans, you should also put a little effort into planning and preparing how you will deal with your symptoms. Just the anticipation of traveling can often bring on stress and anxiety about your upcoming trip. Always be ready to face your panic attacks by having a proper coping skills plan beforehand. For example, deep breathing techniques, visualization, or meditation may be all that you need to get through your attack. Take some time to practice those relaxation techniques and other self help strategies in the weeks before traveling, and you may find that your symptoms stay under control on your next trip.
Give yourself some space. We all just need space sometimes, but at times it can be difficult to come by. If you can sense a wave of anxiety coming, just step away and take a moment to regroup. Sometimes traveling can be hectic, so it is a good idea to step away and just make a little time for yourself.
Just Breathe. So easy right? Sometimes with anxiety, you may feel like the last thing you have time for is breathing. Try this exercise on for size! Breathe in for 5 seconds and then breathe out for seven seconds. How did that make you feel? I’m sure it made you feel more relaxed! That is because you can fool your body into thinking that you are relaxed.
Also when giving yourself some space, remember to do a little self care, because that is important, especially while traveling. Don’t abandon your normal self care habits. When I am at home living my normal daily routine, I make self care a priority! The same rules apply when traveling. I may have to get a little creative, but I always manage incorporate some kind of self care into my day. But if you don’t have a normal self care routine for yourself, some travel friendly ideas to try might be: meditation, sketch or coloring in an adult coloring book, journaling, yoga
Take Baby Steps. Anxiety can sometimes fill you with feelings of dread. When I was first diagnosed with anxiety, for a long time I thought that our traveling days would be over because of how the thought of traveling made me feel. But after a couple of times, I just learned that I needed to just take it slow, one step at a time.
If you need to, you can even break down the travel process into more manageable chunks (which is something that I have learned to know and still practice). You can start by getting all of your packed bags into the vehicle, then take a break. Next, hit the road and travel to your destination. Depending on how far away the destination is, you might need to stop for breaks. Just see your trip as a series of small goals, and as you start to reach them, you will soon realize that you managed to get there without having an attack.
The last thing I want to point out is if you are experiencing repeated panic attacks or are having trouble dealing with your anxiety, it might be helpful for you to see a doctor or mental health professional.
Anxiety will always be a part of my life, but I refuse to allow it to ruin my passions and interfere in my life. It can be managed! It may seem impossible, but its all about re-training your brain and being kind to yourself.