While the idea of travelling to a new place and familiarising yourself to new surroundings and new people might seem appealing to most, there are some who find the whole idea of travel frightening. ‘Healthline’ describes it as travel anxiety, “The fear of visiting a new, unfamiliar place and the stress of travel plans can lead to what’s sometimes called travel anxiety.” Although travel anxiety isn’t officially diagnosed as a mental health condition, there are many who have panic attacks and anxiety-related symptoms around travel, making them unable to enjoy a vacation.
Even if you don’t have a panic disorder, the hassles that come with travel can cause anxiety: freakishly long queues, packed trains and FOMO-fueled itineraries. Yes, experiencing new cultures, navigating through unfamiliar streets, and conversing with strangers might be rewarding and rejuvenating. But some hassles that come with those perks can be anxiety-inducing, even for the most zen or experienced travellers. So, we have gathered some basic tips on how to handle travel anxiety:
How To Manage Travel Anxiety
Plan Your Travel
The unpredictability of travel can cause anxiety in some people. So plan your travel meticulously, with an itinerary. Keep it open to change. Calculate extra time for unprecedented delays—if catching a flight gives you anxiety, reach the airport early, to start your process of checking in with enough time on your hands. Research what your luggage requirements are, organise your tickets, book your accommodation ahead of time and research everything you need to know about your destination. Good planning will give you more time to relax and enjoy your destination. While planning is one of the steps to overcome your travel anxiety, do understand there is a fine line between a well planned itinerary and an over-packed strict schedule. The latter might backfire and can add to your anxiety, so leave yourself a little wiggle room. Packing smart is key. Several days before your departure, pick up everything you need, including items for your comfort or distraction, your favourite book, album, or a candle.
You should be prepared for common problems—Afraid you’ll get sick during the flight? Keep candy or licorice handy, or prescribed anti-nausea medicine. As well your favourite calming album to listen to on your plane, train or car. Worried about losing your passport? Keep backups of all your important documents in a secure place, such as a passcode-protected smartphone. Worried you might get lost? Keep a paper map or guide book and your phone with you at all times. Afraid you might run out of money? Look for a contact or a friend you can get in touch with for such emergencies. By preparing for scenarios like these ahead of time, you’ll see that most problems have a solution, even while travelling.
Practice Relaxations Techniques
While anxiety symptoms may be different for everyone, some of the most common symptoms include rapid heart rate, chest pain, difficulty breathing, nausea, restlessness, trouble focusing and insomnia or trouble sleeping. For the instances or situations that cannot be changed, accept them and work towards practising relaxing exercises. The situations where you cannot distract yourself from anxious thoughts, your relaxing techniques will help to significantly reduce travel anxiety symptoms. Some of the most known relaxing techniques that you can learn are: breathing deeply, relaxing your muscles, stretching, yoga and meditation. These calming exercises will help to ground yourself and relax. It will further help you manage your anxiety levels by focusing your awareness on the present moment and flushing out the negative thoughts taking over.
Travel With Friends
If you get anxious about travelling alone, bring along a travel buddy. But remember, it’s important to select the right friend and choose someone who understands your anxiety as well as you. Travel with a friend who understands you and your lifestyle is accommodating and flexible. Remember to discuss with each other about what works for both of you and what doesn’t. Make sure your friend is aware of dealing with someone going through anxiety too.
Consult An Expert
While basic tips will help reduce the anxiety, if your anxiety needs more help, don’t hesitate to turn to a mental health therapist. Discuss your travel concerns with a counsellor or psychiatrist. You don’t have to struggle alone, and your therapist can work with you to identify your biggest sources of anxiety and develop effective coping strategies. They can also prescribe SOS medication if they feel you require it.
Travel Anxiety During COVID-19
Many countries are resuming travel – both international and domestic. Metros have started functioning again. People have been opting for staycations, road trips and day trips in the light of the current situation. Essential travel or not, people are cautiously venturing out again. Of course, it’s completely normal to feel anxious or scared while travelling during coronavirus. Here are some of the measures you can take so that things will go much more smoothly during your travels:
Be informed – wherever you are going, internationally or nationally, be aware of coronavirus safety precautions. You need to know if you are to be quarantined when you reach your destination or if you should be carrying your tests results with you. Keep in mind that as these rules are always changing, you also have to constantly double-check the official government websites.
Prepare Accordingly – According to the information you have gathered about your destination and your transportation, pack any necessary documentation and safety supplies. Masks and hand sanitizer are a must, but perhaps there are other items you can carry if you wish to such as your own visor or an entire PPE kit.
Sanitation On The Go – Airlines are taking extra precautions to keep aircrafts clean, even metros are being cleaned and disinfected thoroughly, but you can be in charge of sanitising your surroundings if it gives you peace of mind. Spray your seats with a sanitising agent before (and after) if that’s what you wish to do. This might just be the best way to stay safe and will also help in keeping you calm during and after a flight.
Fact Check Your Thoughts – If you are feeling that negative emotions, be it anxiety, anger or sadness, are haunting you, play them out for logical conclusions. For example, if you believe you have touched a public door handle and are worried about germs, use the sanitizer or wash your hands.
Disconnect – While the internet helps us all in getting any kind of information quickly, it’s best to not overwhelm yourself with every form of COVID related news. Learn to disconnect.
Do You Have Travel Anxiety?
It’s possible to have an enjoyable vacation even if you have travel anxiety. While it might be challenging, there are ways to reduce it, through simple steps or therapy. Do share your experiences and ways you have tackled travel anxiety in the comments below.