Traveling is a wonderful, life-enriching experience. However, for those with anxiety disorders, travel can represent panic attacks, paranoia, and a continual sensation like you’ve just missed a stair. Traveling with debilitating anxiety is not easy, but a few tricks can make the journey easier. After all, traveling should not only be for neurotypical people. Here are a few ways that can help you effectively manage anxiety and minimize symptoms while traveling.
1. Travel with a Buddy
Traveling with someone you trust can drastically reduce the anxious feelings that can come with entering unknown territory alone. With two people, you are less likely to make mistakes like failing to pack a necessity, missing a flight, or taking a wrong turn to the airport.
A second person can also be very beneficial in reassuring you that everything is going well and travel plans are on track. In events such as delayed flights, rescheduling, and unexpected overnight layovers, it can be infinitely helpful to have a person with you to soothe the panic these turns of events often trigger.
If you cannot bring a buddy, identify an airport buddy. Pick someone who might be on your flight, going the same direction as you, or performing a required task you are uncertain about such as security procedures. It is best to pick a person who is readily identifiable in a crowd. This person can act as an example and unintentional guide for you to follow when you are lost or confused. Be sure this person is someone you might feel comfortable approaching if you need to ask a question.
2. Utilize a Packing List
One of the worst worries many people have about traveling tends to be the fear of forgetting something crucial. To mitigate this fear, put together a packing list or, even better, use a prewritten one from a reliable source. A handwritten packing guide still leaves you open to forgetting to add something to the list. After you have packed, you may even want to consider using a second copy to go back through the items and double check your luggage.
Be sure to look up your airline’s luggage policies to avoid getting hit with an unexpected fee. Packing the right luggage can be the difference between free bags and a $100 fee.
3. Keep to Your Usual Habits
Particularly on a long flight, it is important that you ensure that you are eating, drinking water, and avoiding things like caffeine which can exacerbate anxiety. The idea of needing to get up and go to the bathroom on a plane can be terrifying, but if your body is struggling with dehydration and hunger, your anxiety will be amplified.
For some people, a stressful situation will eliminate the usual hunger responses, leading you to feel as though you don’t need to eat. Or, you may simply be too stressed to eat. In these situations, even if all you can manage is a smoothie, keeping your body supplied with fuel is important, as it provides you with the energy you need to tackle the challenges of travel.
Other habits you may have such as drawing, meditating, reading, or any other of your usual activities can also help to stave off the panic response of doing something that triggers anxiety. Pack items for the wait and the flight that will keep your anxiety levels low.
Anxiety can become the reason you miss out on life experiences. Avoiding stress and potential panic attacks is enough to keep anyone from getting on a plane and seeing the world. However, even if you struggle with anxiety, it is wholly possible for you to persevere and give yourself the freedom to enjoy your next vacation. For each person and each type of anxiety, the coping mechanisms will be different. Learning how to work around your travel anxiety is a matter of trial and error. Start small, learn what works, and eventually, the world will be your oyster.
Jennifer McGregor is a pre-med student, who loves providing reliable health and medical resources for PublicHealthLibrary.org users. She knows how difficult it can be to sift through the mountains of health-related information on the web. She co-created the site with a friend as a way to push reputable information on health topics to the forefront, making them easier and quicker to find.
Image via Pixabay by Ryan McGuire
The Mental Health Minute