Coping with anxiety while traveling can be a challenge, but it’s not at all different from what you might do at home. I actually experience anxiety at home more frequently than I do while I’m traveling, which is why I like to travel! What helps me cope with anxiety while traveling, and at home, is to have a plan. Outlined below are some of the steps I take to feel prepared if faced with anxiety while traveling.
The key to coping with anxiety while traveling is being prepared.
Anxiety is much more than just feeling nervous, apprehensive, or fearful. Those feelings are normal when experiencing something new, such as starting a new job or traveling to a new place. Anxiety is a persistently overwhelming (sometimes debilitating) response to an imminent event or an unknown outcome – real or perceived.
It can reveal itself through physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, nausea, weak limbs, dizziness, etc. Pair these symptoms with the inability to think clearly or react rationally, and you could end up in the worst-case scenario, like having a panic attack.
1. Don’t let anxiety hold you back.
The first step is to just go! You’ll be at the edge of your comfort zone already just by being in unfamiliar surroundings, but don’t let fear or self-doubt keep you from doing what you want to do. Facing your fears and worries and getting out of your comfort zone will help you overcome it. Once you get to your destination, you will feel better.
2. Be self-aware.
Pay close attention to how you react in different situations. Think about the habits you’ve formed, why you do things certain ways, and what motivates you. Know your likes and dislikes. Know what your boundaries are when it comes to compromise and potential changes. Hone in on your intuition and trust it. Be mindful of your emotions, your needs, and your desires.
Being self-aware will help you not only tune into yourself but tune into your surroundings as well, and adjust your mindset or plans as needed. You’ll be able to savor every moment instead of dreading what you can’t control. More on that pesky need for control later.
3. Know what triggers your anxiety.
One of my triggers is unknown sleeping arrangements. I take extra special care to know exactly where I will be resting my head at night. I try to book accommodations well in advance. If there are no female-only rooms at a hostel, I’ll book a private room or even a hotel room if the hostel doesn’t have private rooms. When I stay with friends, I ask lots of questions about their home.
Where would I be sleeping? Who else lives there or will be staying over, too? These are just a couple of the questions I would ask.
The more I know, the safer I feel. So, know your own triggers, whatever they may be, and do your best to prepare.
4. Bring comforting items with you.
Bring things that will make you feel better if you end up having a bad day. I like to have a hoodie for privacy while I sleep on planes or buses, and my camping blanket to cover myself up and stay warm. Together those two items feel like a force field that keeps anxiety away. I also always pack a tennis ball to work out stress-induced kinks in my back, and something sweet, like Jolly Ranchers.
5. Talk to your travel companions about it.
If you are traveling with other people, share your history of anxiety with them. Being honest about your emotions and mental health is important, and it will help you. Tell them what you need to feel comfortable and how they can help you. Knowing you have their support just in case something happens will be a huge relief.
6. Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Make sure to get enough rest, eat balanced meals, and drink plenty of water while traveling. They say to avoid caffeine because it only makes your heart race more. I just can’t do that, so I stick to just one cup of coffee a day. Limiting alcohol will also help keep your mind and body healthy, not to mention help you stay self-aware. Remember to stick to your usual exercise routine, too.
7. Remind yourself that you cannot control everything.
One major cause of anxiety can be the overwhelming feeling of being out of control. Or (this one gets me every time) the irrational fear of the unknown outcome. You can have all the hopes and expectations in the world, but there are no guarantees in life. This alone holds so many people back every day.
Ease your anxiety by just accepting the idea that you do not, in fact, have control. Then find the joy in that. It might take some convincing, but isn’t the unknown and the spontaneous moments and the adventure what it’s all about?