Living with anxiety can be a difficult process, and some may assume that it’s next to impossible to travel with anxiety. But as someone who suffers from debilitating anxiety attacks and also happens to be an avid traveler, I’m here to tell you that it’s not only possible, it’s life-changing! Please do not let your anxiety keep you from traveling and experiencing this beautiful world. Your anxiety will be there whether you’re at home or 10,000 miles away from it, so you may as well enjoy yourself in some new surroundings! If you suffer from anxiety and want to travel, take a look at these tips to help you suppress your racing thoughts and get moving!
1. When you are planning your trip
I’ve found that one of the best ways to combat anxiety is to be prepared by spending some time researching and planning. This way there is no fear of the unknown. With that said, research, research, research until you’re fully comfortable with your plans. Read everything you can find about your destination, research your hotel and as many reviews as you can handle, look up the excursions you’re planning on taking to get a feel for them, etc. The more prepared you are, the better your anxiety will fare. After you’ve done all of your research, create a detailed itinerary that you can share with your family and friends. Then you can rest easy knowing that someone back home will always know where you’re supposed to be at any given time. Once you have your itinerary, check it over to ensure that you’re not overbooked. You’ll need to schedule in some downtime every day, especially right after anything that may be anxiety-provoking like your flight or a bold expedition. And don’t let the planning stop here. Create a packing list a few weeks before you leave and write down whatever you think you’ll need leading up to your trip. That’ll help keep your anxiety at bay when you’re ready to leave the house knowing that you’ve prepared for everything.
2. Before you leave
Again, preparation will help to quell a lot of your fears, so try to think your trip through before you leave. Think about the parts of your getaway that give you the most anxiety and then make provisions to deter those fears. If you’re worried that you’ll forget to do something around the house before you leave, take pictures of all of your tasks as you do them so you can refer to them if you’re feeling anxious that you may have forgotten to complete something. If you’re feeling panicky about your navigation skills or your reservations, try the old school method and print out physical copies of what you’ll need. Print a copy of your travel confirmations (flights, hotels, cars, etc.) and tickets to any events. It also never hurts to have hard copies of directions to where you’re traveling just in case you lose service on your phone. Try to think of the things you’ll need to do before you leave and what you’ll need while you’re away a couple of weeks before you actually leave so you don’t worry that you’ve missed something. If your anxiety is particularly bad, look up some calming rituals ahead of time that you can use to get yourself in a better frame of mind if a panic attack strikes. Things from deep breathing to visualization techniques can be tremendously helpful when you’re in the throes of an attack.
3. During your trip
Even though you may be off the plane and unpacked in your room enjoying your vacation, anxiety can creep in like an unwelcome guest at any time. Try to create a “vacation routine” to keep yourself comfortable and out of the dreaded “unknown.” Schedule downtime every day so you can unwind. If you find your anxiety flaring up even with a schedule, take a time-out to rest, if you need to. Head back to your room to calm down and relax before heading out again. Call a family member or friend if that will help calm you down. If not, try to have an “anxiety fund” set aside for things that may help you get through a panic attack such as a massage, or some money to indulge in some retail therapy.
4. When you return
Pat yourself on the back! You did it, and you had the time of your life, right? Even if you didn’t, take some time to reflect on or journal about your experience. Focus on the positive memories so they stay fresher in your mind than any negative experiences. Be proud of yourself! Now get planning for your next trip!