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Travel anxiety and how to handle it

by Serena 2 months ago in travel advice
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You're not alone; there are things which can help

Binaural beats for anxiety relief

Travelling, for most, should be an exciting and enjoyable time. Going on holiday to experience somewhere new or somewhere you love, whether alone or with people you love, should be trips and occasions which you feel grateful for and look forward to. That’s why we make the journey, right? To enjoy ourselves.

For some, however, anxiety does not always allow this. The excitement of going away, and looking forward to going, is in a way part of a trip, and an enjoyable part at that for some. It’s not easy, however, to appreciate this feeling when you’re worried, anxious or stressed about the journey.

Whether you’re a nervous flyer, or cannot stop worrying about forgetting something, or if you generally just don’t deal well with crowded places and minimal personal space, you are not alone and there are things you can do to help calm yourself before and during travelling and to maintain that calm through the journey.

Identify your triggers

Triggers for your anxiety are things which increase your anxiety levels and symptoms. They can include things such as caffeine, whether you’ve eaten enough, stress, or they can be specific to travelling i.e. Crowded spaces, packing the right things or not being able to get outside.

To identify your triggers, follow the following steps (it can be useful to have a journal handy):

1) Reflect on past experiences and try to think about how any negative experiences could still be affecting you now. What has caused you to feel anxious when travelling in the past?

2) Talk to someone if you can. People you have travelled with previously or who know you well may be able to provide useful insights into things that they think can trigger you. If you need additional help, consider contacting a psychotherapist. CBT, for example (a type of psychotherapy) can be very useful for working on triggers and reducing the impact they have on you

3) Identify any current stressors that may be affecting your anxiety levels. Work problems, relationship issues or finance issues can all result in anxiety; it can be useful to be aware of other things that may be contributing to the way you feel

Bring plenty of distractions

What’s your favourite thing to do that calms you down? For some this can be listening to music, watching a film, video games, reading, or even something creative like drawing. Whatever your favourite calming activity is, consider bringing it with you.

Distractions can help you to keep negative thoughts away and to subsequently put you in a more positive headspace. If you’re planning on using an electronic device it can be useful to invest in a portable charger pack so you don’t have to worry about losing battery if your trip is a long one.

Caffeine

Try to minimise your caffeine intake on the day of the journey. Keep yourself hydrated to avoid feeling tired, and if you do feel tired then try to drink water to see if that helps before resorting to caffeine. Caffeine can contribute to increased anxiety, and also can bring on physical effects which can make you feel more anxious ie. Racing heart.

Dehydration will also make you feel tired and more likely to crave a caffeine boost. As well as caffeine, sugary foods and alcohol can raise cortisol levels which can contribute to increased anxiety. It might be best to limit your intake of these whilst travelling.

Solfeggio Frequencies and Binaural Beats

Listening to binaural beats or Solfeggio Frequencies can be a massive help for distressing, and very calming. There are conflicting results from studies into the effectiveness of binaural beats contributing to reduced anxiety, however from personal use I have found these very helpful; often so much so that they send me to sleep, and would say they are definitely worth giving a go. You can find them on YouTube or Spotify by searching ‘binaural beats for anxiety’.

Going for a walk before travelling

Being in nature is good for stress relief and also can be good for grounding you when you’re feeling a bit stuck in your head/trapped in your thoughts. Exercise also releases endorphins which can help you feel better. If you don’t have an early morning flight/train, a walk for half an hour minimum before you leave the house to travel can go a long way towards improving your mood and relaxing you.

Physical activity is good for your mind, body and soul. Exercise stimulates your brain to produce chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin which help to reduce anxiety, and also has an effect on different parts of your brain which can reduce responses caused by stress. It can be a really positive distraction and can redirect your attention away from things you are worried about, as well as improving both your ability to stick to healthy behaviours and your concentration.

Spending time in nature has been found to reduce levels of anxiety and depression, so if you can make time, it’s definitely worth seeing if getting outside for a bit before your journey helps you feel calmer at all.

Tapping meditations (EFT)

EFT stands for emotional freedom technique. Tapping meditations are a form of meditation and are guided, which means you are instructed on what to do and as such it’s harder to get distracted by your thoughts. They also often require you to affirm statements either aloud or in your head whilst tapping on different parts of your body as instructed. The action required makes it easier to stay with the meditation and to not get sidetracked by your mind.

These can be very short (as short as a couple of minutes) but very effective, so if you are time pressured it can be very helpful to find a short one and listen to it. You can find these on YouTube by searching ‘tapping meditation for anxiety’.

Essential oil blends

Essential oils can work wonders for reducing anxiety. You can get rollerballs for your pulse points, small enough to be allowed in hand luggage if flying. Aromatherapy has been used since Egyptian times for different health benefits, although the term itself was only invented in 1935.

Lavender essential oil works very well for easing anxiety, along with others such as chammomile, bergamot, ylang Ylang and lemon. If you don’t want to do too much research into which work best you can buy premade blends in rollerballs from brands such as Tisserand.

Worry stones/fidget cube

Worry stones are smooth, small stones that can fit in the palm of your hand easily, which have an indentation or groove in which to rest your thumb. They are typically about 3cm long and they are often made of crystal or gemstones. The smoothness of the stone is typically created naturally by running water and they are often used for relaxation and anxiety relief; they can be calming to hold and play with when you are feeling anxious.

Fidget cubes are cube shaped devices which can be held in your hand, typically approximately 6cm x 6cm x 5cm. The cube has tools on all sides for fidgeting with; a joystick, a worry stone, a spinning disk, gears, a switch and five buttons. They fit in your pocket easily and can be held quite subtly if needed. These can be really useful to have on hand incase you need to get rid of any excess energy contributing to anxiety symptoms and have a tendency to want something to do with your hands.

Supplements/adaptogens/herbal tinctures & CBD

There are many herbal supplements and tinctures, as well as adaptogens (natural substances which help the body to adapt to stress), which can be useful for relieving anxiety symptoms. To name a few, skullcap, Ashwaganda, CBD, L-theanine, chamomile and lavender can all work well for quieting your mind and helping you feel calmer. All are worth researching, supplements will tend to have a longer lasting effect than tinctures.

CBD can not always be approved to fly with so your are best checking with your local airline beforehand if unsure.

Preparing

A lot of travel anxiety can stem from worrying about what may happen and going through “what if” scenarios in your mind. While it can be unhelpful to go through every worst-case scenario in your mind, it can be useful to run through in your head what you will be doing day by day and which items/what clothing that will require, and write all these things down in a list before you start packing. It can also be helpful to remember that if you do forget anything you will likely be able to find a shop to replace most things.

Downloading a map of the destination you are going to and making it available offline incase your signal drops can also be a helpful thing to do in advance if you’re worried about navigating or getting lost. It can be useful to look into travel insurance if you are worried about becoming ill when you are away. If you are flying and worrying about making your flight on time and long queues, see if your airline has the facility to check in online, which can be a useful time saver.

It can be useful to have a purse or wallet specifically for any travel documents and tickets you may need. Try to remember that most potential problems will have a solution, even whilst travelling.

Plan for responsibilities at home while you’re away

The thought of leaving your house alone can be anxiety-inducing, especially if you have pets or children. Look into hiring a pet or house sitter if possible, there are many reputable companies out there with reviews you can have a look through for peace of mind.

If you have animals, it can be worth getting an automatic pet-feeders if you do not have one and if you think this may help. There are automatic feeders available with wi-fi facilities so that you can dispense the food as and when you like if you would like more control than a timer.

It can also help to install cameras at home which you can access off your phone so that you can see nothing is wrong if you think this may help.

Make people aware

If you are travelling with other people it can be helpful to make them aware that you can struggle with travel-induced anxiety, and of what your triggers are and any ways in which you think they can help if you do get triggered. Sometimes just knowing that other people are aware can be a comfort, and it can be helpful if you do start to struggle to know that you don’t need to explain anything and can just ask for help with no back story needed.

If you are considering travelling alone and are anxious it can be worth thinking about asking someone if they would like to go with you, a friend or member of your family. This can help you to partake in different experiences to those you would normally and to be able to talk if you need to.

Nicorette gum if you're a smoker

If you are a smoker and are worried about getting stressed if you cannot smoke for a long period it can definitely be worth investing in some Nicorette gum or even patches. Just knowing that you will be able to stop the craving if you have one can be a massive stress-relief if this is something you are worried about.

Speak to your doctor

If you are really worried and don’t think that looking into psychotherapy or pre-planning is going to help, medication can be prescribed for short term use (or long term if you feel this is necessary). Research has found SSRI’s and Benzodiazepines to be useful for anxiety treatment. Short term, for example, a benzodiazepine such as lorazepam can provide immediate relief in the case of panic or extreme anxiety whilst travelling.

Reset your gut

Your brain and your gut are connected directly, and can communicate with each other in many different ways. The collection of microbes and other bacteria which live in your gut (called your gut microbiome), can influence the messages your brain and gut send to each other. Research has shown that anxiety can be impacted by changing your gut microbiome. This can be done by changing your diet, and also with medication.

There are strong correlations between reduced anxiety symptoms and higher quality diets incorporating more fibre and plants. Probiotics such as those found in natural yoghurt or kefir can also improve your gut health. Drinking some Kefir or eating some natural yoghurt can be a great way to boost your mood and reduce anxiety symptoms quickly. Physical activity is also good for the connection between your mind and gut.

Practice relaxation

Research and practice relaxation techniques before you go away, and use them while on your trip. Meditations like the tapping meditations mentioned above, or even guided or mindful meditations can be really helpful for reducing anxiety symptoms. Deep breathing/breathing exercises, grounding yourself and muscle relaxation techniques can also be useful.

When you are anxious, you may notice an increased heart rate or palpitations, shallow breathing, difficult concentrating, dizziness or feeling disconnected. Simple techniques such as breathing deeply into your belly rather than just shallowly through your chest, and elongating your exhale can ease your stress response and help you to feel better, and help you to redirect or move through negative or difficult thoughts or feelings.

Look for the good things about travelling

Travelling is loved by many people. You are, after all, going away for a reason; this reason is not to experience stressful feelings. Try making a list of all the things you have enjoyed about travelling in the past if you have travelled before, as well as anything you may be excited for. Keep the list handy and read through it whenever you feel yourself struggling.

Remember all the things you've come through in life so far; you are strong and you've got this <3

travel advice

About the author

Serena

I love writing, reading, cooking, animals & herbalism. I'm very passionate about mental health, and helping people.

​​Thank you for reading <3 ​

If you find my content helpful you can support me here: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/serena941

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