MANAGING TRAVEL ANXIETY: MY BEST TIPS
BY SARAH BRYAN
So I’m headed to Austin tomorrow for my bachelorette weekend (eeeek!!). As excited as I am, I have to admit I’m a little anxious too. Leaving home for an extended period of time always makes me feel a little on edge, and so does flying. Not a huge fan of either, yet I manage to do a lot of both haha. You’d think I’d be more used to it by now, but, every time I’m about to leave, saying goodbye is always so hard. Especially when I know I’m about to board a plane. Flying with Dan is at least a little easier since I have some extra support with me, but then I worry about the animals more. When he’s home with them I know they’re good, so at least I’ve got that peace of mind. This is turning into one long ramble- basically what I’m saying is that I love traveling and seeing new places, but leaving home and flying are a bit tough for me. I feel knots in my stomach leading up to it, but once I’m at my destination I’m ready to have the time of my life lol. Can anyone relate? If so, here are some tips I’ve learned along the way for managing travel anxiety:
RESERVE TIME FOR A PROPER FAREWELL
I know when you’re in a rush, taking the time to say bye to the fur babes can seem a little silly. The pilot won’t wait for you just because you needed an extra 20 minutes to say bye to your cat (this is a joke but also I’d argue it’s a necessity). Whenever I’m about to leave the house for a trip, I always find each fur baby and give them a little love and tell them I love them, I’ll miss them, and that I’ll be back soon. When I haven’t set time aside for this I feel rushed and bad about how I left, but when I do set aside the time I’m able to really be present with them and that actually helps calm my anxieties about travel- seriously animals are so therapeutic. This also allows me extra time to go over my checklists to make sure I didn’t forget anything. Then you can leave to the airport feeling at ease, with plenty of time to make it to your gate.
ENJOY A GLASS OF WINE
Okay so this isn’t something I do every time I travel; it depends on what my destination is looking like, but I will say it does help when the nerves are really kicking in. Sometimes I’m able to hop on a flight with a healthy dose of anxiety that I’m able to quiet down, but for those times when that little voice of doom just won’t shut up, a glass of wine really does the trick. It helps me get out of my head and release control so that I can take a nap, talk to another passenger, or watch a movie, without a second thought.
BRING ACTIVITIES FOR AIRTIME
One issue I had with flying was the lack of things to occupy my brain with while I’m in the air. If I think about the fact that I am literally in a chair flying ridiculously high up in the air (doing myself a favor and not even looking at how high that is actually) then I’ll be borderline panicking the whole freaking time. That’s not fun for me, the person next to me, or anyone for that matter. This is actually one reason I prefer to sit in the aisle seat now. I know it sounds creepy, but if I’m not amused by my own activities, it’s a much better spot for people watching. Plus, I like to observe the flight attendants. I figure that if they have a panicked look on their face, I probably should too. Otherwise, we’re smooth sailing. Some activities I enjoy while flying are reading books or watching movies, but both need to be fictional and happy. I can’t watch some super stressful action movie or I’ll really be a mess.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BREATH
That last point brings me to watching your breath. When we’re in situations that we feel are threatening, we tend to respond with short, rapid breathing. We may not realize it at first (I know early on in my anxiety journey I had NO idea), but before long we’ll be feeling lightheaded, a little tingly; kinda like we’re about to have a panic attack. I had this happen while watching a stressful movie on a plane once and learned my lesson real quick. Surround yourself with some happy, inspirational material and focus on taking full, slow breaths, and you’ll be in a much better place than you would be otherwise.
BRING COMFY THINGS
Whether it’s a certain fuzzy blanket, a picture of your cat, a favorite movie, or essential oils, bring whatever is going to get you to a happy mental place as quickly as possible. If there’s turbulence or an annoying person next to you, this is the thing that will help you through. I personally have my three favorite movies downloaded onto my iPad. They are as follows: Crazy Stupid Love, This is 40, and La La Land. All of these are about everyday real life where nothing that terrible ever happens. They bring me back to planet Earth (figuratively, since I’m actually flying way above it) and put me in a pleasant mood. I also bring an essential oil rollerball and put that on my inner wrists. Whenever I start to feel myself tense up, I hold them up to my nose and take a big inhale. This also reminds me to focus back on my breath- sometimes that means stopping the movie to ground myself and breathe.
It’s also helpful to remember how safe flying really is, and that, though leaving home can be hard, it’s also a very healthy thing to do. We can’t live our lives holed up in our homes forever; there is so much to see and experience in the world! I know some of you may be struggling with leaving home and flying more than others, especially as we emerge into a post-pandemic life, but either way, I do hope you find some of these methods helpful. I really only became an anxious traveler about 4 years ago, so this is still kind of new for me too, but my last piece of advice is to not let the anxiety stop you. There were so many times I questioned going somewhere because I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with the worry, but I went anyway and had the BEST time. We’ll miss out on so much if all we focus on are the things that could go wrong. Think about how much fun you’ll have on your travels and let that fuel you to keep going. Managing travel anxiety is just like riding a bike, you get better as you go. So keep going. And safe travels!
Do you have anxiety around traveling? Have any of the above methods worked for you? What other tips do you have to calm yourself?
Want to learn more about Breathwork? Read about it here.