For many people, the prospect of traveling for business or pleasure is a source of anticipation, excitement, and the feeling of butterflies in the tummy. For others, the days before departure and the time spent traveling is wracked with anxiety. Those stressful feelings can and do put a damper on an experience that should be an enjoyable adventure, but there are ways to overcome them.
Let’s take a look at what anxiety is and how you can overcome it when traveling.
What Is Anxiety?
The feeling of fear you get as part of your body’s response to stress is called anxiety. Some of the most common symptoms include increased blood pressure, tension, and worry. Travel anxiety usually refers to the fear of visiting a place you don’t know. The term can also refer to the fear you feel when planning a trip.
You don’t necessarily need to have a history of anxiety to experience travel anxiety. Simply being in unfamiliar territory can trigger fear and panic, which is not the same as the uncertainty that’s quite normal to feel when you visit new places. That uncertainty is one thing, but travel anxiety, which can seriously hamper your enjoyment of traveling, is quite another.
What Causes Travel Anxiety?
Travel anxiety can be caused by various factors. The triggers vary from person to person. Someone might have had a bad experience on a previous trip, while someone else might experience it for no apparent reason. Common causes include:
● Being away from your comfort zone – You may feel anxious at the thought of being away from your family and friends, your pets, your daily routine at home, or of being in public places.
● Bad travel stories – Stories about horrible experiences while traveling from friends, family, or the media may affect your mental wellbeing and cause you to start linking travel with negative experiences.
● Fear of flying – You may develop a fear of flying due to take-off and landing, air turbulence, height, or fears of being in small spaces (such as a plane cabin) or of crashing.
● Mid-trip concerns – You might feel anxious about various aspects of your travels, such as unfamiliarity with the language, culture, or destination, your accommodation details, traveling around your destination, the effects of jetlag, or whether you have enough money for your trip.
● Your brain and your genes – Research found that changes in the brain can cause anxiety. Other research has found a link between genetics and anxiety in adults.
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7 Tips For Overcoming Travel Anxiety
Use the following 7 tips to overcome travel anxiety.
1. Recognize Your Triggers
One of the first steps to overcoming travel anxiety is to identify the triggers that cause it. Some triggers are external, such as stress in other areas of life, consuming too much caffeine or nicotine, or low blood sugar. Other triggers might be specific to traveling, such as planning and/or packing for a trip, or fear of flying or of traveling by boat, bus, or train.
Speak to a psychotherapist or counselor for help with identifying and/or working through your triggers.
2. Make Plans For Responsibilities At Home
Your travel anxiety may be caused by the fear of being away from the responsibilities you have at home, such as children, pets, or leaving your car and property unattended. If that is one of the triggers, make plans for those responsibilities when planning your trip.
Ask a friend or family member or hire a house sitter to look after your home while you’re away. Give them a set of instructions for taking care of the property, pets, and plants. When you’re planning your trip, make sure that your home and car insurance cover is paid up to date, and ensure that you’re covered for every eventuality, even if you’re away.
3. Plan For Possible Mid-Trip Scenarios
The “what if” aspect of traveling can be a source of anxiety. It’s not possible to plan for every possible mid-trip scenario, but you can plan for some of them. Plan for potential situations such as:
● Getting lost – Make sure you have a map or guidebook with you at all times.
● Getting sick – Check if your insurance coverage includes travel health. If not, purchase travel health insurance before you leave.
● Running out of money – Take your credit card with you to pay for emergencies or ask a family member or friend if they can send you money if you run out while away.
4. Use Relaxation Techniques
Various relaxation techniques can help ease travel anxiety. A few techniques to consider include:
● Deep breathing
● Progressive muscle relaxation
● Mindfulness meditation
5. Take a Few Distractions With You
Identify your favorite activities that help you feel less anxious and consider taking them with you when you travel. You can then focus on the activity while traveling. A good book, a travel puzzle, watching a movie on your phone or tablet, or mobile gaming can go a long way.
6. Identify Positive Aspects of Traveling
You might experience travel anxiety because you focus on the negative aspects of traveling before you leave. Identifying the positive aspects of traveling and reminding yourself of them can help you to focus on better things and reduce anxiety. A few ideas include:
● Seeing famous landmarks
● Learning about cultures, language, music, and food you’re unfamiliar with
● Opportunities to enjoy adventurous experiences
● The chance to make friends in other countries
● Taking a break from the humdrum of your daily life
List the positive aspects on a piece of paper or in a travel journal and keep it in easy reach when traveling.
7. Consider Using Medication
If you experience severe travel anxiety that isn’t reduced by planning, distractions, or speaking to a therapist or counsellor, consider using medication. Speak to your doctor about using a simple over-the-counter calmative or a prescription medication such as antidepressants or benzodiazepines.
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Enjoy Your Trip
Depending on the triggers that cause you to feel travel anxiety, you may need to use more than one of the tips listed above.
Experiencing travel anxiety isn’t pleasant, but it can be overcome. Use the advice above and enjoy your trip!