I’ve had travel anxiety ever since I was a child. Up until three years ago, I had no idea that I actually suffered from it, and blamed my “episodes” on hypoglycemia. I’ve always had to watch my blood sugar and make sure I’m eating right, or I might just pass out cold; anywhere at any given time. That’s not the point of this post though — I just had to mention it because as a child, teen, and young adult, I always thought my shakiness, feeling of throwing up, and cold sweats had to do with hypoglycemia instead of anxiety. The symptoms I just listed were things that would happen to me right before a big event, vacation, or any sort of trip somewhere. It wasn’t until Derik and I began traveling multiple times a year, for an extended period of time, that I realized I had a problem with travel anxiety.
The initial trip over from the United States to South Korea was downright awful. I felt terribly jittery, shaky inside (can’t explain it), sick to my stomach, and couldn’t sleep for a few days before we began the journey. The day of was even worse, and during our 16 hour flight, I threw at least 4 times and wasn’t able to eat or keep water down. Because of this my hypoglycemia was triggered, making the whole situation even worse. I felt so bad for Derik as he practically carried me through the Beijing Airport, multiple security checkpoints, and onto the next plane. Of course, during this entire time, I’m sitting there hot, sweaty, and barf bag in tow. Sexy right?
Our next few trips (domestic and international) weren’t much better. Derik and I both couldn’t see a logic to my anxiety, because I’m not afraid of planes or going places at all. I had absolutely no reason to be anxious or afraid, and Derik was always right there beside me. I just couldn’t shake it, and I still sometimes can’t.
Over the years I’ve learned to recognize my symptoms, and have learned a few tricks to keep myself in check and ready for the next big trip by practicing the tips below before and during travel.
5 Tips to Help Overcome Travel Anxiety:
1. Write down your thoughts, fears, and uncertainties. Sometimes all it takes is a little self-therapy. Writing down how you’re feeling, what fears you may have, and what uncertainties you might face once you get to your destination helps. I know personally, after writing down a few things, I glance back over them and see how ridiculous I actually am.
2. Listen to familiar and inspiring music. Popping in some headphones on the way to the airport, and listening to your favorite tunes is a great way to ground and calm yourself. I created a travel playlist not too long ago with some of my favorite travel songs, and love listening to them for inspiration, anticipation, and relaxation.
You know what they say: “Music soothes the soul.” I couldn’t agree more.
3. Breathe. Just Breathe. If you’re feeling overcome by anxiety, and feel on the verge of a full-blown panic attack, sometimes taking a minute (or 5) to breathe deeply may help calm you down faster than you would think. I like to start out my day with a deep breathing routine just to get extra oxygen to my brain and help organize my thoughts. Add a little soothing music to the mixture and you’ve got got yourself a solid anxiety buster (too cheesy??)!
4. Exercise. Work out those jitters. Literally. Exercise gets the blood flowing (helping relieve swelling and restlessness), and also releases endorphins, leaving you happier, healthier, and seeing the world in a positive light. I get that it’s hard to hit the gym after sleeping in a cramped hotel room all night, or even worse, having to wake up at 4:30 am to catch that morning flight. There are a few exercises you can do from your bedroom that don’t take up very much room: jumping jacks, wall sits, push ups, planks, sit ups, crunches, high knees, butt kicks, scissor kicks, squats and lunges. If you can get in as many of each within a minute and repeat, you’ll have yourself a quick 22 minute workout!
5. See a doctor. If you absolutely cannot function at all, and are having problems finding a way to keep your anxiety in check, it may be time to visit your doctor. Believe it or not, travel anxiety is actually quite common, and a doctor may help you figure out what your trigger points are as well as give you something to take for your anxiety.
Last year I traveled alone to the United States from New Zealand (36 hours each way), and I was incredibly nervous about my travel anxiety (how’s that for a muddled mess). I wanted to make sure I was aware, alert, and not incapacitated while traveling alone, so my doctor gave me Xanex to take for anxiety. I avoid medicine as much as possible, but decided to take it the night before my big solo trip in hopes it would help me through the next day. To my surprise, it did. For the first time in 3 years, I woke up without a single stitch of anxiety (I wasn’t feeling nauseous, shaky, or foggy), and was actually excited to begin my journey. To make things better, I actually slept on the plane ride over, which never happens to me.
Since that trip in September of last year, I have yet to take Xanex again as I have Derik for support if my travel anxiety gets out of control, but it is nice to know I have the option if I need it! Travel anxiety is a constant struggle for me, but I am learning to recognize it and deal with it using the tips above.
What about you? How do you deal with travel anxiety?