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How to manage travel anxiety

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We are fast approaching summer and for a lot of people, summer means travel. Unfortunately, there are more and more of us out there who suffer from some form of anxiety, whether that’s a diagnosed anxiety disorder or anxious thoughts and feelings that come and go at different points in our lives.

And for those of us that do experience anxiety, this can often be triggered or made worse by travel, sometimes having an impact on our holiday or even preventing us from going on holiday at all. There are lots of things that can contribute towards anxiety whilst travelling, ranging from the idea of flying or public transport, being separated from certain loved ones, eating certain foods or even the pressure to have an amazing time on every day of the holiday.

If you are made anxious by any of these things, or something completely different whilst travelling, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go on holiday at all, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you are incapable of having the holiday of a lifetime. I’ve put together a few ways that you can manage anxious thoughts and feelings before and during your holiday that can hopefully help you experience the best possible holiday you can.

Identify your triggers

For a lot of people, anxiety finds its roots in one particular thought or situation. Identifying what makes you the most anxious can help you target the specific thoughts and feelings that bother you when trying to enjoy your holiday. For example, if the idea of flying makes you anxious, find stats that show exactly how safe it is in an aeroplane.

Similarly, if separation anxiety affects you the most, search for ways to deal with being separated from the ones you love. More often than not you’ll find specific advice written by professionals or those who have similar experiences to you, that can help you manage the exact anxiety you’re experiencing.

Stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep

At the risk of sounding a bit like your mother; the amount of sleep we have and water we consume can make a big difference in the level of anxiety we are experiencing. Sleep and water might not be the ultimate cure to your anxieties, however, there is no doubt that sleep deprivation and dehydration are going to make you feel a whole lot worse. The healthier we stay, the better equipped we are to deal with stressful situations and anxiety.

Sleep deprivation and dehydration can make you feel especially worse in hot countries, and not drinking enough water can actually make you very unwell, so get your eight hours a night and chug that water. It’ll help you feel as good as you can feel and support your efforts to combat negative thoughts.

Do what makes you feel comfortable

This might sound obvious, but holidays are about having a good time, and a good time can look different to different people.

In the past, I’ve been on holidays with groups and at times felt pressured to go on nights out or group activities when really all I wanted to do was stay at the pool with a good book or take a quiet walk by myself, and this made my anxiety so much worse. For lots of people stepping outside your comfort zone is the most exciting thing about travel, and this can be really fun if it’s a conscious choice you’ve made to have a good time. But if you start to feel obliged or pressured to do things because other people are, then check in on yourself and question if your anxiety would decrease if you did something different.

Some people are able to distract themselves from their anxiety by doing lots of activities or being with people a lot of the time, but these very same things can trigger some people. Try different things but don't feel forced to fit in or placate people. It’s your holiday, after all, so do what makes you feel good.

Talk to someone

So many people experience a decrease in symptoms of anxiety just by offloading to someone, and that doesn’t have to change when you’re on holiday. If you’re feeling anxious try chatting to a friend or family member on the holiday with you. It can feel liberating and relaxing to let it all off your chest, and the person you choose to speak to might even be able to offer help or advice that can make your holiday a bit better.

If you’re travelling alone or don’t feel comfortable speaking to anyone you’re on holiday with, schedule a phone call with someone at home that you trust and let them know how you’re feeling. It’s never good for anyone to bottle up emotions and anxieties. Simply releasing built up tension and anxiety by chatting to someone about it might really improve the quality of your holiday and help you relax more.

Minimise situations that cause unnecessary anxiety

Travel is undoubtedly a little tense. It’s relatively easy to miss a flight or a train, or forget something important. Something going wrong might contribute significantly towards some peoples anxiety, so if that’s you, it might be best to play it safe when organising yourself for the trip.

If you’re already anxious, the last thing you need is a rush through the departure lounge to catch a flight or the sinking feeling of knowing you left your passport on the bedside table. Lots of these things are outside of our control, but we can all take steps to make sure the things within our control go as smoothly as possible. Try to arrive extra early for flights and have a nice meal at the airport, keeping an eye on your budget and keeping all your important documents and items protected. Stay safe, take precautions and minimise anxiety before it happens.

Anxiety can be obstructive, but everyone deserves a good travel experience, especially if you’ve been working hard all year and have just finished exams. If you have the resources and time, it might be worth seeking some sort of counselling or therapy, or speaking to a doctor or GP if you feel that anxiety is getting in the way of your general happiness and wellbeing. In the mean time, have a great holiday whether you’re staying at home and chilling, doing some intense thrill seeking across the globe, or anywhere in between.

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