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  • Writer's picturetruemantravels

7 Tips For Traveling With Anxiety

So you have anxiety? Me too. Often. I saw a meme recently that said anxiety is like constantly hearing the music from Jaws but never seeing the shark, and I felt like this was a great description. It doesn’t make sense, it’s not really rational, but it’s there and you have to find a way to cope. For me, finding routine in my life is a way to manage anxiety more effectively. I like to know what my plan for the day is, exactly where I need to go and I have spent the majority of my life avoiding situations where I have to sleep somewhere other than my own bed. There are many different types of anxiety (GAD, social anxiety, etc.), and everyone has their own triggers and methods for coping.

Traveling can heighten your anxiety. You’re making more decisions than you normally would in a day, you’re in an unfamiliar environment, perhaps attempting to communicate with people in a language you don’t fully understand. Maybe your fear of dealing with these new and unknown situations has made you hesitant to book your plane ticket for your dream destination.

It’s easy to feel defeated by your anxiety at times, and it can be hard enough to leave the comfort of home just for a day. But if travel is on your bucket list, don’t give up your desired destinations. It might not always be simple, but with these tips, I hope you’re able to take the next step in reaching your travel dreams.

1. Find Familiarity

Replicating the comfort of your own home and daily routine while you’re away can help in calming your mind and body. If there’s a show you like to watch before bed or a book you like to read, make a point to let your mind escape and settle into the normal nightly routine while you’re away. Make breakfast at your hostel or air bnb instead of going out to eat and replicate what you’d normally make for yourself at home (also a great way to save some money!). If you shower in the mornings before work, take your daily shower in the morning on your holiday to. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a trip full of spontaneity and adventure - grounding yourself in a few comforts from home may put you in a headspace where you can enjoy every experience to it’s fullest.

2. Have A Plan

If you’re comfortable hopping on a plane with a one way ticket and no accommodations booked in advance, good for you! I commend you for your sense of adventure and faith in the best case scenario. I will never be like you. I need a concrete travel plan; I like to have my flights and accommodations researched, vetted and booked in advance. Knowing what time you’ll be departing and arriving, where you’ll be sleeping and what kind of area you can expect to be staying in on a trip can alleviate a lot of stress caused by unknown variables. It’s important to remember things can change and you should try to remain open to being flexible while traveling, but advance planning works to a certain degree. By feeling like you’ve prepared and done your homework, your brain can take a load off once you actually set out on your adventure.

3. Do Your Research

This may seem basic, but take some time to research the country you are visiting. Are there social customs? What kind of food do they eat? Are there vaccines you need to get before you go? Do you need a visa? Preparing yourself with this information allows you to eliminate the element of surprise upon arrival. Researching activities in your area and deciding in advance which days you might want to see certain sites can help reduce anxiety related to decision making as well. Do the difficult work in advance.

4. Know Your Limits

Be honest with yourself as you plan your trip. Can you handle sleeping in a dorm room with twelve strangers? Will you be comfortable enough sharing a common bathroom at a hostel? Will you be distressed by the wildlife native to the country you are visiting? It’s easy to let the wanderlust get the best of you by browsing epic instagram photos. But these only show you the HIGHLIGHTS of any destination. We all want to be adventurous, care free...but you know your own limits. What can you handle? Where is the edge of your comfort zone? Sometimes it’s good to push yourself a little, but not to the point where you no longer enjoy the trip you’ve planned. Remember, even in the age of social media, it’s not the instagrammable photos that make the trip. It’s what you felt, what you learned, how you experienced a culture on a personal level. Put your feelings first.

5. Master Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a technique often used for coping with anxiety and trying to consciously utilize it in your travels can be really helpful. The technique takes you out of your head by grounding you in reality; it requires you to take a moment to use the 5 senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What can you smell? What are you touching? What can you taste? In a new and exciting environment, let this exercise get you out of your thoughts and instead, be inspired by the world around you.

6. Forgive Yourself

If you are no stranger to anxiety, chances are you’ll experience it some way or another on your travels no matter how much advance planning and “knowing your comfort level” you do. And that’s okay; we are human, and it happens. An anxiety attack that takes up ten minutes of your two weeks is not the end of the world. It’s important to surround yourself with people who understand what you’re dealing with and are supportive. If you’re traveling with a partner, let them know about your triggers if you’re self aware of them. Tell them in advance what they can do to help you. It’s easy to feel like you’re ruining someone’s experience with your anxiety attack but if they care about you, chances are you’re actually more bothered by your own reaction to the situation than they are. So once you ride it out and are on the other side of the anxiety attack, try to let it go. It’s okay that it happened. Try to learn something from it. When you look back on the trip in ten years, it will not be the main attraction. (Unless you’re me and you ran away from a perfectly good souvlaki dinner at a restaurant in Athens because a cat was aggressively staring at you. Then it might become a popular trip story).

7. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

A lot of people are surprised to find out someone close to them is dealing with anxiety. It’s an inward struggle that a lot of people face on a daily basis and from the outside, the victories you achieve when you overcome an obstacle related to it might be impossible to notice. It’s likely no one else is ever going to congratulate you on the personal progress you’ve made on this journey; so you have to give the credit to yourself. Every small step, is a step nonetheless. You got on the plane; you showered in the gross communal hostel; you held the snake; you swam in the unknown waters of the ocean. If it feels like an accomplishment to you, then it’s huge. You should feel proud of yourself for overcoming your anxieties big or small, temporarily or permanently. Always.

If you’re dealing with anxiety, I hope at least some of these tips help you gain the confidence to pursue the trip of your dreams. If you have any tips or advice for managing anxiety while traveling, you can send me a message via the contact form. I’d love to hear from you!

*I am not a mental healthcare professional and this advice is based purely on my personal experiences with anxiety and travel situations. *


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