Some people have a travel bucket list filled to the brim with new and exciting adventures they hope to experience one day. In fact, the Schwab 2019 Modern Wealth Survey asked participants what they would do with $1 million. Fifty-four percent said they would spend it on travel, a house or a car. Others, not so much; according to the survey results, they would rather invest, save or pay off debt. Many people find the mere thought of traveling incredibly stressful. If this sounds all too familiar to you, get ready to take some notes. We spoke to an expert and here we share four productive steps to overcome travel anxiety.
According to Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, DO, psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer at Lifestance Health, travel anxiety coincides with the conventional sense of anxiety, which is described as “chronic and persistent worry significant enough to affect your daily life.” But in this case it is explicitly fueled by travel.
Dr. Patel-Dunn explains, “People can experience travel anxiety in response to a variety of triggers, but the symptoms can be similar to those of generalized anxiety and can include changes in sleeping and eating patterns, mood swings, palpitations, sweating, and feelings.” get out of hand.”
There are many steps you can take to overcome travel anxiety, which we will get into in a moment. But if you experience travel anxiety time and time again, and it interferes with your enjoyment or prevents you from fully traveling, Dr. Patel-Dunn: “I would encourage you to make an appointment with a licensed mental health professional who will help you develop coping strategies that are specific to you.”
If it’s not a big deal and you just want to form habits to kick your stress levels down a notch when you travel, read on to learn four steps that can totally change your vacation plans.
Prepare your trip as best you can.
Anxiety is often caused by feeling insecure or out of control of a situation. That is why it is essential to prepare your trip as well as possible before you set off. Dr. Patel-Dunn suggests, “For anxiety specific to travel, taking small steps to prepare as much in advance as possible can help reduce the severity of your symptoms and help you cope more easily. If you’re catching a flight, try to allow enough time to get to the airport so you don’t feel rushed, for example, and look up your terminal in advance. If you’re staying at a new hotel, get in touch in advance with them and ask if there is anything you should know before you travel or anything you should be aware of before checking in.”
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Distracting yourself works wonders.
Something as simple as distracting yourself while traveling can really help. “It can be comforting to have some of your favorite activities on hand if you experience anxiety while traveling. Bringing a favorite book or audiobook, or playing your favorite mobile game, can help distract you during a flight or in a car,” Dr. Patel-Dunn tells us.
When you arrive at your travel point, try to incorporate a few tasks into your daily routine. Doing this may make you feel more comfortable and less stressed. This could be an early morning run or walk, meditating, journaling, or stretching with some yoga.
Close your eyes and imagine enjoying your travel destination.
Whether you’re drinking piña coladas on a tropical white sand beach, hiking to the top of a mountain, or relaxing by a cozy campfire in the woods, imagine having a good time there. Some people just get anxious with all the planning and steps it takes to get to their destination.
Dr. Patel-Dunn explains: “Whether it’s an airport and plane, train station, bus station, your own car or a rental or shared car, it can feel overwhelming and stressful, and you may forget why you’re doing it even. Visualizing yourself outside of the stressful travel experience and safely at your destination can help calm your nervous system.” And don’t forget the piña colada (or a glass of red wine, if that’s more your style)!
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If you dwell on a worst-case scenario, refocus.
It is important to do what brings you comfort and convenience. If focusing on a “worst case scenario” causes you stress, consider what would bring you to a level of comfort.
Dr. Patel-Dunn gives a few examples. “If you’re driving a long distance and are afraid of getting lost, look up a few different routes you could take and carry a backup charger for your phone in case of an emergency. If you’re afraid of getting into a unfamiliar territory, reach out to loved ones who may have been where you’re going, or join an online travel group or forum that can give you more information and make you feel more comfortable,” she says.