4 Steps To Erase Your Travel Anxiety, According to an Expert
Some people have a travel bucket list filled to the brim with fresh 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 revealed they'd spend it on travel, a house, or a car. Others, not so much; they would rather invest, save, or pay down debt, according to the survey results. Many individuals find the mere thought of traveling incredibly stressful. If this sounds all too familiar, get ready to take some notes. We spoke with an expert and are here to 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 meaning of anxiety, which is described as "chronic and sustained worry that is significant enough to impact your daily life." But in this case, it's explicitly sparked by traveling.
Dr. Patel-Dunn explains, "People can experience travel anxiety in response to different triggers, but the symptoms can be similar to those of general anxiety and may include changes in sleep and eating patterns, mood changes, racing heart, sweating, and feelings of being out of control."
There are many steps you can take to help overcome travel anxiety, which we'll get into in just a moment. But if you experience travel anxiety over and over again, and it hampers your enjoyment or prevents you from taking trips completely, Dr. Patel-Dunn advises, "I would encourage you to make an appointment with a licensed mental health professional who can work with you to help develop coping strategies specific to you."
If it's not terrible and you'd simply like to adopt habits to help you bring your stress level down a notch when heading on a trip, read on to learn four steps that can be totally life-changing for your vacation plans.
Prepare for your trip as much as possible.
Anxiety is frequently brought on by feeling uncertain or not being in control of a situation, which is why it's essential to prepare for your trip as much as you possibly can before hitting the road. Dr. Patel-Dunn suggests, "For anxiety specific to travel, taking small steps to prepare as much as possible in advance can help lessen the severity of your symptoms and help you cope more easily. If you are catching a flight, try to allow plenty of time to get to the airport so you aren't feeling rushed, for example, and look up your terminal in advance. If you are staying at a new hotel, reach out to them in advance and ask if there is anything you should know before traveling or anything you should be aware of before check-in."
Distracting yourself works wonders.
Something as simple as distracting yourself while traveling can really help. "Having some of your favorite activities on hand can feel comforting if you are experiencing anxiety while traveling. Bringing a favorite book or audiobook, or turning to a favorite mobile game, can help to distract you during a flight or in a car," Dr. Patel-Dunn tells us.
When you get to your travel point, try to incorporate a few tasks that are part of your daily routine. Doing so may help you feel more comfortable and way less stressed. This can include taking an early morning run or walk, meditating, journaling, or stretching it out with some yoga.
Close your eyes, and picture yourself enjoying your travel destination.
Whether it's sipping piña coladas on a tropical white sand beach, hiking to the top of a mountain, or kicking back by a cozy campfire in the woods, picture yourself having a blast there. Some individuals are triggered with anxiety simply by all the planning and steps it takes to get to their destination.
Dr. Patel-Dunn points out, "Whether it's an airport and plane, a train station, a bus station, your own car or a rental or ride-share car, it can feel overwhelming and stress-provoking, and you may forget why you are even doing it. Visualizing yourself outside of the stressful travel experience and safely at your destination can help to calm your nervous system down." And don't forget the piña colada (or a glass of red wine, if that's more your style)!
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Re-focus if dwelling on a "worst-case scenario" is your spark.
It's important to do what brings you comfort and ease. If focusing on a "worst-case scenario" triggers your stress, consider what would bring you to a level of comfort.
Dr. Patel-Dunn gives a few examples. "If you are driving a long distance and are afraid of getting lost, maybe look up a few different routes you could take and bring a backup charger for your phone in case of an emergency. If you are worried about being in an unfamiliar area, reach out to loved ones that may have visited where you are going, or join an online travel group or forum that can give you more information and make you feel more at ease," she says.