When people think of vacation and travel, thoughts of relaxing in a far away place with family or friends come to mind.
However, if you suffer from travel anxiety, even thinking about vacation or a trip can fill you with worry and dread.
I received this email yesterday:
I’m getting ready to take a trip and I’m really scared. Are you able to travel with everything you have been through. I need to do this and prove to myself that I can travel again. Do you have any tips?
Yes. Please do not despair… You can overcome travel anxiety by using using cognitive behavioral techniques before and during the actual trip. It really helps to be prepared beforehand. With that in mind…
Here are 8 Helpful Tips to Overcome Travel Anxiety:
1. Plan the Logistics Ahead of Time.
Keep yourself busy with useful trip activities. Plan out what you will need to bring. I like to make a list for each member of the family (since I usually have to do all the packing lol) and check things off as I do laundry. Plan ahead and make sure you have all necessary prescription medications.
Make arrangements for important things like pet care, newspaper pick up, plant watering, etc.
A few days before the trip, make sure you have your tickets, that your wallet and purse are packed with everything you need, and that your passport is current.
2. Check your Breathing
If you start to feel anxiety when you think about traveling, watch your breathing. It’s very likely that you’re holding your breath or breathing too fast, either of which can make you feel even more anxious.
Control your breathing by taking slow, deep, cleansing breaths. Be sure to exhale all the way. For more on how to breathe correctly, see here.
3. Visualize Success and Happiness in Advance
Mentally see yourself having a wonderful trip in advance. This is an incredibly helpful exercise. Take a few quiet minutes alone and see every detail of your trip- especially the parts that make you anxious.
See yourself getting on that plane (or boat or train) and being happy and calm.
Try to use all your senses as you envision yourself really enjoying your trip or vacation. See yourself having fun and relaxing days, smiling, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying every minute of your time away from home.
Make it a point to visualize and affirm http://panicfreeme.com/2190/visualize-and-affirm-your-way-to-success/ yourself having a great and successful trip. Do this morning and night, and even more often if necessary.
When you get quiet and envision yourself succeeding, you put forth positive energy and train your brain how to respond when the trip is actually happening. So if the plane ride bothers you, practice envisioning yourself throughout all aspects of it- and envision yourself calm and happy as you go to the airport, go thru security checks, wait in the seating area, board the plane, lift off, sit and rest during the flight, etc.
4. Practice Thought Stopping
It’s helpful to note when your thinking is getting out of control or racing around imagining the worst about your trip. When you feel yourself getting all worked up with anxiety because your mind is racing, picture a huge red stop sign.
Picture that huge red stop sign and tell your mind “STOP IT!”– and then immediately send yourself positive, truthful messages. Things like “This is just anxiety making me feel worked up. I am safe and nothing is going to harm me.”
“I am a powerful competent person.”
For more about using positive affirmations with thought stopping, see this post.
5. Exercise Control Over Your Mind
The anxious mind is very busy and sneaky, but you have the power to outsmart it every time. Remember that you always have choices in every situation to make you feel better.
If your mind is racing, you can practice thought stopping as discussed above. If you still feel worked up, put some of that energy into packing, or take a brisk walk and get some stress busing endorphins working for you.
Keep practicing the tips above in the weeks and days leading up to your trip. Remember, the more you practice, the calmer and more confident you will feel!
6. Practice Mindfulness On the Trip
If the thought of being on the plain, train, or car makes you anxious, you have tools. First and foremost, make sure you’re breathing correctly. Then do your absolute best to stay in the present. Focus on the present, the here and now. Think about just this moment and nothing else.
Practice focusing on your hands, or your feet. Use inner body awareness exercises and the time will not only pass, you will start to feel much calmer in the process.
Once you start to calm down, you can dig into that great book you brought along with you. If you start to feel anxious again, immediately return to your breathing, focusing on the present, and exercise focusing on your hands, feet, arms, etc.
7. Don’t Expect a Perfect Trip.
Remember there is no such thing as “perfect”. Do your best not to set your expectations too high about any vacation. Rain happens. Baggage gets lost occasionally. It’s important to give yourself permission to have the best trip possible knowing there are just some things that are out of your control. Know that you can roll with the punches. And hey when you have your anxiety under wraps, it all feels glorious anyways, right?
8. Love Yourself.
I mean it, this is really important. Remember to acknowledge all the hard work you are doing. Talk to yourself as you prepare for your trip as if you were talking to a beloved child. Tell yourself things like, “I love you. You are doing such a fantastic job. I promise that I will keep you safe the whole time. Keep up the great work. This is going to be such a wonderful experience!”
This is called re-parenting the inner child. I learned about it years ago from a book and it is so very helpful. Here is a helpful article on that.
Also, give yourself lots of ‘atta girls (or ‘atta boys!) and hugs along the way. Remember to acknowledge and thank yourself for preparing yourself so well. Always be loving and kind to yourself.
I can assure you, these tips work. Proof being I have done all of these things listed above and have gone from being a very reluctant, anxious traveler to a calm and happy one. I used to hate planes and everything about them. Not anymore. Now I know I can handle any anxiety that arises in a pinch with these tips. And you can too.
Use these tips to help calm your pre-travel angst and prepare yourself for the best trip imaginable.
I wish you peace and bon voyage!
ps.- Print this page out or jot these travel anxiety tips on an index card & carry in your purse when you go. That way, you can help yourself if you get in a bind.