Tips for Traveling When You Have Anxiety
I love to travel. In the last year and a half, I’ve been to 10 countries, 6 US states and 1 US territory. I also have #Anxiety, which I’ve found is often exacerbated by travel. Unfamiliar routines and foreign places can make us feel uncomfortable. Consequently, those with anxiety may have troubling thoughts even more than usual. Over the years, I’ve compiled a list of ways to reduce anxiety while traveling:
You Don’t Have to Do Everything
There’s always pressure (both internal and external) to do accomplish a great deal in very little time when traveling. Although you should go out and enjoy your destination, remember it’s okay to stop and take a break. “Self-care” is a common phrase for anyone living with a mental illness, but it’s especially critical when traveling. Take a break to eat, drink water, stretch, and get plenty of sleep. You may find that you need to care for yourself more than usual- and that’s okay. Take some time to get away from others if you need to, even for a little while.
I am personally guilty of over-planning to accommodate for my anxiety. Like many people with anxiety, I like to know what to expect. Although I don’t recommend planning every second of every day, I do find it helpful to do some research. This can help to avoid any unwanted surprises- specifically the kind that trigger your anxiety. For example, when traveling internationally I like to download GoogleTranslate languages and GoogleMaps offline before I leave. This helps to ease my concerns about language barriers and getting lost. If I’m really nervous about finding a specific location, I use GoogleMaps “street view” to see what my destination looks like from the street. If you know anyone who has previously traveled to your destination, ask them about their experience. Most of my favorite travel experiences have been recommendations of family or friends. This can also help you learn what to expect during your time away from home.
Unfortunately, you can’t pack for every eventuality. I can attest that packing only what you need helps to reduce stress. Remember that you can buy most necessities anywhere in the world if you forget something. If you’re taking a flight and take medication to manage your anxiety, make sure you pack it in a personal item (sometimes larger carry-ons get checked at the gate if there is no more overhead space on a plane).
Learn to Cope On-the-Go
Sometimes, anxiety is unavoidable (especially when traveling). Delayed flights, overwhelming social interactions, miscommunications, and crowded spaces are inevitable circumstances of travel. I like to use mobile apps like What’s Up? and Companion which have games and tools to reduce anxiety. There are lots of wonderful #MentalHealth apps you can download whether you’re looking to meditate, a distraction, or other coping tools. If you have any physical items that mitigate your anxiety or panic attacks, pack them. Drawing helps me cope with anxiety, and I’ve never regretted packing my pens and a notepad.
Ask for Help
If you get lost, need help finding your seat on a train, or want to know where to get food- ask! If you are staying at a hotel or a hostel, you can ask the concierge or person at the front desk for help or recommendations. This is a great option if you are uncomfortable approaching strangers, since these people are literally paid to help you. If you struggle with #SocialAnxiety, doing a quick Google search can often provide useful answers.
Whether you’re spending a weekend at the beach or flying to a new continent, travel can be stressful. Be sure to take care of yourself and be especially conscious of how you’re feeling. Hopefully, some of the above tips will help to mitigate your anxiety on-the-go, or at least cope with its effects.