Travel anxiety: What is it and techniques to help you cope
Travel anxiety isn't something that you either get it or you don't, in fact, anxiety, in general, can affect anyone at any time, without warning or prejudice. When we speak of anxiety in the travel sense, we are talking about the way your body responds when you travel or think about travelling. Believe it or not, you can be so excited and eager to travel and still feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious.
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. When we face a situation which we perceive to be potentially harmful or feel will cause danger to us or our way of life, then our instinctual kickback is to experience worrying triggers and feelings of anxiety. These are not only normal but necessary for survival. Over the years, as humans, our reasons for experiencing anxiety have changed. In the past, we would have felt danger and fear as a result of an attack from a predator. In an article by Medical News Today, it states...
“The danger causes a rush of adrenalin, a hormone and chemical messenger in the brain, which in turn triggers these anxious reactions in a process called the “fight-or-flight’ response. This prepares humans to physically confront or flee any potential threats to safety.”
Whereas today, our survival is predominantly based around work, family and relationships, social and finances. Anything that can cause disruption to any of these areas can be perceived as a threat that can cause you to react in survival mode and of course travel, is no exception.
What is anxiety?
Without getting too complicated, anxiety is unhelpful thinking patterns that we experience when our mind is fixated on the threat, uncertainty, and/or negativity. It's commonly felt through both mental and physical symptoms and feels different for each person.
Anxiety can occur on its own, as a response to a perceived threat, as a response to stress, or it can trigger stress. It’s really important to know and understand that you cannot stop it happening because it is your brain’s automatic survival mechanism. What really matters and will ultimately become invaluable to you, is learning how to respond to anxiety helpfully, so that you don’t get carried away by it.
I have travelled extensively for long and short periods, with friends and family and alone and I still experience travel anxiety, usually during the run-up to departure. I am of course fully aware of what is happening and over the years have developed techniques to be able to deal with it, and so it doesn't hold me back from doing anything that I want to anymore. If I didn't have ways to cope with travel anxiety, then I probably would have not gone on half of the trips that I have. Therefore, if you understand what is happening and how to respond to it, you will be able to liberate yourself and achieve all of your travel goals, and even more so, actually enjoy it!
Travel anxiety-reducing techniques
In this article, I want to share with you some ways that you can manage your anxiety as and when it decides to make an appearance. The recent global pandemic is likely to trigger travel anxiety in people who may never have experienced it before and that is completely logical and understandable. But just because we may be feeling a sense of fear and uncertainty, that doesn't mean we have to stop completely and never travel again! Some of the techniques I would like to share with you are:
The ‘how I feel’ tool
Positive self talk
Befriend your anxiety
Being mindful is when you purposely bring attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment. This includes being mindful of your own thoughts and feelings. When you bring your attention to what it is you are thinking, you are able to, at that moment, take full control of your anxiety.
What are you feeling?
Why are you feeling this way?
What is actually happening around you right now?
What can you do to help you to feel better?
Doodling, drawing, and colouring are great ways to bring your attention to the moment. It also helps to set an intention at the start of each day to be mindful and aware of where you are in the now and what is around you, sights, smells, and sensations. If you are feeling anxious about travel, then why not take yourself off out into the seaside, countryside, woods, forest, or anywhere that offers the healing benefits of nature and practice being mindful of everything around you. What can see, smell, feel? Bring yourself back into the now as that is where the power is.
'How I feel' tool
When you feel anxious, sit down with a nice cuppa and fill in the 'how I feel' tool form that I have provided below. This is a brilliant way to organise what is going on in your mind and then help you to change the way you are thinking, for something that suits you better.
4 - 7 - 8
The 4 - 7 - 8 is a wonderful exercise to instantly calm anxiety. Close your mouth and inhale deeply through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven and then exhale completely through your mouth to the count of eight. Repeat this for between 3 - 6 breaths.
Imagine that there is a balloon in your belly. As you take a deep breath in, you can feel the balloon filling up with air. Keep breathing in until your balloon is nice and big and then take one last big breath in and as you exhale, push the air out through your mouth completely, and as you do, feel the balloon get smaller and smaller.
Breathe in deeply and feel the air travel all around your body. Each breath moves along through your arms, your abdomen, hips, legs, and feet. Then, as you exhale, imagine all of the worry and fear is being released from your body. As each breath moves through the body, it collects with it all the tension and anxiety and through the exhalation, it is pushed out.
Positive Self Talk
Is what I am saying to myself kind and nurturing? What can I say to myself that is kind and nurturing?