Tips for coping with travel anxiety
Here's how to stop fear and worry from getting in the way of your travel plans.
Travel can trigger fear and worry and may make you feel anxious even if you don't have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. For people who do have an anxiety disorder – it's the most common mental illness in the country, impacting 18% of the adult population according to the National Institute of Mental Health – travel is downright scary. But even though travel takes you out of your comfort zone and can make you uneasy, it's not a reason to stay home.
Here are some tips that may help ease your anxiety and improve your travel experience:
- Acknowledge anxiety head on. Think about what makes you anxious and write it down. Seeing your fears and worries on paper makes it easier for you to come up with a plan for reacting to specific situations.
- Address your fears in advance. Play out if-then scenarios so you can work through how you'll handle things that make you uncomfortable. For example, if air travel makes you nervous, think through each step of the process, from getting to the airport and waiting in line at security to stepping on the plane and getting off at your destination. Each time you start to feel nervous in your walk-through, think of things you can do to make yourself more comfortable.
- Remind yourself that you can't control everything. Use a visual aid, such as a red flag or stop light, to remind yourself that you should stop worrying about things you can't control. This may make it easier to let go when anxiety starts to get the upper-hand.
- Breathe. When you start to feel stressed, worried or anxious, use controlled breathing techniques to calm yourself down. Take deep breaths and focus on your breathing.
- Accept that everything won't be perfect. Not everything will go exactly as planned. Give yourself permission to take a time-out or to change plans if you feel uncomfortable or nervous while you're away.