Traveling is one of the most exciting and rewarding activities… You are experiencing a new destination for the first time, a new culture, new food and new people. But travel isn’t always perfect and it isn’t always comfortable. Your thrilling adventure can become stressful and overwhelming when the unexpected happens.
Today we are sharing our top tips to cope with anxiety when traveling to make your next trip as stress-free as possible!
1. Build in extra time
Give yourself enough time at the airport so that you’re not rushing around and panicking at the last minute. Realize that traffic, security lines and baggage issues can cause unanticipated delays. Arrive at least two hours early for domestic and three hours for international flights.
Also be sure to give yourself ample time to make flight connections in case of weather delays and cancellations. 60 minutes between flights is recommended but add additional time if you are landing at a large airport or switching airlines. Allow at least two hours on international flights where you are required to go through Customs and Immigration upon landing.
2. Be flexible
One of the best ways I’ve found to reduce stress while traveling is to plan less and let spontaneity take over. When you try to stick to a super strict itinerary, you are more likely to get frustrated or disappointed when things don’t go as planned.
Now I am not suggesting not to book anything ahead of time, but to plan a general path, book the first couple nights of your trip, and let your trip take its course from there. It’s important to give yourself flex time for places you like or dislike, or if you get burnt out and just want to relax for a day. Learn to adapt to sudden changes and go with the flow when problems arise. Plus, not planning every last detail can lead to exciting and unexpected adventures.
3. Focus on the positive
There is power in positive thinking! If a tough situation arises in your travels such as delays, poor weather, illnesses or injuries, train yourself to focus on thoughts that will move you forward in the right direction rather than harping over the uncontrollable. Accept the situation for what it is and realize when you can’t change it.
You can also repeat positive mantras or affirmations to remind yourself that everything is going to be okay. Center yourself on calming thoughts such as “I am safe” or “These feelings will pass.” Turn your negative thoughts around by diverting your attention to happier thoughts or visualize yourself in a serene place.
4. Stay active
We all know too well how difficult it can be to keep your health and fitness on track when you’re thrown off of your normal routine. But it is important to keep your wellness a priority and your anxiety at bay.
Exercise not only releases dopamine endorphins to reduce stress and improve mood, it also promotes better sleep and higher energy levels. Make an effort to walk instead of taking public transportation and incorporate exercise such as yoga, pilates and running which can be practiced anywhere without gym equipment. Or, if you are a frequent traveler, some gym memberships offer access around the country. You can also seek out active adventure sports such as hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing.
5. Bring a buddy along
Bring along a close confidante in your travels, be it a family member, significant other or best friend. If it is someone who you feel comfortable and safe with and who is aware of your anxiety, they will be able to help you cope and respect your limits. They will hopefully balance you out and distract you during a panic attack.
6. Slow it down
I tend to cram as much as I can into the limited amount of time I have when traveling and end up feeling really rushed. If you are feeling overwhelmed, focus on quality over quantity of activities. Remember, it’s perfectly okay to slow down and take a break once in awhile - you will feel more calm with relaxation time built in.
8. Avoid your triggers
If you know your anxiety well enough, you are aware of what will set you off. It's different for each person but triggers can be intensified when you are put out of your element in traveling, social events, major life changes, financial worries and more. Alcohol and caffeine almost always makes anxiety worse so avoid them while traveling when possible.
8. “Act” Calm
Practice turning your attention to the present moment and becoming aware of the emotions you are experiencing. Mindfulness is about noticing the sensations and things that are happening to us that typically escape our conscious awareness. This practice can help to reduce our stress levels and deal with our anxiety.
Bringing awareness to your breath can also have a physically calming effect. Start by breathing slowly and purposefully and counting each of your inhales and exhales. Then relax the tension in your body. Also participate in calming activities such as journaling, yoga, guided meditation, listening to music, and walking in nature.
If your anxiety becomes too overwhelming, try to simply allow your emotions to run their course. Panic attacks often heighten within a few minutes and then gradually lessen.
9. Book travel insurance
While not always necessary for shorter domestic trips, travel insurance can give you peace of mind for illness, if plans change, or if flights are canceled. Protecting the vacation could be a lifesaver and reduce unnecessary anxiety.
10. Remember your 'Why'
Ask yourself the question… Why do I travel? Is it to challenge myself? To meet new people? To experience a new culture? To expand my perspective? To get in touch with myself? To escape the mundane day to day? To find fulfillment? As an escape? To relax and rejuvenate?
There is a reason you are stepping yourself out of your comfort zone to see the world and spending hard earned dollars to do so. Remind yourself of that and all of the joy travel brings to your life. This should help ease that anxiety!
We hope these tips come in handy to make it through your next trip with ease. How do you power through anxiety, stress or a bad mood while traveling? Share in the comments below!