Dealing With Anxiety Before You Travel
Heres how to calm your mind, get over your anxiety, and get yourself out on the road:
Remind yourself why you want to travel Whenever you think about canceling your trip, picture yourself in the place you most want to visit and tell yourself that you have to get there and see what its like.
Imagine yourself in that place, living the life youve dreamed, without any anxiety in sight. These positive affirmations will calm you down, and doing it repeatedly helps you grasp the idea that you can successfully travel the world.
Imagine your life a year from now What will happen if you decide to cancel your trip? Its likely that a year from now, youll find yourself thinking, Damn, I had the chance to travel and I didnt take it. It was the fear of living with regrets that forced me to take a chance and leave.
Find a community There are a dozen forums out there for anxiety sufferers my favorite is No More Panic where you can post whenever youre struggling and receive help and support from community members, as well as calming tricks to talk yourself down. Integrate yourself into a community like this before you leave, so that if anxiety does hit you when youre on the road, you wont feel like youre struggling on your own.
Meticulously plan out your first few days Anxiety often stems from feeling like youre not in control, so a way to negate this is to plan out every detail of your first day or two on the road. Some suggestions:
Desensitizing A Puppy To Enjoy Riding In The Car
- Start with the car parked and turned off. Sit next to your dog in the area you plan on having them regularly ride . Give your dog pets, praise, treats whatever they love! Do this for just a few minutes at a time.
- After a few sessions in the same area as your dog, introduce being behind the wheel while your dog is still in their area. You can toss treats back to them and praise them whenever they are quiet and calm. This is a great opportunity for using a stuffed Kong or Toppl to build a positive association with staying calm and being further away from you while in the car.
- After practicing with the car turned off, start to introduce turning the car on. Keep your own energy and attitude neutral while you turn the car on, wait a brief moment, and then turn it back off. The noise can be a little disconcerting at first, so toss a treat right after it happens. Start to increase the amount of time you leave the engine running, all the while making sure your pup is calm and happy with verbal praise and the occasional toss of a treat.
- Start to add in more and more of the car ride process, making sure to reinforce calm behavior with praise and treats throughout. You can simply back out of the driveway before pulling back in or do a quick trip around the block before taking longer and longer trips. Go to lots of fun places with your puppy that they enjoy so they learn that car rides predict awesome things!
Desensitising Method Phase 2
Its time to switch the car on briefly. Wait for ten seconds, then switch the engine off. Give your pup a treat and praise them. Each time extend the length of time that the engine is on.
If at any stage there is a sign of anxiety , turn off the engine, stay calm, give treats and praise them. Go back a step in the training and then try this new level in a slower, less intense way.
Keep building on this drive into the garage, then reverse down the driveway, then go round the block. Dont make the first long trip to a vet!
With lots of positive things to excite and uplift the car experience, your Rover will one day be a road trip rockstar!
Click here to read about our top ten picks for the best anxiety dog medication.
Also Check: How To Help A 5 Year Old With Separation Anxiety
Overcoming Anxiety In Travel
Have we felt anxiety in our travels? Sure, we still do, but with proper preparation, information and taking the time to plan, we end up having an extraordinary experience that always makes our lives richer and better.
I would hate to let fear and anxiety keep me from my full potential. And we have found that when we do face those fears, we realize that they werent so bad after all.
Mental health is important and we have found that a change of scenery, being active and sparking new interests can help keep anxiety at bay. For us, travel has helped our mental health over the years keeping a positive energy and outlook on life.
This post is sponsored by Allianz Global Assistance I am a brand ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance and receive financial compensation.
Travel Planning Resources
Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.
Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner
Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO.
Travel Insurance: Don’t leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:
- World Nomads – Digital Nomads or Frequent Travelers.
- Allianz – Occasional Travelers.
- Medjet – Global air medical transport and travel security.
Travel Anxiety Treatment Options
Generally speaking, one of the best ways to treat anxiety of any kind is with a combination of therapies.
Normally, medication alongside therapeutic practices is the most effective way to control your anxiety disorder.
The go-to medications for anxiety are actually antidepressants these medications are effective for anxiety because they help regulate brain chemical imbalances that contribute to mood disorders.
Commonly, you might be prescribed a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, but mental health professionals also see success with serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors for anxiety, because they regulate both norepinephrine and serotonin.
While medication is an effective long-term anxiety management strategy, the fact is that youre not going to be able to pop a pill before a flight to solve problems.
There are indeed some medications that may accomplish this task, but long-term mental illness treatment is about long-term solutions you want to be ready for all flights, not just one.
Medication may help you in the long term, but so may coping with anxiety through therapeutic practices. Anxiety disorders generally respond well to techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy , which essentially helps you take back control of your brain by learning to recognize and regulate unhealthy patterns of thought, such as anxiety spirals.
Also Check: What Chemical In The Brain Causes Anxiety
Plan For Certain Scenarios
Pre-travel anxiety most often stems from the what if aspect of traveling. While no one can plan for every possible worst-case scenario, its possible to have a battle plan for some of the more common ones, such as:
- What if I run out of money? I can always contact a relative or friend. I can bring a credit card for emergencies.
- What if I get lost? I can keep a paper map or guide book and my phone with me.
- What if I get sick while on the trip? I can purchase travel health insurance before I leave or be sure my insurance will cover me. Most insurance policies include access to a list of healthcare providers in different areas of the country or the world.
Tips For Easing Travel Anxiety
As memorable and exciting as travel can be, it may also sometimes feel like an anxiety-inducing experience. For some, itâs the unpredictability of their destination that brings about anxious thoughts. For others, itâs having to sit through the flight that will take them there. In any case, itâs difficult to fully enjoy all the marvels of a new place if the mind isnât exactly at ease.
While not considered to be an official type of anxiety disorder, travel anxiety describes an intense feeling of anxiousness surrounding the many variables involved in taking a trip. Before COVID-19, an estimated 40% of the population reportedly experienced travel or flight anxiety in some capacity. In the aftermath of the global pandemic, many are stepping back out into the world while also figuring out how to manage these anxious feelings for the first time.
Whether travel anxiety is a new experience or an old foe, understanding how to mindfully manage it can help us get the most out of our next trip, whenever and wherever it might be.
Read Also: How Bad Can Separation Anxiety Get
How To Manage Travel Anxiety During Your Trip
Weâve arrived at the destination safe and sound. But now we need to navigate a new place and perhaps even a different culture or language. These unpredictable and uncontrollable elements of travel are often what sets vacation anxiety ablaze. For those who tend to struggle with these factors, consider bringing certain elements of a daily routine on vacation. Studies have shown that the predictability and control of a regular routine can significantly help to manage stress and bring about a sense of calm.
This doesnât necessarily mean thereâs no room for spontaneity or exploration while on a trip. These travel-sized snippets of a daily ritual might be something as simple as having a cup of coffee in the morning or taking some time to read before bed, just like at home. It only takes a little bit of familiarity to anchor and settle the mind.
Additionally, those mindfulness techniques that helped us feel calm throughout the flight can also be used anytime during a trip. Whenever weâre beginning to feel anxious or overwhelmed, we might look for a quiet place to take ourselves through a brief deep-breathing exercise or a few minutes of guided imagery. With this quick timeout, weâll reset the mind and body so that we can get back to enjoying our time away.
Counter Conditioning Your Anxious Dog To Feel Better About The Car
You’ll notice that the following counter conditioning steps are very similar to the desensitization steps outlined in the process above. The biggest difference is that your dog already has a negative association with being in the car versus a puppy who hasn’t built any associations when you start introducing them to the car. For this reason, you want to focus on rewarding your dog’s choice to move towards the car in these steps.
Don’t try to lure with a toy or treat or force them closer with leash pressure. Their confidence around the car will grow if they are given the choice to approach or get in the car, and that choice is rewarded with things they love. The more a choice is rewarded, the more they will choose to make it. Patience is key!
Counter conditioning can take longer than desensitization, and you’ll want to work in smaller steps and at a slower progression through the steps! You should also talk to your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist early on to figure out which supplements or medications will help your dog remain as calm as possible.
A certified dog trainer can also help you manage this behavior modification process by showing you what stress signals to watch out for and helping you plan out your dog’s program step-by-step. A trainer can provide support and encouragement while you build up the patience required for counter conditioning behavior modification.
Recommended Reading: How To Control Anxiety Panic Attacks
Why Travel Anxiety Is Different Than Normal Anxiety
So whats the difference? Well, its complicated.
Travel anxiety is really just a specific version of a situational form of anxiety. Generalized anxiety, for instance, is typically not triggered by any one thing, whereas anxiety from traveling may be triggered by fears of separation, phobias of plane crashes or recurring panic attacks at TSA screening.
Plenty of things can cause travel anxiety you may have mild or severe panic triggered by the idea of flying or being away from home for too long.
You may be anxious about being in a strange place or surrounded by many strange people.
Keep in mind that some of these traits may also carry links to agoraphobia and other phobias, and likewise may also be signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD a mental health professional will be able to help you make distinctions if you suspect there may be more at play here.
Travel anxiety is also more easily managed with preparation. A person who knows they get anxious when they travel can limit the effects of their anxiety by doing things to protect themselves from an attack.
These things might include creating a battle plan by going over your itinerary multiple times to check for errors or getting to the airport early enough to allow plenty of time for delays.
They may also include making sure you understand the mental health resources available while in transit, as well as in the location of your destination, which may have different cultural norms and medications.
Turning My Travel Anxiety Into A Positive
Writing about my anxiety on my travel blog was the best thing I ever did. Until that point, Id hidden it from my writing, because no other bloggers were discussing mental health issues in public. I was afraid that people would judge me if I wrote about the panic attacks Id had around the world almost as if it was a sign that I was a bad traveler or I wasnt making the most of my opportunities.
Instead, the opposite happened. People related to my article and shared with me their personal stories of traveling with anxiety. Ive received hundreds of emails from those who have an anxiety disorder but decided to travel the world anyway , and Ive received hundreds more from people who dream of traveling but are too nervous to take the plunge.
My story of how my travel misadventures helped me overcome anxiety even caught the attention of a major publisher. My book, How Not to Travel the World, is about getting out of your comfort zone no matter how many panic attacks life throws at you. Its about dealing with unfavorable situations, learning to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and falling in love with life on the road.
Five years ago, I sat home and tentatively planned out an itinerary for my dream trip around the world. I didnt ever really think Id be able to work up the courage to leave.
I was so scared to travel.
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