Traveling With Anxiety | How I Overcome It With A Few Tricks

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Have you ever had that nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach? That feeling that makes your heart race? That makes you short of breath? A feeling of impending doom, that tells your brain that disaster is coming? Do you experience anxiety while traveling?

Anxiety is no fun, and something that many people struggle with. Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million people in the US every year, according to recent reports.

Generalized anxiety disorder affects 3.1% of the population. That means, if you have a work party with 100 people, 3 of them suffer from significant anxiety. That is actually a pretty big number! About 1 or 2 in 50 people, broken down.

Does this tell you anything? What it tells me is that when I feel anxious, there is help out there. It is so common that it is relatively easy to find resources and support.

A little about me

I suffered from anxiety a little bit in junior high and in college, but it came back with a vengeance about 4 or 5 months ago. There are two things that set it off that I’ve noticed: my children’s bed time, and traveling.

Being anxious about traveling can be debilitating. It feels so unfair, doesn’t it? Looking forward to fun vacations becomes a time of dread instead of joyful anticipation. My specific travel anxiety is triggered by rides in the car that are more than 60 minutes long.

We’re going to Key West for a wedding on Saturday. We decided to fly into Fort Lauderdale to save money, and then drive to Key West. My husband said it was only a couple hours. I said, No worries. I can handle that.

Turns out the drive is close to 4 hours long.

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The funny thing about anxiety is it’s like a super villain in the dark thriller of your mental illness journey. It is surprising. It lies constantly. And it’s completely beatable with the right tools.

What can you do to manage your travel anxiety?

Talk about your anxiety.

    Tell the people you are traveling with about the things that trigger your anxiety. For me, it is long car rides (I have a fear of needing to go to the bathroom and not being able to find a place to stop.) Use the people around you as a support system. In my case, when I travel with my husband, he assures me we will stop somewhere after X amount of time. That really helps.

It really is nothing to be ashamed of. Anxiety is so common. If you bring it up before the trip, chances are, someone else you are traveling with will be able to relate to you. You are so rarely alone.

Be in charge of the planning.

The more you can control about the trip, the easier it will be to keep your anxiety at bay. Maybe it helps you to be the driver vs. being the passenger. Maybe you prefer to be the navigator. (The countdown clock on the GPS helps me!) Whatever the case, re-establishing some amount of control over the situation can help.

Make a list of all the things before you need to do before the trip to prepare. Sometimes the anticipation of the travel is worse than the actual travel itself. Arm yourself with a good check list, and cross things off as best you can.

Take your meds.

This seems like silly advice, but sometimes in the chaos of travel prep, it can be easy to forget to take your meds. Set an alarm on your phone so that you remember. Also, set a reminder to pack them in a part of your travel gear that will be easily accessible. Lots of times, we need to take it while you’re still en route. You don’t want to be forced to forget it because it’s stowed away somewhere you can’t reach it.

If you think you are going to forget to set a reminder for yourself, have a fellow traveler act as accountability partner. Ask them if they would be willing to remind you to take your medication at a certain time.

Bring something distracting.

Whether it’s a book, headphones, books or word puzzles, or whatever the case may be, you need something to distract your brain. Anxiety is, at the risk of oversimplifying, a state of obsession your brain enters. If you can redirect your thoughts to something else, you will find yourself forgetting whatever it was you were obsessing over.

I have been really into true crime podcasts lately. I love The Murder Squad and My Favorite Murder. Let yourself be immersed in an interesting investigation, and try to forget your worries.

Additional resources

The Anxiety and Worry Workbook: The Cognitive Behavioral Solution

Badass Ways to End Anxiety & Stop Panic Attacks!: A counterintuitive approach to recover and regain control of your life

Celokiy Adjustable Lava Bead Stone Anxiety Diffuser Oil diffuesr Bracelet Women with Turquoise – Meditation,Relax,Healing,Aromatherapy

Don’t feel ashamed

Traveling can be so much fun. It is a blast to explore new places, spend time with loved ones, and make lots of memories.

Yes, sometimes I feel anxious when I travel. But you know what? So do a lot of people. There is absolutely no reason I should be ashamed by that, and neither should you!

These tips are just a few ways I am able to travel even when it makes me incredibly anxious. I was able to take a 3 hour car ride alone with my kids this past weekend. That is a huge win for me.

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Follow the tips above and travel with ease. Have any fun travel plans coming up? What are some of your strategies for traveling with anxiety? I would love to hear about them in the comments!

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11 thoughts on “Traveling With Anxiety | How I Overcome It With A Few Tricks”

  1. ashleydenise05

    When we take long car rides, I surprise my kids every hour with a new activity or toy. (Not necessarily new, but something unexpected from home) I put each activity in a brown paper bag so they can’t see them and keep them all in a box that I can reach regularly. It’s made car trips so much easier! Now flying will be a whole new world for me… I have plenty of anxiety about that. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Sometimes every step out the door can be a cause of anxiety. So I try to coach myself and to be prepared for those eventualities that can cause me problems by having a well-organized purse for “contingencies”. It”s an odd question (sorry), but was wondering, but for such car ride situations, would it help you to use one of these products used by people with problems of incontinence. Because then you tell yourself that even in a “worst case” scenario you’d be covered…?

  3. I can can understand your anxiety because I suffer from anxiety/panic attack too. Mine don’t concern traveling but other things. These are incredible tips.

  4. Pingback: Managing Anxiety: A New Journey For Me - Diffusing the Tension

    1. I am the same! It’s such a weird mental battlefield. I’m glad you could relate to it so much. Thanks for reading!

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