As someone who’s fought against general anxiety throughout my whole life, I can definitely relate to the angst that comes when my travel anxiety gets in the way of my dreams.
I love travelling, but a lot of the time the process can be very stressful and can trigger my anxiety, and before I know it my brain starts playing the “what-if” game, picturing the worst scenarios.
While I’m at a point where my anxiety doesn’t hinder me too much day to day thanks to some of these tips I’ve learned over the years, it’s still something I always need to be aware of.
For anyone else who experiences anxiety and deals with it extensively while they’re travelling, or are too scared to travel in the first place, give these tricks a try and don’t let it hold you back.
I’ll go over some general tips that have helped me to keep my anxiety at bay, and then an extensive guide on suppressing travel anxiety while flying.
General Travel Anxiety Tips
Anxiety sufferers already know, lavender is your best friend! Whether you choose to diffuse it or place a couple drops on your wrists, it’s very calming. I love using a lavender linen spray on my bedding and some of my clothing when I’m feeling especially anxious.
This one is great because it’s small enough to take through security and onto the plane with you!
As I mentioned before, my anxiety reaches its peak when I’m spun in an endless cycle of asking, “what if?” and picturing the worst scenarios possible. “What if I miss my flight? What if they lose my luggage?”
When travelling, it always helps to be ready for anything as you’re planning and getting everything sorted out before leaving. Think of practical solutions for your worries before you go.
Have a hard copy of everything, from your rental car reservation to visa information, just keep it all on you so you know that you have your bases covered in case something does go wrong.
Take the extra step and invest in getting travel insurance for your trip. That will ease so much worry and stress! That way, if there’s a flight cancelled or items lost you know you’re covered. It’s worth spending a little extra money for that peace of mind.
Make sure your carry on bag has everything! Think chargers, battery packs, books and anything else that you find comforting and calming. I’ve mentioned in the past a list of my Carry on Essentials for long flights.
If you have an early morning flight, get to sleep early and make sure you have everything you’ll need that morning laid out for you. Set multiple alarms on different devices, go the extra mile so you can sleep well without worrying that you’ll forget something. Keep a notepad next to your bed so you can jot down anything else you think of that needs to be done in the morning.
Count Your Blessings
If you’re feeling a panic attack or wave of anxiety coming on, a distraction (that’s also a great habit to start) is to count your blessings.
I like to do this by praying and thanking God for everything and I mean everything. If I’m in a room, I’ll list off everything in the room. Blanket, sheet, pillow, pillowcase, etc.
Getting a gratitude journal that you can bring along with you as you travel is a great way to keep yourself occupied and redirect your brain in those moments of angst.
This is just one of many different mind games you can play to distract your brain from whatever thing it’s fixated on worrying about. Focusing on taking deep breaths that fill your lungs with as much oxygen as possible is also a trick I like a lot.
If you’ve noticed your anxiety is triggered while flying, you’re not alone. Many people experience this while flying, whether they normally suffer from anxiety or not.
As for myself, I’ve noticed it totally depends. Half the time I’m totally zen and relaxed while flying, and the other half I’m shaking in my seat like a little chihuahua.
That said, here are some steps that I’ve taken when I’m in the chihuahua zone that has helped to calm me down and enjoy flights.
Making your seat a cozy place can make a world of difference, especially if you’re on a long-haul flight. Aim for a window seat, and bring a nice pillow from home to rest against the wall next to you.
If you struggle with claustrophobia, I suggest spending the extra money for an emergency exit row. It’s definitely worth it!
Wearing comfortable clothing that doesn’t restrict your breathing will also help so much. Forget wearing tight jeans, think about clothes that are breathable, and on the looser side. Pack along some fuzzy socks to help your circulation.
I’ve mentioned in a previous post that my go-to outfit when on a long haul flight looks like leggings, and a breathable loose tee with a comfortable, wire-free bra underneath. Finding clothes that you can take deep full breaths in is crucial.
Have you ever noticed that after drinking coffee, you get a little bit jittery from the caffeine and sugar? Me too, which is why many people with anxiety (myself included) avoid drinking too much coffee, and even soft drinks.
When the drink carts start making their rounds, avoid getting something loaded with caffeine and sugar. See if they have any decaf teas (chamomile and mint are especially calming) or just plain water is a great option as well.
If my travel anxiety is to the point where I’m nauseated, this is the rare time I’ll opt for a soft drink, like Sprite or Ginger Ale to sooth my stomach.
Bumps in the Road
If you get travel anxiety during turbulence in flight, it has really helped me is to pretend I’m in a car rather than in a plane.
First of all, find a distraction. Either watch a show or movie or listen to soothing music with your eyes shut. Whenever you feel those bumps that make your stomach drop, tell yourself you’re in a car driving on a bumpy road. Closing your eyes and visualizing the road really helps as well. Keep picturing it until you believe it, or until the bumps subside.
Having a friend or family member travelling with you can make a world of difference. I suggest someone who is a generally calm person, and who has lots of travel experience. Tell your buddy beforehand about your nerves so they can be prepared to help.
Choose What You Watch Wisely
If you have in-flight entertainment or some shows and movies on your phone or tablet, be selective about what you watch. I’ve noticed watching action-thriller movies make me very tense and on edge, so watching them when I’m in a vulnerable state is not a good idea. Picking fluffy kids movies, rom-coms, or sitcoms are usually my go-to! They’re relaxing to watch and generally make you feel warm and fuzzy rather than on the edge of your seat.
Whenever I have those panicky moments on long-haul flights where it feels like it’s never going to end, I remember my end goal.
I’ve done a lot of long-haul flights on my own between Canada and Australia over the past couple years after meeting my Aussie husband! On the occasion that I suddenly felt anxious looking out the window and seeing nothing but the vast Pacific Ocean for 14+ hours, I needed to remember the end goal.
Reminding myself that at the end of the flight I would be reunited with my husband kept it in perspective. Focus on how excited you are for your trip! Think about the friends or family you’re visiting on the other end and how exciting it’ll be to reunite with them. Daydream about the excursions and sights you want to see.
So, although travelling can feel scary at times, I hope this post reminds you that there are always solutions you can try out to conquer your fears and travel anxiety.
Do you have any tricks that help you with your travel anxiety? We would love to hear them in the comments below!
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