A long, long time ago on a YouTube channel that won’t be named, I created a list of tips about how to manage travel induced anxiety. I made it in an adrenaline fueled rush about two hours before I left for my own flight, and honestly it probably could have been done better, but you live and learn…and hopefully forget.
But, in honor of my own flight back east to see family, I figured it might be a good time to rehash the old, and make it new here on #Fearless. In fact, by the time you read this I’ll likely be in South Carolina, enjoying the warm sun and great time with family! I live by these tips, and if I didn’t have them tucked in my metaphorical tool belt, I likely wouldn’t be able to travel at all.
So, without further ado, my tried and true methods for reducing travel anxiety!
- Distraction, distraction, distraction! When I start packing for any trip, my focus is always on my Distraction Bag. This bag houses anything and everything I could possibly need to keep my mind focused on everything but the rising anxiety and panic associated with travel. Usually it includes my laptop, phone, headphones, coloring books, movies/tv shows, my favorite candy, my pillow pet, my favorite essential oil and my Nintendo DS. I also have my husband to keep me distracted, and I find that if I can just really put my mind into an activity, not only does the travel go by faster but my anxiety greatly reduces. Your Distraction Bag can be equipped with the items that best help you, and can be as many or as few things. Just make sure they are travel safe!
- Be comfortable. Nothing makes me more unhappy when traveling than being uncomfortable, and while there’s not much you can do about how cramped a packed plane is or how loud your family is in the car, you can make sure you’re as comfortable as possible despite that. I never ever wear fancy clothes on a plane or when traveling long distances. It’s leggings, a t-shirt and a hoodie, just in case it gets cold. I used to be concerned about weird looks from TSA or bystanders, but now I just realize they’re just looking because they’re jealous. They hate me because they ain’t me, and that’s a-okay in my book. I also always make sure to wear comfy shoes, and if you feel so inclined, pack a blanket and a neck rest. If you’re gonna be uncomfortable, be as comfortable as possible while doing it.
- When in doubt, sleep! As a full fledged adult, I’ve never been able to successfully sleep on a plane, but this is a tip that I think we can all benefit from. Half the anxiety comes from counting down every second your on the plane, train or automobile, so why not expedite the process by sleeping through the bulk of the trip? How you make yourself sleep is none of my business, but as a child I used to stay up all night the day before a trip just to give myself plenty of fuel for my sleepiness. Sometimes it worked, other times it didn’t, but my advice is when in doubt, sleep the trip away!
- Don’t be afraid to stop while traveling. This might be a little more difficult on a plane or a train, because you can’t just walk up to the captain and go, “Yeah, I need to stretch my legs, can we make a stop at the next rest area?” But, you can get up and walk the aisle, get a snack or do something to change your surroundings. If you get particularly antsy in long bouts of car travel, make it a point to stop and reset your mind. When I drive long distances, I struggle a lot with getting bored, and when I get bored I tend to let my mind roam. If you are in a position to get up and move around, do it! Even if it’s just to go get a drink from a rest area vending machine. Sometimes the best thing you can do when anxious is to separate yourself from that situation momentarily, then go back.
- Medicate if necessary. When I was going to be flying for the first time in about 10 years, my therapist asked me if I wanted a pill to help reduce the anxiety for the trip. I told her no, because I needed to do the first trip without it. However, it does raise a very valid method for handling your travel anxiety, and one that should be used if you aren’t confident in your ability to decatastrophize your situation. If you’re very concerned that your anxiety while traveling will get out of hand, ask your therapist or GP for a single prescription for your trip. Not only will this allow you to feel more relaxed, but you might be able to effectively use some rational thought and positive self talk to help you in the future.
- BONUS TIP: Always remember it’s out of your control. Now, this tip is a little more in the psychobabble realm, but it’s one that I put on repeat in my brain when things start to get a little rough. There are times where your situation may be more in control (like if you’re driving yourself somewhere), but most times all the anxiety what ifs are out of your control. For me, my what ifs include: what if the plane crashes? what if i get sick on the plane? what if my seat mate gets sick next to me? In those moments, I just breath and remind myself it’s out of my control. No amount of worrying, stressing or panicking will change that situation, and all I can do is control myself however I can. Use rationalization and positive self talk to boost your confidence, and remember no matter what: you’ll be okay.
- EXTRA BONUS TIP: Don’t watch plane disaster videos before your trip. No seriously, don’t do this. It might seem obvious to not do it, but don’t look up plane crash statistics. Don’t look up crazy airplane landings on YouTube. Don’t watch that new movie that recreated the emergency landing in the river from 9/11. Just don’t. Not that I’d know this from experience or anything… because who would do this? Not me. Duh.
These are just a few of my favorite travel tips, the ones that have worked for me tried and true! Of course, I’m sure there are plenty others, so what do you do when you travel? Let me know your go to anxiety reducer for travel in the comments!
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