Travelling, whether locally or overseas, can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life. However, for many people, experiencing new cultures, navigating unfamiliar cities, relying on strangers and going outside their comfort zone creates feelings of anxiety.
Anxiety is more than feeling stressed or worried. Stress and worry are normal responses to a situation where we feel under pressure, and they usually pass. Anxiety, however, is when these feelings don’t go away. Anxiety is a serious condition that makes it difficult to cope with daily life – especially in travel situations.
According to beyondblue, anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia, with one in four people (one in three women and one in five men) experiencing it at some stage. If you experience anxiety, it’s important to understand that help and support is available.
Here are some useful tips that can help you overcome anxiety while travelling:
Along with booking flights and hotels and planning your sightseeing itinerary, spend some time planning and preparing how you will manage your anxiety. The anticipation of travel can bring on its own set of stress and anxiety, so it’s a great idea to have an idea of how you will cope with your feelings in unfamiliar situations.
Write a list of coping techniques, such as breathing exercises, visualisation and meditation, and practise these before you head off. You could also download some of the free apps that offer coping mechanisms onto your smartphone.
These self-help strategies might be all you need to stay under control on your next trip.
Travel with a buddy
Many people with anxiety find comfort in travelling with a loved one, such as a relative, friend or spouse. Make sure your travel buddy is aware of your fears and anxiety (and knows which of the above techniques will help you in a pinch). This person may be able to assist you to cope with your symptoms and boost your sense of confidence while travelling. In most circumstances, just knowing that somebody else is around for you can be enough to help you stay calm and relaxed.
Remember why you’re travelling
You’ve heard the phrase ‘mind over matter’. Sometimes, distracting yourself is the best way to stop your anxiety in its tracks. When it comes to fighting travel anxiety, focusing on something outside of the stressful moment can help calm you.
Keep asking yourself these questions to distract yourself from your current feelings and foster a sense of excitement for your journey:
- why am I travelling?
- what site or city am I most excited about visiting?
- who’s the first person I want to visit?
- am I going to let this stressful moment get between me and the trip of a lifetime?
Remember to think positively. There is so much to look forward to about travelling and you deserve to enjoy it.
Reach out to a doctor
Before jetting off, discuss your anxiety concerns with a doctor or your mental healthcare provider. They will be able to determine your type of anxiety and what coping methods will be most effective for you, whether that’s self-help techniques or medication.
Living with anxiety can be challenging but it should not prevent you from having a fulfilling life and exploring the beautiful world around you. A little practice and preparation can help you manage your symptoms on your next step, but it’s also important to address your anxiety for your long-term wellbeing.
For further information and support, visit beyondblue.com.au.
Do you have concerns about anxiety? Does travel push those emotions to a whole new level? What coping mechanisms work for you?