Tips for Travelling with Anxiety
For many people, the idea of travelling brings about feelings of excitement and joy just thinking about the amazing destinations and experiences available around the world.
However, if you struggle with anxiety, just the idea of going abroad can cause overhelming thoughts of panic and worry. Just thinking about possible scenarios or contemplating what could go wrong can trigger anxiety attacks.
Adam Mccabe from the UK suffers from anxiety but hasn't let this stop him exploring the world. In this article Adam shares his experience and advice which will help if you have issues with anxiety but are keen to travel.
Travelling Solo With Anxiety
If you had asked me about travelling solo before my first trip, my answer would have been along the lines of “no way could I ever do that”. I suffer with anxiety and just the thought of travelling on my own was daunting.
However after that first time away alone my eyes were opened to the beauty of travelling solo, it broadened my horizons and I grew immensely as a person. So to aid you in your adventures here are some tips and mindsets I have picked up on which have really helped me when overseas.
1. Stay Calm
In a situation you may be feeling particularly anxious or not enjoying, just remind yourself - in a few hours time this will be a distant memory. This is just a brief moment in your life and it along with your bout of anxiety will pass and you will go on enjoying your trip.
2. Prepare In-advance
Months/weeks ahead of your departure date, start getting ready for your trip. Decide where you would like to go and view websites, blogs and YouTube videos to get information about your destination. Finding out as much as possible beforehand will really help make you feel more comfortable when you arrive.
Try to consider how much time you have available and how long you feel comfortable being away for. If you are not keen to travel solo, ask friends or family if they would like to go. Organised group tours are also available which are very structured.
If you take any medication for anxiety, make sure you have enough for the duration of your trip. You might also want to discuss your trip with your GP to see if they have any advice.
3. Managing Airports
For me I love travel but hate airports, and I often feel anxious while in the terminal before departure. I would recommend planning ahead, checking the correct terminal and departure gates, getting yourself familiar with your surrounds and also arriving early.
4. Choose an Aisle Seat
Pick an isle seat if possible, there is nothing worse than needing to get up on a flight and the anxiety of having to bother or even wake up the people next to you. This took me a few trips to start doing. I would just take an assigned seat and wish for the best.
However after getting the window seat a few times I knew as soon as I was boxed in by fellow passengers I would immediately need the toilet, after asking to get out several times I would no longer feel comfortable asking them to move again and would then be in for an uncomfortable trip.
I now pay the extra to choose an aisle seat and can get up whenever I feel like without having to bother the people next to me.
5. Try Not to be too Self-Conscious
When you feel someone is looking or judging you, don't accept your first thought as the reason as to why. Think what other reasons they could be looking at you or in your general direction. Anxiety will make you jump to the worst case scenario, take a second and think of the other reasons. I would do this a lot while walking around and about whilst away. A simple glance would send me into a anxious spin, but now I take a second to think of why they might be looking. After a second or two I realise I was probably jumping to the worst conclusion.
6. Managing Crowds
If you want to visit a famous site or point of interest, you will undoubtedly encounter crowds. This can be daunting. But just remember these people are there to see the site and not you. You may feel uncomfortable but people are probably paying very little attention to yourself. Try to focus on what you have gone to see and not the sea of people around you.
I hate crowds and my anxiety is amplified in them, I feel everyone's eyes burning into me even though in reality they probably aren't. By keeping this thought process in mind those busy sites are that bit more bearable. Another recommendation is to visit early in the morning or late evening as crowds are generaly lower than in afternoons.
7. When Eating Out
When dining out alone the urge to hide away in a corner or have your back to the room can be strong. But fight this urge and sit facing into the room, I see it as a power move. You look more conspicuous hidden away and are shutting yourself off to pleasantries and conversations with other diners.
You may feel out of place the first few times but it does get easier. Since doing this I've had many pleasant interactions with other diners. By not having my back to the room I am opening myself up and becoming more accessible which will make people much more receptive to me.
8. Allow Yourself to Feel Anxious
I know it sounds an odd one but hear me out. It's easy to berate yourself for feeling anxious, especially when trying to enjoy a trip. But this is just creating your secondary suffering, allow yourself to feel your anxiety for a moment and understand why you are feeling it. Accept that its happening but that you're not going to let it dictate your trip.
When I feel anxious I used to think I was doing something wrong and that I shouldn't be feeling like this, this thought process however just makes me feel worse and intensifies my anxiety. By accepting my feelings and trying to understand how to alleviate some of the pressures I find it much more tolerable and I am able to continue enjoying my trip.
9. Don't Be Afraid of Other Travellers
I used to get very anxious and embarrassed when asked who I was with, I didn't like to say I'm travelling solo.
What I have found over the years though is that most people envy that you are doing it and often wish they could themselves. The positive comments I've received far out way the very few negative ones. Remember, most people you meet overseas, both travellers and locals will be friendly.
Also if you have chronic social anxiety and don't have the money for a psychiatrist and medication, you could look into how CBD can help you.
10. Do Activities
When travelling, having some activities and things organised can help you to get some routine, keep your mind busy and help reduce anxiety.
Try to do some physical exercise everyday, this is known to release endorphins, which have positive effects on the body. You could go for walks, book trips, try something rewarding like volunteering or or book group experiences.
Another option is to practise mindfulness, yoga or meditation. This can really help to keep anxiety under control and can be done solo, or as part of a structured group class.
11. Keep in Touch
Try to keep in regular contact with your friends and family, just knowing a familiar person is there can really help when in a foreign environment. Keeping in touch is quite easy now with messaging services and free WiFi around the world so you will never be too far from someone familiar.
12. Get Help Online
If your anxiety is keeping you from enjoying life and your travels there are online therapists that can work with you from anywhere in the world.
These are just a few things I've picked up on my travels and I continually battle to find ways to overcome my anxiety and get the most out of my travels. Hopefully my tips will help you realise that even if you do have issues with anxiety, you really shouldn't let it stop you from travelling.
If you would like to share your experience or if you have any recommendations for how to keep anxiety under control when travelling, leave feedback in the comments section below.