How to travel as a highly anxious person

 

As a highly anxious person myself, I can understand how a trip and staying in an unfamiliar place can trigger anxiety, even if you love travelling with all your (fast beating) heart. So here are some suggestions I have found work to ease that anxious inner voice and enjoy your trip to the maximum.

To start with, don’t expect perfection.

We all need peace; hoping to not get anxious at your trip is human and understandable, but actually expecting to not feel stressed at any point is setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead it would be more useful to have this mindset: if stress happens, it’s fine. You can handle it. Even if you have a panic attach or totally lose control, don’t cling to that and lament your trip as if it was already ruined. Pick it up from there and go on like the strong person you are.

Plan ahead.

If you are on medication, make sure you pack enough of it and take your prescription with you. Gently pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is the key to all change and happiness, but don’t push yourself too hard. Maybe try stressful things near home first, and only then on vacation. If you have nevertheless planned an activity that is likely to make you anxious, maybe take a friend or make sure there will be people around if you need them. Don’t forget your cell phone and don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Be mindful.

Travelling is excellent for this, because there is so much new information to absorb. Focusing on your senses will relieve anxiety and give you joy. What smells are there in this new place? What colors? What sounds? I even like to feel the texture of things as I walk. The leaves of a tree, or a wall.

Don’t take that judgmental voice inside your head too seriously.

Think of it as a child throwing a tantrum, trying to beat you up because they feel threatened and afraid. Tell the child it’s okay, you’re there and you will take care of everything. Tell her you are in charge, you are strong and have survived literally everything life has thrown at you so far. Ask your inner child what’s wrong.

Be aware of the negative thoughts that might cause your feelings.

What is it that you are thinking? What is it that you are afraid? Take a step back from it and imagine watching your problem high up from a mountain. Ask yourself, is it really your problem? Don’t take up on problems that are not yours. Was someone rude to you? Set your boundaries, but know that it is their issue. Are you shy and anxious of talking to people or walking to a shop without buying something? Keep in mind that it might be the sellers’ job that you buy something, but it is not yours. It’s not your job to over-analyze how every single question of yours will be perceived either. Be reasonably kind and that’s all there is to your part.

If you feel stressed or are having a panic attack, don’t panic over the panic attack.

This may sound like an oxymoron, but I promise you it’s achievable. Repeat mantras that calm you down. Here is a list of my favorites:

Feelings come and go like clouds in the sky (nothing in life is permanent. The sun goes up, and it goes down, every single day).

I am fresh as the dew, solid as a mountain, firm as the earth (I like to throw something funny in there, like I am funny like a monkey. Hey, it works for me. You might even make yourself smile and wouldn’t that be wonderful?).

Remind yourself how many difficulties you have survived, and don’t try to obsessively solve every single problem right there, right then. I often do this, but then remind myself that I can look at this at another time with a clear mind, and stress will actually hinder finding a solution and making a good decision.

Look at the stars, or picture them in your mind.

It vastly calms me, even in my worst moments, to look at the stars or the sea. I ask myself, does this problem that makes me so anxious matter to the vast universe even one tiny bit? Will it even matter to my future self 30 years from now?

Don’t beat yourself up and don’t feel guilty because others witnessed you panicking or crying.

I remember back when I worked as a flight attendant, a woman had a panic attack and collapsed on me. She later apologized so many times and in such a way that you could tell she was very ashamed of what had happened. If you do that too, maybe you need to hear this. When I assured her it was nothing, I really meant it. I didn’t think badly of her, or pity her. I didn’t think anything of it, and I just did what my job required and what I could humanly do to help. And if someone did have a problem with a fellow human being suffering too close to them, well, as I said before, that is their own problem.

Like Dalai Lama once said, people are too serious, all the time.

Don’t take life too seriously. It is not meant to be lived that way. Learn to flow with it like a content little fish, and have faith that you will eventually learn to surf.

Disclaimer: Ι am not a mental health professional. I give advice based on personal experience. It will not work for everyone and does not replace professional therapy. If you are battling with panic attacks or depression, please consult with a professional.

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