Travelling can be amazing, but while many of us look forward to our next vacation, travel anxiety is very real. Travelling is a big departure from your normal routine and takes you away from your safe spaces so it can be a big anxiety trigger. Whether you struggle with anxiety about forgetting something important at home (like your passport), the flight itself, or being a new place that is outside your comfort zone these tips should help! We want to make sure you feel comfortable getting out there and exploring this amazing diverse world we live in!
1. Plan, make lists, and plan some more.
Spontaneity is great but when you have anxiety try and keep it limited to finding a new restaurant or cute store along the way. Make sure you book your accommodations and have your plans set for how you will get there well beforehand. Also try and book some activities so you don't stress about them later. It is worth it to pay a little extra to avoid anxiety that will interrupt your enjoyment of the trip. When it comes to packing, make a list and stick to it, go through everything you may need and then cut it down from there. Here is a great list to work off of and customize to suit your needs! Another helpful tip is to do lots of research before you plan, this will help prevent any anxiety about your choices!
2. Try mini-trips before you take on the world!
If you have dealt with travel anxiety in the past but you want to take a big trip to somewhere new it can be helpful to build yourself up to it. Try taking a few short trips on your own before venturing out and exploring places far from home. For example, try a day trip that is a drivable distance from where you live, this will leave you in control of your time. Positive travel experiences can help build up your confidence and reduce anxiety around travelling.
3. Rationalize your negative thoughts.
This practice comes straight from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), an evidence based form of therapy that TranQool therapists practice. One common exercise from CBT is creating a thought diary. It can take as little as 5 minutes and helps you to rationalize some of your anxious or negative thoughts. In short, a thought diary involves writing down your thoughts and focusing on the trigger and how rational it really is. There are some templates in the homework section of your TranQool account, if you don't already have one, it is free to sign up. Go through each anxious or negative thought you are having about the trip and critically challenge it. It is important to question yourself and search for evidence that contradicts that thought. For example if you are anxious that something will happen that will cause you to miss your flight, think about past flights and whether you missed them. You can also think about strategies to ensure that the negative scenario doesn't occur, like leaving your house extra early.
4. Be well equipped.
By well equipped I don't mean with packing. You must equip yourself with coping skills so if you do face a challenging situation you can handle it and move forward. Developing skills to handle when your anxiety reaches crisis mode will ensure one incident doesn't cloud your whole trip. Learn new breathing exercises, or start practicing mindfulness before you go so it is already a habit.
5. Allow for some flexibility
As prepared as you are, you have to accept the fact that sometimes things don't go as planned. Leave some room for flexibility in your plans. Focus on planning the big things as opposed to the little ones. If you don't accept that there is some uncertainty in the world (both when you travel and when you are at home) then you won't be able to handle it when your plans change. One of the great things about travelling is that you get to experience things you wouldn't at home. Try and remind yourself that the small changes to the plan are simply an opportunity to experience something amazing. Even small mishaps make for the best stories!