Traveling affords us with many benefits and experiences; no matter where you go in the world, you can explore new lands, embrace different cultures, and discover new things about yourself. However, if you suffer from depression or anxiety, traveling—which can improve mental illness when done correctly—is much more difficult to do. In fact, despite the myriad of travel benefits, having anxiety and panic attacks can ignite fear and nervousness in you. If you have anxiety, here are a few tips for traveling and making the most of your adventures:
Be Extra Prepared
Being unprepared in any aspect can stir feelings of anxiousness during your trip, so it’s important that you plan thoroughly. This means not only planning your flight and booking accommodations, but also know how you’ll get from the airport to your hotel, or how you’ll get a new SIM card when you land. These small details prevent you from stressing in foreign lands. Small steps, like downloading a language in Google Translate or arranging necessary transportation ahead of time, help to ensure a smoother journey from start to finish.
Talk to Your Therapist
Today, more Americans are seeking mental health than ever, and you’re not alone. “It’s important to discuss the travel anxiety you are experiencing with a licensed therapist in a safe, caring and encouraging environment,” says the team at the Broward Counseling Center in Coral Springs, Florida. “Our therapists assist clients in developing new skills for coping with stress and challenging situations, identifying and shifting problematic patterns of thinking and behaving, as well as improving relationships.”
Sometimes, your anxiety might be rooted in fear of flying, and other times, there are underlying causes for depression that need long-term treatment. Understanding where your fears and anxiety stem from are key to treating them.
Practice Relaxation Tips
If you’ve already seen a therapist, now is a good time to start practicing breathing relaxation tips. Even if you haven’t made your way to a therapist, there are plenty of online resources to help you learn different tips and tricks that allow you to calm your thoughts and breathing. Simple things, like focusing on music, guided therapy, or a book can help distract you from thoughts that can induce anxiety, particularly while flying.
Whenever you feel stressed, take long, deep breaths and exhale slowly through your mouth; deep, hurried breathing can create the onset of a panic attack. As you learn to breathe, focus on the motion and mechanics of each breath. Attended breathing works for well for anxiety because it reminds you that you are in total control of your body, and can master every breath you take. You are never in danger.
Think Positive Things When You Travel
Far too often, people with anxiety allow their condition to become a crippling barricade that prevents them from doing something they love, like traveling. But when you learn how to manage your anxiety, you can break through barriers that have been blocking you for far too long, and travel and release you from the mental chains.
Start by reminding yourself why you want to travel, and why you chose this particular place to travel. Imagine yourself there, reading a book on a beach or hiking up a mountain; think of how proud you’d feel once you turned the last page or reached the top! Create a mood board built around your trip to remind yourself how happy you are to be in a position to go, and continuously remind yourself that you are stronger than the anxiety you have.
Get Involved in a Community
Being around like-minded people can help guide you through times of anxiety or depression. Fortunately, there are plenty of online and offline groups that suffer from symptoms just like yours, and you can lean on one another for support. If you prefer physically meeting someone, head over to sites like Meetup.com and search for local support groups that focus on anxiety. Otherwise, you can conduct a search for online support groups.
There are also platforms like Reddit with dozens of subreddits that hone in on anxiety, travel, and a combination of these two. These online communities are often very encouraging, and this added dose of support can offer the push you need to take the next step.