Mental illnesses like anxiety disorders often hold us back from living life to its full potential. For many people, traveling is a dream. Who doesn’t want to see the world, explore new arts and cultures, and try native foods?
Anxiety is a naggy voice in our heads that loves to tell us what we can’t do. It creates scenarios in our mind, generating “what-ifs” that make us scared to live our daily lives, let alone venture out of our comfort zone.
Once your own voice overpowers the nagging, anxious one and you decide to take the plunge and travel, well, it’s expected that a little anxiety will kick in. Even people without anxiety often feel anxious when they’ve got a flight approaching.
As a very anxious person who just returned from a month-long Euro-trip, I have a lot of knowledge to share that can help, no matter where you’re traveling to, or for how long. Never in a million years did I think that I could travel successfully without having a nervous breakdown. These tips will help calm your nerves weeks before departure through the day you land back home.
Well before you embark, make a couple lists with different categories of things you’ll need for your trip, like toiletries, clothing, medications, and travel documents. As you pack each thing into your suitcase — and only once it’s physically inside of your suitcase — cross it off your list. That way, you don’t have to frantically recheck your suitcase a bunch of times to make sure it’s in there. All you have to do is consult the list.
When I went on my trip, I packed two weeks prior to takeoff. I made sublists within my clothing list: tops, bottoms, underwear, the whole nine yards. All of my toiletries and travel sized bottles were all ready to go, and it felt so great to be able to focus on other things instead of my luggage when my departure got closer. You don’t have to pack as early as I did, but doing so definitely made me more calm as my departure date arrived.
Call your doctor and make sure you can have your prescriptions filled (if you take medications for anxiety). Let your pharmacy know that you will be traveling and need the pills before your departure date. If you’re traveling within the United States and use a pharmacy chain like CVS, you can usually pick up from a different location. However, this isn’t the case if you’re traveling to another country. Make these arrangements well in advance so you won’t be scrambling right before you leave.
This can cost around $100 (sometimes more, sometimes less), depending on the insurance company you use and the duration of your trip, but it’s a great investment because you can’t put a price on peace of mind. You know Murphy’s Law — anything that can go wrong, will go wrong! So cover yourself just in case. Oftentimes, plans will cover lost or stolen luggage, injuries, and missed flights. While you don’t want to dwell on these terrible things that could happen, you do want to be covered and informed about the options you have if worst comes to worst.
It can be really overwhelming being in a new town, city, or country with so much to do. Do your research before you leave to figure out what the main things you want to do are — but don’t overbook yourself. This will only stress you out. Plus, seeing less will allow you to spend more time at each spot and truly appreciate them. Don’t worry about seeing every single monument and taking the perfect selfie at every one. Also, do some homework on the neighborhoods you’ll be staying in to check for safety, public transportation accessibility, and whatever else is most important to you.
Keep the phone numbers of your emergency contacts handy, and give this list of people a rundown of your itinerary. It may make you feel safer if your loved ones are aware of your whereabouts. If you have a smartphone, you can use the Location Sharing feature so they can see exactly where you are. If you’re in an area where you feel unsafe, this can be great to ease your mind. If, God forbid, something happens, your location can be pinpointed.
It’s way too easy to get caught up in an amazing trip that you forget to take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, since being overtired can definitely contribute to higher anxiety levels. Remember to eat regularly, making time for three meals, just as you would at home. Carry around nuts or a granola bar in your backpack incase you start feeling “hangry.” Also, I know how delicious cappuccinos are in Paris, but try to keep them to one a day. Caffeine is a huge anxiety trigger, especially when taken in excess.
Travel often goes hand in hand with stepping out of your comfort zone, and is a great way to face fears. We all know that the best way to conquer a fear is to face it head on, right? For example, I’m terrified of getting seasick on a boat. But while in Italy on the Amalfi Coast, I absolutely couldn’t pass up a ferry ride to the island of Capri. After we docked, I realized that I had made it out without vomiting, felt totally fine, and was ready for another boat ride. I was so proud of myself!
There you have it. If I can travel, I truly believe that anyone can. Travel can be life changing, and even anxiety-stricken people can experience it — I promise you! Also, let your online therapist know if you’re traveling — they know you and may have some excellent tips for you about managing your anxiety. Follow these tips and before you know it, you’ll be in the air flying away from your worries.
Originally published at www.talkspace.com