Travel anxiety is often viewed as the fear of flying, but it is much bigger than one aspect. Some not only develop travel anxiety about the “getting there” but also about being on the trip itself. Being in a new and unfamiliar place can be anxiety inducing as well. Unfortunately, this fact often inhibits people’s ability to visit and enjoy new places, thereby, making vacations nearly impossible. While travel anxiety, and anxiety in general, is much more complicated than “overcoming your fears” there are some helpful tips that just might work.
Tips to Reduce Travel Anxiety
One of the most highly recommended tips is planning. Anxiety around travel is often the fear of the unknown and all of the “what-ifs,” and one of the best ways to combat that fear is creating an outline. If you try to think of all the possible scenarios that make you anxious and layout how you plan on handling it it can help reduce your anxiety. Knowing where to be and when can help take away the fear of not knowing what comes next.
Another great tip is giving yourself extratime. Traveling is already a stressful activity so giving yourself an ample amount of time to prepare and get what you need done is another an anxiety reducer. Most people with anxiety know that you sometimes need time to mentally prepare yourself for a possibly anxious situation. Arriving early gives you time to relax before your activity or flight and just knowing you have time to handle any possible mishaps helps.
Setting realistic expectations is another great way to reduce travel anxiety. This could be anything from expecting there to be traffic to expecting turbulence. This does not mean you should expect the worst. In fact, you want to try and remain positive-- every anxious person's favorite line. It is about balance so you shouldn’t expect everything to go smoothly but if things do go wrong you should try to look on the bright side (e.g. you are still going on a much-needed trip).
Another tip that goes hand-in-hand with setting expectations is fact-checking your intrusive thoughts. You want to mentally prepare yourself for worst-case scenarios but nothing completely absurd. Expecting some light turbulence for a long flight makes some sense, but expecting a Snakes on the Plane scenario is not realistic. So, when you have a crazy/unrealistic intrusive thought try to fact-check yourself by asking, “Is this true? Can this even happen?”
There is also a list of smaller things to help reduce your travel anxiety. Some tips include meditation, breathing techniques, and distractions. Each of these things can help you when faced with a stressful situation. If you are feeling nervous when flying or stressed out when waiting in a long line try to take slow and deep breaths. Techniques like these are often more effective when practiced beforehand, and thankfully there are some helpful apps for that. Distractions are probably the most used tool, but effective. If you are in an anxious situation like flying or driving, try playing a game on your phone, reading, or watching a show/movie. This technique actually tricks your mind into thinking you are no longer in a dangerous situation. According to an article by Travel and Leisure, if you act like you are not in a dangerous situation then you can trick your mind into thinking the same, thereby reducing your anxiety. They state that you wouldn’t watch a movie if the plane was crashing, so by doing just that you are challenging the emotional part of your brain.
Distractions are similar to another tip often shared which is to fake it til you make it. If you act like you are anxious then you will be anxious, so by doing and saying things you normally wouldn’t if you were anxious you can trick yourself into not being anxious.
Sometimes having a community of supporters who understand your situation can help. Thankfully, there are online forums for people who have travel anxiety or just general anxiety.
Along with these online sources there are some apps that can help reduce anxiety when traveling. They range from reassuring you with facts about your flight to anxiety distractions.
SOAR is an app that breaks down the process of flying, and allows you to download a step-by-step guide that takes you through the entire flight.
Headspace provides assistance to anyone with a mental health issue for free.
SkyGuru is an app that is great for anyone with a fear of turbulence. The app provides weather and turbulence forecasts for your flight which can help you mentally prepare for whatever is to come.
Calm is a sleep, meditation, and relaxation app that aids in reducing anxiety.
Colorfy is great for distractions and is a digital adult coloring book.
It is extremely important to note these tips and tricks may not work for you, and that is okay. These just so happen to be small things that work for certain people with anxiety related to travel. For some, medication is the best option, however, you cannot know unless you consult a doctor. If you are able to manage your anxiety without medication that is wonderful, but there is no one way to handle anxiety, and the best advice you can receive is likely to come from a doctor. So, if you are suffering from anxiety and need help please consult a doctor.
Rayleen is currently a student studying Journalism at Cal State University, Northridge. Her passion lies with social issues, using writing as a medium to contribute and learn more about what communities are facing.