Anxieties about travel are one of the most common problems I deal with.
Just the thought of traveling can bring on symptoms of anxiety, such as heart palpitations, stomach upset or diarrhea, restlessness, shakiness or sweating.
What Triggers Travel Anxiety
You can learn to manage your reactions more effectively when you can identify and recognize your specific triggers. Some common triggers for travel anxiety include:
- Worry about leaving home/being away from home
- Fear of the unknown/unfamiliar places
- Worry about being injured or ill when away from home
- Fears relating to car travel
- Fear of not being able to leave once you get somewhere
- Feeling like things are out of your control
- Not knowing what to expect
- Fear you won’t be able to handle unexpected situations that may arise
- Fears relating to airplane travel
- Upset about loss of usual routines and schedules
- Fears about possible bad things that could happen (“what if’s”)
- Discomfort in closed in places like cars, trains or planes
Getting Over Travel Anxiety
It is very possible to get over the specific fears and worries you may have about travel!
The best long-term solution for this is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help you understand your specific triggers and gradually change your response to the triggers.
Through this process, you can also learn numerous body-mind techniques that can help you immediately reduce or eliminate anxiety symptoms if they start to occur.
I have worked with many people who have stopped dreading travel and even starting looking forward to it.
What You Can Do on Your Own
Here are a few tips you can use before, during, and after a trip to help reduce anxiety:
It can help to talk about an upcoming trip with friends. Discuss the itinerary ahead of time, especially focusing on things you are looking forward to. This can help prepare you for what to expect, and therefore ease your mind. By the time you arrive, your itinerary will be more familiar, allowing a sense of greater control.
Take your time preparing and packing. It’s important to stay relaxed and not feel rushed. Create a packing list well ahead of time, then check it off as you pack things. If you are worried about leaving home, take extra time to walk through the house before you leave, seeing how things are safe and secure.
Allow extra time as you prepare to leave. Be packed and ready to go well before it’s time to leave the house. Plan to arrive at the airport or train station early. Allow extra time in case of traffic delays. Feeling rushed can lead to feeling out of control which can cause anxiety to spike.
Occupy your travel time with relaxation and/or distraction.
Be sure to have readily available plenty of things that help you relax, such as soothing music, relaxation CDs, or a good book. You can practice anxiety-reducing belly breathing anytime, anywhere (see my Ebook for instructions).
Distract yourself with handheld games, crossword puzzles, or by making small talk with others. Ask questions of other people, as listening to their answers can help keep your mind off your own concerns. A nap is a good way to pass travel time if you’re able – bring ear plugs and an eye mask.
Don’t rush around during your trip. Trying to do it all can increase anxiety. Always allow plenty of time to fit in activities, allow for travel time between places, and enjoy leisurely meals. Plan for 8 hours of sleep to feel better prepared for each day.
Do your best to focus on one day at a time during the trip… don’t “pre-worry” about the return trip. Make sure you have time to pack for the return, reconfirm travel arrangements, and plan your time so the departure is not rushed.