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Traveling with Anxiety

Traveling on it’s own can be –while exciting- a daunting experience. When you pair this with crippling anxiety, it can really deflate any excitement and fun you might be feeling for your upcoming trip.

Anxiety feels different for people, depending on who you ask. I have recently been able to pinpoint exactly how I feel when I’m dealing with it. Remember the scene in the movie Titanic near the end, Jack is handcuffed to a pipe in a room that is quickly filling with water? This is how I can accurately describe my experience with anxiety.
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I can’t actually explain why I get anxiety though. I love traveling, I love flying, I love (most) airports. I am comfortable in airports and on airplanes. All I know, is on the way to the airport, I panic. I live 10 minutes from the airport, so my Mom always drives me, but I never let her come in with me. I prefer to get going quickly as possible because the sooner the bags are checked and I’m through security, the sooner I can try to relax. Maybe my anxiety is the thought of leaving my comfort zone.

When I am traveling, waiting around the gate and looking at the stores is fun. I enjoy stopping somewhere to get a meal and a coffee while I people watch. Below the surface my anxiety is bubbling. It hinders my excitement, and it’s not fair. It’s as if my excitement is being taken away from me. Once I’m on the plane, my anxiety begins to subside. I enjoy the flight, and don’t suffer much more for the rest of the trip.

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I’ve always had anxiety, I just didn’t know what it was. I thought I was just shy and that was that. It turns out however, I am anxious and an introvert, which is ironic because I am highly social and love to explore the world beyond my comfort zone.

My anxiety seems to get worse, with the older I get. This causes me to worry about my future. I want to make traveling my career, and it makes me worry that it will hold me back from being able to live out my dreams.
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If you too are dealing with anxiety, especially while traveling, here are five tips that I find to be helpful when it comes to staying calm.

  1. Drink Water. I find that when I slowly sip on water, it helps my nerves to calm down and it helps everything in my mind and body feel less overwhelmed. Also, keeping hydrated is always a good thing!
  2. Eat. I find that it’s helpful to keep a full stomach when you’re feeling anxiety. One situation I had was on the bus home from college one day. I was hit was so much anxiety out of no where, I was sure I was going to end up having to run off the bus for air. I ended up eating a granola bar, and it helped tremendously. So make sure your body is getting what it needs.
  3. Breathe. You hear this a lot when it comes to anxiety, but it’s true. Taking deep, calculated breaths can help keep your anxiety under control.
  4. Read. For me, reading can be a hit or miss solution. I find it works best if it’s a book you’re already very interested in. This way it’s easier to find yourself swept up in the story. It’s harder to keep distracted if you’re trying to get into a new storyline. You might find that after you’ve read the first chapter, you don’t actually remember any of what you just read.
  5. Games. I find that playing games on my phone can be really helpful. When you have to use your brain to strategically win a game, it keeps a lot of your mind focused on that end goal, which can help distract you from your anxiety. Just be sure to have a back up battery charger because games can be a real battery killer.

Anxiety is awful no matter what situation you find yourself in. I hope that by reading this, you realize you aren’t alone and that anxiety is a real thing that can happen to anyone. Hopefully you find the aforementioned tips helpful in the way you handle your anxiety. If you have any other tips, I would love to read them in the comments below!

A good way to reduce travel induced anxiety is to make sure you are prepared. Secure your own trip with your online flight booking with HolidayMe.

*Note, this post does include affiliated links.

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34 Comments

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    Stephanie Mayo
    November 22, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    I totally agree with your assessment on how to describe your anxiety, for me it too is like I’m drowning in my own swirling thoughts with pressure at times making it almost debilitating. I’ve also struggled with anxiety and depression all my life but strangely enough I am my most at peace and centered when I travel. Having travel a part of my life has changed my life…now if only I can travel forever! lol

  • Reply
    Samiya selim
    November 21, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    That’s really great that you are able to share these fears and having anxiety, with others along with useful tips on what helps to deal with it! I personally don’t get it but I know others who do and reading this might help them to realize they are not alone..thanks got linking up with #theweeklypostcard

  • Reply
    Packing my Suitcase
    September 20, 2015 at 2:13 am

    I’m so sorry for that 🙁 I know many people with the same problem too.
    Me on the contrary, I am like Vlad… I am anxious when at home and on my routine, things get better when I am traveling 😀

    Happy to have you on #MondayEscapes again

  • Reply
    Maria (one tiny leap)
    August 30, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    I totally relate to the anxiety you describe. I realise that it’s not rational, but can’t help that excruciating feeling every time I have a flight coming up. I too love travelling, and will not sacrifice it because of my fear – which means I just end up struggling time after time. The only thing that has really helped has been learning more and more about planes and the technicality of how pilots fly them. Also looking on flightradar once in a while to check the thousands of planes up in the air at any give moment helps (LA and London are great for this). I’m thinking of giving hypnotherapy a go to see if it helps 🙂 #MondayEscapes

    • Reply
      Amber Primdahl
      September 12, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      That’s a really good way to go about it! I haven’t thought about that before! I’m not personally afraid of planes/flying, but I love that method of going about being technical! Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

  • Reply
    Ting at My Travel Monkey
    August 27, 2015 at 11:05 am

    I don’t suffer with anxiety, but since having my son, I do worry a lot more and when faced with anything outside of my comfort zone – a little knot in my stomach forms – maybe it’s because I am a mum now. I can’t imagine how awful it must feel to have an anxiety attack but it’s good you have some coping mechanisms. Thanks for sharing and helping others on #MondayEscapes

    • Reply
      Amber Primdahl
      September 12, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      Oh wow, I can only imagine what it must be like to have to worry about a child! Thanks very much for the kind words! 🙂

  • Reply
    Kerridwen
    August 26, 2015 at 10:12 am

    I’m a generally anxious person, so travelling can be really tough, especially alone – I’m still quite new at the solo travelling thing! I however HATE airports and do not like flying but I do tend to feel slightly calmer once in the plane… Just as long as I boar the right one, eh? 😉

    • Reply
      Amber Primdahl
      September 12, 2015 at 3:51 pm

      I’m still quite new to traveling solo also, so I totally get what you mean! Haha, getting on the wrong plane would just wreak havoc on anyone’s nerves I’m sure 😉

  • Reply
    Crysta
    August 25, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Great tips. I get anxiety, too, usually in large crowds. I’ve found that keeping a blend of essential oils in my bag makes a massive difference, in addition to the distraction techniques you mentioned!

    • Reply
      Amber Primdahl
      September 12, 2015 at 11:55 am

      I also use some essential oils, which do you find work best for you??

  • Reply
    Tanya
    August 24, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    I too suffer from anxiety, which seems also to be getting worse as I get older despite my many efforts to make it stop!! One thing I do which really helps is to remember that ppl do the things that are causing me anxiety all the time and disasters don’t happen to them. I still myself, pinpoint what’s making me anxious and then ground myself in faith. It really helps! Great post!

    • Reply
      Amber Primdahl
      September 12, 2015 at 11:55 am

      I feel mine has gotten worse the older I get also! I always thought I would grow out of it haha.
      Those are good methods to bring down the level of anxiety! I’m glad you’ve found ways to help ease your feelings of anxiety!

  • Reply
    Jackie
    August 23, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    You’re very reflective about how to manage your anxiety and not give up on your dream of traveling. Great tips. I know from those closest to me that writing sometimes helps. There’s also a really great meditation app called Headspace that has 10 minute sessions to help reduce stress and anxiety.

    • Reply
      Amber Primdahl
      September 12, 2015 at 11:51 am

      That’s true, writing can also be very therapeutic when you’re feeling anxious! That sounds like a great app, I’ll check it out for when I need it next! Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Reply
    Karen
    August 23, 2015 at 4:06 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I think your tips are very good and I find that keeping a regular sleep schedule also helps. I don’t get anxious when I fly unless I am doing an overnight and need to sleep on the plane. I try to keep a schedule of waking early for at least two weeks prior to red eye flights so I can fall asleep more easily on the plane.

  • Reply
    Vlad
    August 22, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Great article! I feel anxious every day, but it’s quite the opposite for me, traveling makes me less anxious and more happy. Maybe this is why I’m always thinking about my next trip. 😀

  • Reply
    Van (@snowintromso)
    August 22, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    I just got over my fear of flying (finally) but I’m still pretty nervous when I’m travelling. And I don’t even know why. But as soon as I get to the airport/train station/harbour, my heart starts to beat way too fast and I get really anxious. Once I’m on the plane/train/ship however, it’s fine. So weird!!

    • Reply
      Amber Primdahl
      September 12, 2015 at 11:48 am

      That’s pretty much how it is for me! When I get on the plane/train/ship etc. I’m able to relax! It’s a pain when you can’t figure out what exactly is causing the anxiety though!

  • Reply
    Ruth - Tanama Tales
    August 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Glad to know you have found some ways to deal with anxiety. Lauren of Never Ending Footsteps wrote a detailed post on the topic this week for the Nomadic Matt site. Maybe you want to check it out: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/how-to-overcome-anxiety/ Lauren recently published a book about how travel helped her to overcome anxiety.

  • Reply
    Brian & Amanda Eat_Work_Travel
    August 22, 2015 at 8:07 am

    I can really relate to your post, I experience anxiety when traveling however mine occurs during flight. I view flying as a necessary evil in order to get to the destination but it is a very miserable experience for me! I agree trying to breath and finding distractions help. Glad to hear I’m not alone with the feeling of loving travel but having anxiety along the way!

    • Reply
      Amber Primdahl
      September 12, 2015 at 11:46 am

      Anxiety while flying must be quite uncomfortable. At least you are rewarded with a new destination and adventures when you land! Luckily most airlines have personal tvs now that can help a bit with distractions!

  • Reply
    Anne
    August 21, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    I suffered lots of anxiety after my daughter was born and it is a horrible feeling. Sounds like you manage to keep yours under control!

  • Reply
    Lauren
    August 21, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Great post! I also have anxiety but I find that travel makes it better in some strange way. I just wrote a post recently on my blog about it too! You should check it out 🙂

  • Reply
    Annemarie
    August 19, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Hi, Amber!
    I love how you’re being so honest about your anxiety. I get such attacks as well out of nowhere. Did I pack everything? I forget all the details I have checked previously and check again and again, I feel like security will beep, my bags will get lost, etc. It’s terrible but I try to just not let it overtake my thoughts. Actually, I have written an article on some more coping strategies for my blog, which will come out in September.
    Stay strong!!

    Best,
    Annemarie

    • Reply
      Amber Primdahl
      September 12, 2015 at 11:44 am

      Hey Annemarie!
      Thanks for your comment! I get some of those anxieties too (beeping, lost baggage etc)
      I’m looking forward to checking out your post and seeing what your coping strategies are!

  • Reply
    Kim
    August 18, 2015 at 9:55 am

    It’s interesting how different people get anxiety during different stages of traveling. I get anxious during turbulence and before landing. I’ve had several painful experiences with ear pressure, so I’m always a bit anxious before landing. Are you anxious that something will go wrong and you’ll miss your flight? That happens with me sometimes as I’ve seen several people around me who have missed flights due to various reasons.

    • Reply
      Amber Primdahl
      September 7, 2015 at 5:44 pm

      Yeah, I know a few people who have anxiety with turbulence in particular! Oh no, I’ve only experienced painful ear pressure once, so I’m hoping that won’t happen again, that must be a pain to deal with for you! 🙁 I don’t actually worry about missing my flights! (Unless I have a short layover between flights, but I fly direct whenever possible) I do get nervous if I’m running behind for anything in life though, so I always give myself plenty of time to avoid and alleviate that type of anxiety haha.

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