Four Tips for Calming Travel Anxiety, According to a Psychiatrist
While travel can be a source of excitement, it can also be a cause for stress for many people. It could be as simple as worrying that you won't pack the right clothes, or as complicated as being afraid you'll fall ill, face bad weather, or end up in a terrible accident. But no matter the cause for your anxiety, there are many ways to calm your nerves before takeoff.
Stop and consider why you are actually stressed.
As a first step, try to figure out what it is about your upcoming trip that's causing your anxiety, recommends Cheryl Carmin, Ph.D., professor of clinical psychology at the Ohio State University and director of clinical psychology training in its department of psychiatry and behavioral health. Pay attention to what you're saying to yourself, she instructs, and identify your personal what-if scenarios. "Once you're able to understand what you're afraid of, ask yourself if the fear is realistic," she says. "Even if your worst-case scenario is something catastrophic, does the very small likelihood of happening outweigh the severity?" The answer will likely calm you down.
Look back on past experience.
This likely isn't your first time traveling. So, look back on your past experiences: Were they positive? Did your worst fears come true? And if they did, did you manage to work through them? "There's a good chance you're not giving yourself credit for being an effective and resilient problem solver," Carmin says, and that credit could help ease your current worries.
Take time for self-care.
Before you embark on your trip, don't skip self-care—even if you're busy packing and preparing to go away. Carmin recommends making time to exercise before travel, explaining that "physical activity is a great way to manage stress." She also suggests pampering yourself pre-trip. A haircut, manicure, massage, new book, or time with friends may also reduce stress, Carmin explains.
Practice relaxation techniques.
Pack a proverbial toolbox of stress-reducing strategies for when you experience anxiety on the trip. "Slow, paced breathing is one strategy that many people find to be effective," Carmin says. Another might be a calming app for your phone, such as Calm, or a relaxing music playlist you can listen to when anxiety strikes.