I’m possibly the worst Sagittarius that has ever walked the Earth. My astrological sign says that traveling should come natural to me, but I think the stars forgot to account for my anxiety. Whether it be a 10-day trip up the coast or a few nights down the shore, there’s always a part of me that wants to forget the entirety of my vacation and just stay home. It’s both terrifying and frustrating, especially when I try to suppress the feeling, but my mind won’t let me. That being said, years of dealing with this exact emotional state has made me conscious of tactics that do help suppress my travel anxiety. Here are five things I have found to help me.
1. Listen to new music
The biggest problem when it comes to my anxiety in general is overthinking. If I’m stressing over something such as how I’m going to spend the next eight hours in a car, I need to preoccupy my mind with other thoughts. Music helps because it allows my brain to focus on the beat, instruments, and lyrics. While classic songs I know like the back of my hand are great for providing comfort, I typically shoot for songs I’ve never heard of. This forces my brain to pay careful attention and distinguish whether or not I like the song as a whole. As a writing major, I also aim for songs with interesting lyrics so I can dissect them and keep my brain occupied trying to figure out the particular theme. I have been doing this for years and I have actually discovered some of my favorite bands this way like The Lumineers and Pierce the Veil.
© Joseph Gruber
2. Ditch the junk food on occasions
While I definitely eat fatty foods on vacation, I try my hardest to keep a somewhat healthy diet. My stomach is super sensitive and the last thing I want is to feel miserable when I’m away from home. There is honestly nothing worse than feeling sick on vacation when the hotel’s mattress is foreign and it can be impossible to get comfortable. Plus, feeling gross only adds fuel to the fire when it comes to my anxiety. Therefore, I try to avoid feeling awful at all costs. For example, if I know something is deep fried and basically soaking in grease, I’ll either pass completely or eat things as such in moderation. I know this is difficult when breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all cheat meals on vacation but, I’ll sacrifice my cravings for less stress and anxiety.
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I’m not talking about involuntary breathing here. Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed it’s wise to focus solely on something simple such as how I breathe. It sounds cliché because people bring this up so often, especially in regards to anxiety and panic attacks but, it can actually help. Deep breaths especially, help clear the mind and relax the body. Whenever traveling gets the best of me, I know that I might need to take a step back and just focus on the air around me. I personally prefer to step outside if possible and breathe in fresh, cleaner air. For some reason, it relaxes my entire body and usually puts my mind at ease for the time being. I take as many deep breaths as I need to before returning to what I was doing before.
4. Make a checklist
One of my biggest fears when it comes to traveling is forgetting something. Whether it be important like my laptop or anything that can easily be replaced like a bottle of ibuprofen, my mind immediately goes into disaster mode. (It also probably doesn’t help that I’m one of those people who packs as if she’s preparing for the apocalypse to happen any day.) I find that making a checklist helps me keep my thoughts organized and my extensive closet full of clothes out of my luggage. I would also recommend making a physical checklist (you heard me, that means pen and paper) because not only is it satisfying to cross off items but, you can see the whole list at one time. Using a note pad app on my phone involves a lot of unneeded scrolling, clicking, and checking the list a million times. The last thing I need before leaving my house is additional anxiety from minuscule things such as packing problems.
© Salvatore Freni Jr
5. Have a plan B
Obviously travel plans aren’t perfect. While making reservations is a great tactic and everybody should totally do that, having a plan B never hurt. Especially if reservations aren’t your thing, having another attraction or activity in mind will relieve the pressure of “what do we do next?” Driving or walking around aimlessly gives me anxiety almost immediately unless I specifically set out just to explore the streets. Having a plan B reduces the chances of becoming frazzled and stressed if Plan A happens to be a dead end.
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Travel anxiety can sometimes make the thought of leaving home unbearable. It can also creep up in the middle of vacation and make you overthink your plans or even your whole trip. I’d love to say that I don’t let it get to me but, I have canceled plans involving travel due to it. While there is nothing to put travel anxiety to sleep once and for all, there are definitely ways to control and combat this issue that can sometimes be difficult to deal with. One of the most important things to know when it comes to any form of anxiety is that you are not alone and it’s normal to feel anxious about the tiniest things, even if somebody else dismisses your emotions.