Travel Anxiety has been a part of my life since I was 6 years old. I always used to get travel sick on car rides, coach journeys and plane journeys, to the point where I had to take anti-sickness tablets and wear anti-sickness bands. Travel sickness is what led to me developing Emetophobia (fear of sick and being sick) and every time I travel, even now, it causes me major anxiety.
Over the years and through forcing myself to travel my anxiety had improved massively, however since the Covid-19 pandemic and getting out of the habit of travelling my anxiety has returned ten-fold. Whilst travelling abroad this year I felt like I was back to square one again and it wasn't just my sick phobia making me anxious this time, it was the whole idea of travelling. I didn't sleep the night before at all, I had extreme heart palpitations, I felt sick to my stomach, I couldn't breathe and I started panicking. I was worried about being sick on the way to the airport, being sick in the airport or feeling unwell and having a panic attack on the plane. I decided to use some of the techniques that used to help me in order to resolve the anxiety and they did work, so I thought I would share these with you:
Don't put pressure on yourself
It can be so easy to get annoyed at yourself for getting anxious but doing so will only wind yourself up and make you even more anxious. Give yourself a break and tell yourself you're not abnormal or weird just because you feel anxious. Everyone gets anxious at some stage about different things.
Remember that you're not alone
Travel anxiety can make you feel very lonely and isolated. You may feel like everyone else is fine about travelling and excited about it, whilst you're filled with dread and so this makes you feel abnormal. However this is simply not true, travel anxiety is extremely common and just because someone looks okay on the outside it doesn't mean that they feel okay on the inside. I speak very openly about my travel anxiety and since doing so I have met so many people who also suffer just as much as me with travel anxiety but they just don't openly speak about it as they feel embarrassed about it. So never forget that plenty of other people are also feeling the same way as you right now.
Write a list
When feeling anxious about travelling you can become overwhelmed with emotion and this can cause you to forget things. This is why a week or so before I fly I write a list of every single thing that I need to take with me, to ensure that I don't forget anything. This also allows me to figure out if there is anything extra that I need to buy and give me the time to buy it. When it comes to packing I literally run through my list and tick each item off once its been packed. This prevents any anxiety about forgetting items.
Download Spotify, music, podcasts & Netflix shows
This was honestly one of the best things that I did! I downloaded actual talk-through meditations that talk you through a panic attack when you're having one. (Just in case I did get a panic attack) I also downloaded long-length playlists with calming music to help ease any anxiety. I ensured that all of my Spotify music was downloaded so that I could listen to my favourite songs on the plane. Lastly, I downloaded some Netflix shows to watch on the plane such as 'Schitt's Creek,' and 'Night Agent.' I kept telling myself that the flight was just 5 episodes of the show and then I would be there and this mindset made the 5 hour flight feel alot less daunting.
When I am anxious I find that breathing really helps. When my mind begins to wander I bring my thoughts back to my breathing. I breathe in deeply from my stomach, hold my breath for one second and then breathe out heavily. I do this as many times as I need to until I feel calmer.
Take it a step at a time
This step has helped me massively with anxiety, particularly as my mind tends to think too far ahead. On the day I will literally just allow my mind to focus on one step a time. First of all I will literally just focus on getting to the airport only and I won't let my mind think any further ahead than this. I tell myself that the airport isn't far and I just have to focus on getting there right now. Once I am at the airport I focus only on getting through security and again don't think any further ahead. When I have passed through security I never sit and wait because this makes me more anxious and brings on the unwanted thoughts. Instead I walk around the shops to distract myself and usually buy myself an item of jewellery. By the time I've looked around the shops it is time to head to my gate. At this stage I only focus on getting on to the plane and use my breathing exercises. I also find talking to other people sometimes helps as it is a distraction.
Once I am on the plane and we have taken off I stick on the Netflix shows I downloaded and usually watch them for the whole flight. If I get bored of watching Netflix then I'll sometimes listen to music or speak to the crew/other passengers. Once I am on the flight I am usually always okay because it's not the actual flying that I'm afraid of. I have come to learn that it is my sick phobia that triggers the anxiety and also the whole idea of crowds and being around lots of people. However I know many people are scared of the flying itself and in this instance informing the crew can help as they can be really good at easing your anxiety and distracting you from your anxiety.
I hope that these little tips have helped you in some way and that you feel less alone with your travel anxiety now. I have been flying and travelling for many years now, even by myself on some occasions and as a child I wouldn't even travel on a bus because of my sick phobia. It does get easier with practice and each time you do it you conquer your fears a little more, so be proud of yourself for even taking that first step to try.
Read more Anxiety articles on our blog, such as:
How I overcame Anxiety in 7 steps
5 Things you can do for someone with Anxiety
3 Tips to reduce Anxiety in 2023
How to stop a panic attack