You might travel often for work, or maybe you just enjoy seeing the world. However, even the most dedicated sightseers can struggle with travel anxiety.
Most people are familiar with general anxiety, but this kind occurs only when dealing with the stress of an upcoming trip. While traveling — especially on a plane — may freak you out, you can practice some strategies for defeating your anxiety and enjoying your time outside the city.
Breathe deeply and slowly, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Shallow breaths can make your anxiety worse by replicating hyperventilation. Loosen yourself up by tensing and relaxing different parts of your body for 10 seconds each. Start from your feet and work your way up to the top of your head.
Distract yourself by making a game out of counting people in the airport or passengers on your flight. Create a playlist of your favorite relaxing tunes, or queue up some movies to watch on your device. If you’re in the mood to curl up with your favorite read, consider reading a physical book rather than an e-book. The pages’ texture can ground an anxious mind.
If you’re traveling someplace new, get to know the region before you even step foot off the plane. Flying into a foreign place unaware fosters travel anxiety, so make sure you know where you’re going and what your trip entails.
Know the local emergency numbers and record them in an easily accessible place like your phone. If the primary language is one other than English, study up on common phrases that’ll help you get around and communicate with locals.
If you’re going overseas, check out the rates for texting and calling so that you won’t be surprised by a hefty phone bill the following month.
Eat before you board or while on the plane so that you won’t travel on an empty stomach. Hunger often promotes irritability, and you don’t want to spend hours on a flight feeling anxious and testy.
Airports aren’t exactly known for their healthy food, though, so bring some nutrient-rich snacks of your own. If you do eat at the airport, avoid overeating, or you risk getting full and feeling uncomfortable on the flight.
Avoid alcohol while you fly — it can exacerbate anxiety symptoms and cause nausea. You’ll fare better if you hold off while on the plane. Once your anxiety calms, feel free to indulge in moderation at your destination.
Traveling with a friend will help you combat travel anxiety before it starts. You’ll have someone there to hold your hand or talk to you if you need it, and they can distract you from the more nerve-wracking parts of the trip.
Call up a friend who’s already an experienced traveler — they can tell you fun stories about their trips, which can reassure you that traveling isn’t as scary as your mind believes.
Some fears that cause travel anxiety don’t make much logical sense, and you should try to recognize them when they pop up.
Many people fear plane crashes, but these happen a lot less than you think. More people get into car crashes every year than they do plane accidents, but the fear of driving isn’t as widespread as the fear of flying. Turbulence on flights is completely normal — this phenomenon happens when the plane rides over rough pockets of air, and it’s generally harmless.
Many travelers leave for the airport at the last minute and board their plane minutes before it closes for the flight. Instead, incorporate more time into your schedule so that you can give yourself room to breathe. You shouldn’t rush if there’s no reason to, so take it easy and allow yourself to get to the airport without pressure.
Plan ahead throughout your trip, too. You have an itinerary full of fun activities and places to see, but life is unpredictable — you may not get to do everything you planned for. It’s not the end of the world if you have to drop a few items from your list. Packing your schedule too tight will make you feel rushed, so plan for a reasonable amount of activities and pencil in blocks of time to rest and recharge between them.
Kick your travel anxiety with these six tips for staying calm at the airport and during the flight. The next time you board a plane, you’ll feel like a travel professional.