For those of us suffering with anxiety, whether only travel related (a.k.a travel anxiety) or throughout our whole lives, the thought of jetting off abroad for Christmas can be a terrifying one. Now, mix a sense of wanderlust and festive spirit into that and you have yourself one huge, messy dilemma – you want to join your family on the winter holiday of your dreams, but it makes you too anxious. So how do you go about getting around that? Well, we might have just the answers you’re looking for. So whether you’re looking to travel to a wintery European city, or you’re looking into US registration for a visa, here is our advice for handling anxiety when you travel abroad.
The best thing you can do when it comes to your anxiety while travelling is to trust yourself. If you feel the tell-tale signs of a panic attack coming on, intervene with your own thoughts. Try and remind yourself that it’s only anxiety. Start to count and breathe, and try and detach yourself from any of the symptoms as much as you can to bring your mind back into focus. It can be terrifying, but remember that you’ve dealt with this before. With every panic or anxiety attack that you come through, you grow stronger. So trust yourself, and try and focus if the worst happens.
Getting advice or talking about your fears with a professional before you leave could prove to be more helpful than you’d expect. Whether they provide you with some solutions to calm your nerves at the Christmas dinner table with unfamiliar relatives, or simply listen to your worries regarding the sledding trip you have planned, a professional will have worked with hundreds of other people suffering from the same affliction. If you have to seek medical help while you’re abroad, remember that healthcare differs from country to country, especially where mental health is concerned. Some countries will have a long-term fix, rather than something quick and simple like in the USA. So make sure you do your research, and prepare yourself as you need.
This is especially important if you’re travelling alone, but even travelling with friends and family can be made just a little easier with some self-care anxiety techniques. Whether you take to exercise, eat a more balanced diet to settle your body (okay, it’s Christmas, we’ll let you off…) or even just cheer yourself up when you start to feel down, self-care is important. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as a fully formed exercise routine – if a bath with some nice scents calms you down, then have a bath with some nice scents. Or try TouchPoints. These wearable devices can be worn on your wrists and produce alternating vibrations to shift your body's fight or flight response. They can help you reduce stress and anxiety fast, so it could be a worthwhile addition to your Christmas list this year. Ultimately, only you will know what techniques will work best for you, but it could be worth investigating what is available before you go.
As much as it might be suggested to deal with your issues head on rather than distract yourself from them, picking the distractions that work for you can be perfect in an emergency. Whether that’s putting in your headphones and blasting your favourite songs, or immersing yourself in the world of your favourite social media site, distractions can be valuable. Talk to a family member or a friend you’re close with – not even about your anxiety. Pick a topic you two would usually talk about to give you that essence of home you might be missing.
Finally, it’s important to create a safe zone while you’re away. This will often be the hotel room you’re staying in, but sometimes this isn’t always possible. Hostels, for example, will often house upwards of 4 people per room, and these can often be strangers, and a lodge will likely be filled with other family members constantly – so find somewhere different. Pick a café that you like, or a coffee shop you went into the first day you arrived that you had a good experience in. Take a trip to a nearby quiet spot that has good ratings, or even just sit down in a chain restaurant (McDonalds, anyone?) for that extra bit of familiarity you might find yourself in need of.
Whatever anxiety you struggle with, there are ways that you can control it enough to travel this Christmas and enjoy yourself while you’re away. You don’t have to resign yourself to never travelling, especially when there’s a whole world out there to explore. So take that terrifying step out of your comfort zone and book that family holiday – we promise you won’t regret trying.