Part of running my own business involves travelling up and down the UK, as well as overseas. Travel increases my stress levels and is a trigger for my anxiety, even though I have travelled all over the globe including long-haul solo journeys. It is to do with the extra stress of planning my travel itinerary. The uncertainty of anything unexpected happening on the journey. My biggest worry is that I have forgotten to pack something.
As someone who has panic attacks, I have an increased worry an attack will happen in a public space. I will arrive at the train station or an airport at least an hour before needed. Which can be an annoyance for my travel companions. It is a family joke I wait at the bus stop fifteen minutes before it is expected.
But you don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health condition to feel the stress and anxiety of travel. Being out of our comfort zone creates stress-related symptoms within everyone. We don’t like feeling we are out of control in a situation and crowded public transport generates extra stress. Does travel triggers anxiety and stress-related symptoms for you? If so, it is important to consider leaving yourself extra time and to have ways you can mitigate the stress and anxiety travel can bring.
Top tips to deal with the anxiety and stress of travel
Try and exercise before you travel. This releases the positive ‘feel-good’ endorphins. It also helps your circulation to start moving which is good for long distance journeys and long-haul flights.
Eat a balanced diet to keep your metabolism up and your blood sugars level. I find I eat more on the days I travel. Preventing my blood sugars from dropping helps me to stop being irritable, especially if there are any problems such as delays.
Make sure you have some healthy snacks in your bag. Believe me, there will be nothing healthy on the train buffet car! I pack bags of nuts, cereal bars or fruit to munch on and they are great for emergency delays.
Plan for distractions
Whether this listening to music, reading or playing a smartphone game. If you do read I would also recommend an audio book, great for when you are standing on a packed tube.
Create a playlist of your favourite music which makes you smile. It is good to have a playlist of songs which link to some of your positive and happy memories.
Essential if you are stuck in a stuffy airport cabin or a humid underground tube station. I find it also helps me to keep focused and calm by sipping on a bottle of water.
I cannot tell you how important these are! It is ideal to build a tool-box of exercises you are comfortable to practice. Try to make them one of your helpful coping strategies rather than using them last minute. It is not about the length of time you take but the habit of building up a regular practice. You can also use them in other areas of your life when stressed or anxious. Breathing exercises will help you relax, bring you back to the moment and help you to remain calm. There are lots of good apps out there on the market. My personal favourite is Buddhify as it has a travel option on the dial. I’ve used this app several times when I’ve had the overwhelming feeling that a panic attack is imminent. It has helped me to remain calm until the panic has subsided.
I now have the confidence to tell any new travel companions about my anxiety triggers. It enables me to try and relax into the journey. It stops me worrying what my companion may think of me if I am behaving slightly odd. Which is not really the case and usually they have not noticed at all how anxious I really am. When I mention how I feel, most people have some form of anxiety related to travel so I’ve realised how normal it is!
I hope you find these tips useful for your next trip. If you have any you would like to share then please do, I would love to hear them.