Even people who have never had a panic attack in their lives typically experience some degree of travel anxiety. Leaving the comfort of our routines can be scary (even if all we do is complain about those very routines). Riding inside of a giant, gravity-defying, metal object, 30,000 feet above the ground doesn’t exactly seem normal, either. Managing the stress of long lines, big crowds, travel delays, and connecting flights mixed with airport food that may not have been kept at the proper temperature is a recipe for disaster for anyone! You are not alone. But we still travel anyway, because of the bigger picture: once we get to our destination, it will all have been worth it. (Or you may see it as a necessary evil, and that’s OK, too.) How can we make the part about getting there a little more pleasant? Here are 6 ways to reduce travel anxiety.
1. Pack and dress for comfort. While you don’t exactly want to fly in pajamas, you’ll want to dress in a way that will speed you through security and that you’ll be comfortable to sit in for hours on end. Remember to bring the things that make you comfortable and might distract you from the process of traveling. Maybe this is a small blanket, a pillow, and the latest issue of that magazine or that book you never have time to read. This brings me to the next very important item…
2. Listen to music. Music has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, time and time again. When you bring your favorite slow tunes or a special meditation mix (that might even help you sleep through the flight), you’ll actually be relaxing your muscles. Studies show that cortisol production (the stress hormone), heart rate and respiratory functioning are all slowed while listening to calming music.
3. Embrace distraction. While you’ll need to be paying attention before you actually get on the plane (or train, boat or into an automobile), once you board, make sure you have movies, your laptop, tablet or adult coloring book to keep your mind busy.
4. Allow yourself a timeout. If you experience anxiety while you’re actually on vacation, give yourself time for self-care. Whether that’s an unscheduled day in the hotel room or a massage, remind yourself that you don’t have to have every minute of the trip scheduled, and that you’re not going to let anyone down (Ending up in the ER will definitely ruin a good time, on the other hand!).
5. Use lavender. While I don’t recommend dousing yourself in any fragrance before flying (for the sake of your fellow passengers), lavender has long been known as a calming herb. It’s used for restlessness, insomnia, nervousness, depression, digestive issues, migraines, toothaches, joint pain, acne, dementia and even cancer! It repels mosquitoes and has been used for hair loss, too! With a track record like this, it’s worth giving a try! Take a shower or bath with products containing real lavender the day of travel. Inhale a small amount of the oil while traveling or ingest a lavender supplement. (Ask your doctor if this will interact with any other medications you take, though.)
6. Be prepared. Sometimes, just knowing you have any medications you may need in the event of stomach upset, diarrhea, a migraine or panic attack is enough to keep a person calm. Pack travel sizes of everything for peace of mind. Depending on your anxiety level, you may want to ask your doctor about a prescription ahead of time.
Hopefully these tips will be able to alleviate your travel anxiety. Here’s to happy travels!