Imagine you are on a beautiful island, surrounded by palm trees, sand, and the soothing sounds of the ocean. How could anyone be anxious in a place like that? Caring for your mental health while traveling in paradise should be easy. Yet, several years ago, when Mr. T and I went on vacation to the beautiful islands of Maui and Kauai, each day began with horrible panic attacks. I was sick with anxiety disorder symptoms the entire trip. Ever since then, I get really bad travel anxiety when traveling far from home.
Prepare for Travel Anxiety Well Before You Leave
In a few days, my little family will be heading to San Francisco to celebrate Mr. T’s 30th birthday. I went there once before on business and it’s a gorgeous area, so I am looking forward to being able to spend more time there and share that with the people I love the most. But I know from my past experiences of traveling with anxiety that, for me, preparation is a must before any big trip.
1. Don’t assume that you will be just fine.
You may be just fine, but don’t let that make you unprepared. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
2. Take your anxiety medication and make sure you have more than enough for the trip.
Before we left for Hawaii, I was in a really good place with my anxiety. I was off of my anxiety medication (because I didn’t wait long enough for it to work before I decided it was useless - bad decision), but I brought a bottle of as-needed anxiety pills that I hadn’t used for a really long time. I figured I wouldn’t need them at all, but brought them just in case. When the anxiety unexpectedly hit me like a ton of bricks, I tried to divide up my precious anxiety medication to have enough for the whole trip. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to stop the panic and it became useless.
3. Address any travel anxiety fears you have about the trip. Decide what you will do in each worst-case scenario, and replace any negative thoughts with positive ones you can think of instead.
This is a really great exercise to do anytime you have anticipatory anxiety, and I will go into this in greater length in a future post. I like to take my game plan and keep it with me at all times when traveling; in my purse or even my back pocket. So when I start to worry, I can take it out and read all my positive thoughts and know what I will do if my worst fears actually come true (which they never do).
4. Pay extra for the GPS unit in a rental car or bring your own.
I get really anxious when driving in unfamiliar places. When renting a car, I added a GPS unit for an additional $8 a day. It doesn’t matter how much it cost, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Not only did it take away 98% of my anxiety, it gave me a sense of empowerment and confidence.
Bottom line: prepare, prepare, prepare! I have learned the more I prepare ahead of time for a trip, the less my travel anxiety will be when I am there.