More than 90 percent of Americans find travel stressful, and for some of these individuals, an upcoming trip can trigger full-blown anxiety.1 For those who already suffer from anxiety, travel can make things worse, even if the destination is desirable. Around 25 million Americans fear flying, and one survey found that 66 percent of Americans experience driving anxiety.2, 3
So, whether your summer trip involves a cross-country roadtrip or international flight, here are some ways to calm travel anxiety so you can enjoy your time away.
Why Does Anxiety Spike when Traveling?
There are a number of reasons why your anxiety might spike while traveling. If you had a negative experience in the past while traveling, you can be triggered when taking any subsequent trips. For instance, one study found that 65 percent of people who had experienced a major car accident developed travel anxiety in response.4 Other factors that can contribute to travel anxiety include:
- Traveling to an unknown place
- Claustrophobia, which is the fear of being in a confined space
- Fear of flying
- Unexpected illnesses or accidents
- Fear of crowds
- Fear of the unknown
Ways to Relax in the Midst of Summer Travel
Despite what you might think, avoiding your summer trip due to anxiety will not make it go away. Sure, it might seem to ease your anxiety for a while, but it will only come back stronger when you do have the opportunity to travel again. Failing to face your anxiety only reinforces the false idea that there’s something to fear; it doesn’t help you manage it.
Instead, try to uncover the roots of your anxiety. When you feel triggered this summer, identify the exact fear that is bubbling up and name it. Chances are, you don’t fear all aspects of the travel, and when you can single out what your specific fear is, you can start creating distance from it, investigating objectively, and finding ways to cope.
Use the following six steps to figure out how to relax in the days leading up to your trip and the midst of traveling this summer.
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1. Planning and Preparation: Minimize Uncertainty
When there are too many “what ifs” crowding your head, plan ahead to minimize uncertainty. While you can’t prepare for every possible scenario, you can make sure all your bases are covered. This may include confirming your hotel booking, arriving early at the airport to ensure you won’t miss your flight, bringing a few different medications in case you or your child gets sick, and even having a backup plan for lost documents, a canceled flight, or bad weather.
2. Practice Mindful Breathing & Relaxation Techniques
Mindfulness practices like breathing exercises, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help you calm down in the midst of particularly stressful moments. Bringing you back to the present moment and your body, such practices interrupt the physiological and mental effects of anxiety, so you can feel more in control of how you feel. Another useful technique is listening to a guided meditation, which you can download on your phone or tablet. A guided meditation will lead you through a calming practice if you find that you need more support and guidance.
3. Find Comfort in Connections with Travel Companions & Support Systems
Whether you are traveling with your loved ones or solo, make sure you have a support system you can call on when your anxiety hits. Let them know ahead of time that you tend to have travel anxiety and how they can support you. Maybe you just need them to listen. Or maybe you need them to distract you with conversation. If you work with a therapist, ask them ahead of time if you can reach out to them during your trip when you feel anxious.
4. Stay Present with Grounding Techniques
Like mindful breathing and meditation, grounding techniques help to distract you from the racing thoughts in your head. These could include having a fidget toy, savoring a snack, sniffing an essential oil, or even holding ice in your hand. Such techniques help you create space from distressing emotions until they pass.
5. Prioritize Your Well-Being with Self Care Routines
Self-care looks different to everyone. While you may not be able to have a hot bath or book a massage while traveling (unless you’re in airport that offers something like that!), you can find other ways to care for your body and mind while on the road or in the air. For starters, be sure you’re eating nutritious foods to keep your blood sugar stable and try not to overdo it on the alcohol, which typically sets you up for rebound anxiety. Don’t skimp on your beauty sleep before traveling and bring along items that might help you sleep better while traveling, like an eye mask, travel pillow, etc. Make a playlist of relaxing music, learn some stretching exercises you can do in small places, and brainstorm other ways you can prioritize your well-being while traveling this summer.
6. When Anxiety Feels Overwhelming, Where to Seek Support
If you struggle with anxiety on a regular basis, or you know that travel anxiety is an issue that may come up this summer, you can get more support through therapy or medication (or a combination of both).
One such option is Brillia, a non-prescription medication clinically proven to ease anxiety, irritability, and restlessness without harsh chemicals or harmful side effects. Brillia is a gentle and cumulative medication, so it should be taken at least two to three weeks before traveling for it to build up in the system. And the dosage must be followed consistently. If you are already taking medication for anxiety, you can add Brillia to your regimen without worry because it has no contraindications with other drugs or supplements and will not affect any other systems in the body.
Find out more about how Brillia works and explore more tips on how to manage anxiety and stress at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center, so your summer trip can be something to look forward to, not something to dread.