Travelling tips for the anxiety ridden 

23 Mar

I’m not going to lie. I love traveling but so many times I’ve let my anxiety get the better of me and have ended up cancelling more of my plans than I would like to own up to. 
A perfect example? I’m right now in Orlando, Florida but I postponed this plan for two weeks before letting it be finalised. And then the day before my flight, I tried my very best to wiggle out of the plan. The only reason I didn’t succeed in that is that I practiced the tricks I’ve taught myself, concentrated on the pros in coming down here and hence was able to say yes to the plan and make my way over. 


The reality is that avoiding stress inducing stimuli (like traveling in this case) is easier for me than not but, over the last couple of years, I’ve learned some tricks that not only help me overcome said anxiety but that actually help my happiness and excitement for the trips shine through.
Today I want to share these tips with you in the hopes that maybe someone out there will benefit from them.

1. Make sure your packing is done on time

Before med school, when anxiety wasn’t my most constant companion, I would always be the one to pack last minute (usually on the day of my travels). But med school had me reconsidering my ways till I worked out a better, less stressful routine for myself. Now, I start with making a rough plan of “what to pack” a week (or more) before. And I begin the packing itself at least four days in advance. My aim is to have everything packed and zipped a day before my day of travel except for any essentials I need to use on that day. Those go in to my carry on.
This routine has saved me on two ends. One, I don’t end up forgetting to pack any key items. Two, I don’t have the additional stress of packing on the day of my flight, which usually itself is stressful enough. 

Picture from

2. Make lists



This is one trick I learned from my eldest brother, who makes lists for everything while travelling. And now so do I and I honestly can not explain how much easier travel has been for me since I started doing this. The three minimum lists I now make are one for each of my two bags and one for the documents that I need to be travelling with. Over time though I have even perfected the details of the said lists, especially the ones for either of my bags, because when I divide them into sub-headings like my “tech gear”, “bath essentials” and “cross body bags”-I rarely forget anything which is as much helpful as the act of making the lists itself. It calms me, leaving me reassured that I am not missing out on anything. Plus, if I need to go buy anything I am aware of that well in in time.  

3. Reach the airport ahead of time.



I know it sounds basic and boring at the same time, and it’s also something my sister loves teasing me over, but since I began doing this, flying has become less daunting for me, especially when I’m travelling alone. It keeps me off the edge and makes the long security checks less anxiety ridden for me. Once I am all checked in and sitting in the waiting lounge, the last dreads of my stress wash away and I can finally let the excitement take over me. 
Try it. Next time you are flying out reach the airport a half hour before you usually would. See how much it helps. 

4. Keep hydrated.



My way of avoiding airport and plane restrooms used to be as basic as ever-avoid drinking anything. Especially water. Can I just stop here and ask this-why didn’t anyone tell me to do otherwise? 
Dehydration never helps anyone. Ever. And not just my skin but my anxiety levels would suffer because of it. Dehydration means that your whole body is worked up and famished at the same time, your cooling system is off, your blood thicker and your blood pressure is on the higher end! As your body adjusts to all the changes, your heart rate quickens amd the sensation of light headedness increases adding to the sensation of an axiety attack. For a patient with anxiety, that sensation in itself is bad enough. So keep hydrated, it will keep you calm and your stress and anxiety controlled. Small trick but massive advantages. 

5. Avoid late in the night flights.



Nothing puts anyone more on edge than lack of sleep. And having your whole cycle disturbed will have you more worked up throughout your flight than is pleasant! My advice is to avoid late night flights, catch up on your sleep before flying out no matter how small the flight is and get a good healthy (not necassirily hearty) meal before your travels. A fresh, energised you will mean a lower stress level and a more fun flight! 
6.  Take that travel pillow.

Sleeping in flight was never easy for me. Hence the previous trick was always very important for me personally. However, I have over the time found small ways to help me get a nap or two on the flight. One of them has been to travel with a small crossbody or a fanny pack. When I have my important documents close to me and safe, I feel more able to relax. Add to that a neck pillow, an eye mask and a warm jacket and I can actually get a minute or two of shut eye. 
Note:- For longer flights I avoid taking anything except my hand bag on the plane with me; that is, if I can, I check in all my bags (for luggage). Try that on your next flight. That ease of having no bags to worry about will calm you like nothing else. 

7. Avoid coffee

I know, shocker! A caffeine junkee asking you to avoid coffee, bizarre! But I have good reason to do that. In fact make that two. One, coffee makes your kidneys over work, causing you to lose water faster, leading to easier dehydration, which will add to both your anxiety and number of bathroom visits. Without good use. Secondly, coffee itself is going to add to your anxiety, making the flight more “jittery” than memorable. 
 And, if none of those reasons are motivating enough for you, how about this one-the water they use to brew coffee in planes comes from the tap-and the water for that comes from storage tanks that are cleaned barely once a year. Testing on said water has repeatedly proven it to be unhealthy and even unsafe. So, if hygiene and health are a concern of yours, avoid that coffee/tea. 

8. Pack healthy snacks

Just as dehydration does, low sugar levels and low energy levels can add to your anxiety. But if you keep snacking on the high carb, high fat content foods that airplanes companies are happy to provide you with, you will end up feeling more bloated and less sated by the end of the day. They will only cause your sugar levels to sky rocket soon after the meal but then they’ll plummet. That is, your anxiety will go up soon after, again. My adivce is to pack with you food items with a low glycemic index (that is the ones that will let you stay sated for longer) which include most fruits (especially berries), oatmeal based snacks, sweet potatoes, bran and wheat or barley based snacks. It will allow you the ease to nibble whenever you are hungry as well as the ability to say no to the horrible food airlines are famous for. 

9. Eat healthy pre flight

I’m usually too worked up on the day of my flight to be able to eat much, but I know low sugar during the long airport lines is not going to help me. So my compromise is to always eat something healthy and fulfilling before I leave the house, even if it’s not a proper meal. It allows me to navigate myself throughout with high energy levels and low stress levels.

10. Take screenshots 

Of everything-from your tickets to boarding pass to the address of where you will be staying to important phone numbers. You never know when your internet will bail on you. And knowing you’ve back up will keep you calm no matter what. 


11. Take charge 

Always, always, always keep a fully charged battery pack with you for your mobile along with at least two charging cables and the corresponding plugs. Nothing causes havoc on your anxiety levels like a mobile with a low battery. Or realising you forgot your charging cable behind, mid run to your connecting flight. 

12. Be prepared 

Know that no matter how much planning you put into the details of your trip, somethings are just not in your control. Like flight delays. So go in with the “I’m ready for changes in my plan” mindset and keep reminding yourself that extra stress will not change the status quo.
So, there they are. My twelve main tricks to keep my travel anxiety in control. Most of it goes down when I’m travelling with someone, therefore I’ll say these are much more important for those of us who travel alone. 
What tricks do you use to keep your anxiety in check? Let me know in the comments below, maybe you know something that might help us all! 
Also, if you’ve been to, or are from, Orlando, Florida, any local recommendations for fun things to do here (other than the theme parks) would be highly appreciated.
Much love,
Gull

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2 Responses to “Travelling tips for the anxiety ridden ”

  1. SandyLand March 23, 2018 at 2:14 am #

    Great tips (especially the screen shots! – I did this recently.) I travelled on my own just before Christmas. It was my first time flying solo and I literally started crying as soon as I walked thru the airport doors. In fact, I cried so much that I was pretty much rushed thru security (they gave me a box of tissue) and permitted to travel with items not normally permitted on flights. The guard was like “Dude, just get her out of here.” LOL! My flight back was much better.

    • gullhasnat March 23, 2018 at 11:30 pm #

      Sandy, sending you a virtual hug right now! Flying solo is not easy and omg, I still remember my first one! I was so scared but trying so hard to pretend I had it all together! It was so daunting and scary!! which makes me understand what you went through a lot. I am so sorry though that it was hard for you but glad that it was better on your way back!! And happy that you got to experience it, because no matter how daunting and scary travelling solo is, it makes for great memories!!
      Also-do try these tips out next time you are flying, they will help for sure. Also a friend just made a great suggestion of making a playlist of your favorite songs and listening to it throughout, and she says it helps!!

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