How I Manage My Anxiety Disorder When Travelling
Travelling has been the best and worst thing for my Anxiety.
It’s challenged me daily and given me all the exposure therapy that I could ever need. When you’re on the road for a long time, at some point or another you’ll experience unorganised transport, cancelled plans, burnout and travel fatigue. The great thing about it is, you learn how to deal with all of these things and come out the other side. When you have Anxiety, it’s extremely easy to Catastrophize and assume the worst is going to happen and you’ll never recover from it. Being exposed to these stress-inducing situations makes you aware that it’s not the end of the world. If you travel for long enough, you’ll eventually become a pro at dealing with cancelled flights and disorganised trips!
Although travelling is great for exposure therapy, it has been accountable for some of the highest levels of anxiety/depression I’ve ever had. Over the course of my trip around the world, I’ve picked up a few tips for keeping the daily anxiety at a more manageable level and giving myself a fighting chance against “Debbie Downer”.
Stick to a Routine.
This can be a challenge when you’re flying through timezones left, right & center but trying to wake up at the same time will do wonders for your body clock. I like to have an alarm set even on my days off work (Scott hates me for it 😂) but it helps me regain some control over my life. Lord knows I need it! Waking up and immediately making your bed is the easiest thing you can do to get a head-start on your to-do list. There is a certain sense of accomplishment to seeing my bed freshly made in the morning. It soothes my obsessive tendencies too. There’s nothing less appealing to me than a bed that’s just a crumpled heap of duvet all day & night. I keep a routine when it comes to showering and skincare too.
I realise this makes me sound very regimented but after speaking to a few people on Instagram, they have the same (unconsciously or not!). I have a specific way I shower, which sounds odd but hear me out…
First, I get wet, shampoo my hair, rinse, condition then leave it in while I soap up in a specific order. Then rinse out my conditioner then I’m done! After my shower, I moisturise, take my vitamins, deodorant, aftershave then brush my teeth - in that order. If you’re taking anxiety medication, make sure you take enough for your trip and build that into your routine too so you don’t forget.
Know Your Mood Lifters
My favourite things for quick bursts of serotonin are my ‘Good Vibes’ Spotify playlist, a quick run outside, playing with dogs and watching Beyonce performances. Whenever I’m feeling like I’m too ‘inside my head’, I can quickly try one of these things to ground me and slide me into a good mood. Scott knows that if I’m having a particularly bad time, he can whack on Beyonce’s 2011 Glastonbury performance, get me a dog to cuddle, some of my favourite chocolate (galaxy btw) and I’ll be good.
Write out a list of things you always enjoy doing. It could be exercise, talking to a certain positive pal or just watching dog compilation videos on YouTube. Knowing that lifts your mood can help distract you when you’re slipping into a negative space.
Have a Fidget Item.
I mention this quite a bit because I do it all the time… Coins, paperclips, bracelets, rings - anything that feels reaaaal nice. I feel like it releases some excess energy and helps with the irritability.
Try to remind yourself to appreciate where you are. A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to travel outside of their own country so remind yourself how lucky you are. I add this into my Morning Routine and while I’m brushing my teeth, I go over a few mantras in my head and get myself psyched up for the day.
Take Self Care Days
Just because you’re abroad, doesn’t mean you can’t take ‘days off’. It’s easy to get caught up in the itineraries and book yourself out solid without thinking about practising self care. My introverted side needs some recovery time after a tour, long travel times or any ‘busy’ period. I’m much more mindful of this nowadays and I’m not hard on myself if I have to take a day to stay inside my AirBNB and watch Netflix now and then.
Don’t Feel Pressured
When people find out that you’re going to a hot tourist spot, they’re quick to reel off a list of things you ABSOLUTELY HAVE to do while you’re there. Everyone is different. Try not to fall prey to the pressure and do/see what you want to do. If you fly to Australia and diving isn’t very appealing to you - you don’t have to see the Great Barrier Reef 🤷♂️ Take a look at the things on offer and choose things that appeal to you. There’s no point in living someone else’s life - you do you.
I find travelling tough for the social aspect. Meeting new people stresses me out and I find it hard to put myself out there and introduce myself or make first contact. When I solo travelled to Italy, I made little daily competitions to appeal to my competitive side. On Day 1, I’d make conversation with ONE person. Nothing too challenging, just mentioning the weather, asking someone where they’re from etc. It’s a nice sense of accomplishment when you do it and you can use it as proof later on that you’ve got this 👍
Check your Caffeine and Alcohol.
I’ve been guilty of using coffee and beer as a crutch for social situations but I should know better! It does make putting yourself out there easier and gives you some fake confidence to chat to strangers. A better, more healthy habit, is working on improving your confidence naturally. Coffee is terrible for my anxiety and a cup can stand between a good day and a day of clenching my jaw and drowning myself in thoughts.
Sleep can play a HUGE part in your mental health. I’ve noticed that the less sleep I have, the more likely I am to have a 💩 day. I’m more irritable, anxious and more likely to entertain negative thoughts. So have an extra hour or two in bed - you’re travelling and travel is hard on your body, you deserve it!
If you’re off on an adventure, I hope these little tips I’ve picked up on the way can help you out. Remember to stay mindful, take each day as it comes and don’t put pressure on yourself. Let me know if you’ve tried them or have any other ways you manage your anxiety when you’re travelling.
I also wrote a post with my advice for travel related anxiety here you can read too 🙂
Have a great day 💛
P.S - If you liked this, I’d really appreciate if you share it (on FB, IG, PT or any other Social Media Acronym you can think of). Thanks!