Friday, June 24, 2016

Traveling With Anxiety

I plan travel for a living. I've been to six continents and over 40 countries. I also suffer from anxiety. Often. Which is to say, I do a lot of traveling with anxiety. It can be tricky, especially if, like me, you are also an introvert and traveling with or to a large group (i.e. to a conference or event).  At times, it can be downright overwhelming to the point of causing anxiety attacks. While nothing is "foolproof", here are some tips that I use when traveling to help keep the anxiety as low as possible.

  • Put on your Out of Office voicemail and email replies. Remind them that you aren't checking these while away, or if you are, give a time frame for which you'll reply (err on the long side to give yourself leeway).  Provide the contact information of someone who can immediately assist in your absence, if you think it warranted (and there is such a person). If you feel someone may truly have an emergent need that only you can address, give them an alternative way to contact you. This helps to reign in the anxiety over potentially missing important/urgent communications. 
  •  Bring all necessary meds, in their original prescription bottles, in your carry on. This is a no-brainer, but with all we have to pack for travels sometimes it's easy to forget, especially for meds we may not take as frequently (i.e. those we have on an as-needed basis). 
  • Schedule in time for breaks. This can be tricky, but it's essential. I often joke that I need a vacation from my vacation. I have the tendency to want to do and see everything, but I've learned in the long run, that will take its toll. Excitement can quickly turn into anxiety if it becomes overwhelming. 
  • Give yourself space, and take "you time".   During these breaks, make sure you have some time to do something for yourself. If you're also an introvert like myself, it's particularly important to give yourself space to recharge. If you can't manage physical space (i.e. you're sharing a room), take some mental space. Put on some headphones and listen to a meditation, or your favorite music, or a podcast, or whatever you'd like. Read a book or journal. Do something that lets you mentally "zone out" from your trip, and everyone else, for a bit. 
  • Get your sleep. Your schedule may be slightly different than at home, but try to at least get your usual amount of sleep. Lack of sleep can increase anxiety. 
  • Let someone else do it. No, not get anxious, though wouldn't that be great once in a while (for us, not them I suppose!). Let them do something to help your anxiety. Can they check you in for your flight? Schedule the rental car or day tour? Call about the hotel wifi that's not working properly? Then let them. Even if you're traveling on your own, enlist the help of the hotel concierge services, a private driver or guide, whatever it is, so that you don't have to be a one-person show. 
  • Plan at least some things out in advance. If you battle anxiety, flying by the seat of your pants probably won't help. There are people who can just show up to a destination, hoping they'll find a good place to sleep and store bags, assuming they'll figure out how to get between cities with no problem, etc. But lack of clear cut plans can also be anxiety producing. Waiting until the last possible moment and assuming all will work out perfectly generally doesn't happen. We constantly worry what if, what if... You don't need everything planned down to the minute - in fact, allowing yourself down time, as I mentioned, is ideal. But have the major things, like accommodations, flights, transportation, so that you know you can at least get there and stay there. 
  • Give yourself a day or so on either side. Don't plan meetings until the minute before you have to leave for the airport. Don't take an red-eye home and have to go immediately into the office. Plan for the "just in case" - just in case your meeting runs over; just in case your flight home is delayed. 
  • Give yourself plenty of time at the airport. In case you haven't watched the news in the past few weeks, airport lines are at an all-time high, and security checks are more intense. Gone are the days of showing up 45 minutes before your flight, running to the gates, and getting on the plane just in time. It looks great in Hollywood, but remember that Hollywood still shows loved ones meeting you at the gate with open arms, not waiting for an hour in the arrivals hall while you deplane, possibly go through customs, and retrieve your luggage. 
If you're traveling for business, this might be trickier. Other people are setting the meetings, and may even be booking your travel arrangements for you, which gives you less control over the timing. But if you're traveling for leisure, especially, it shouldn't feel like a struggle. Traveling with bad anxiety isn't easy, but it's possible. You just need to know yourself, your triggers, and plan in such a way that you avoid them as much as possible. And don't be afraid to tell others you need time or space. In the long run, if it makes you a happier traveling companion, it'll benefit everyone. 

No comments:

Post a Comment