You want to see the world. Or at least a different coastline. Europe would also be nice, because you’d really like to dip your toes into La Cote Azure, buy gelato from a for-real-Italian vendor, and drive on the “wrong” side of the road in Ireland. If only boarding a plane didn’t send you into a panic so intense that the added sounds of the seat belt sign and that crying baby make you want to curl up into a ball until it’s over.
Don’t write off that vacation just yet! Read on for tips to help you through your travels, both on and off the plane.
1.) Practice Your Mental Gymnastics
You probably already know what the source of your anxiety is, and part of your anxiety might have more to do with the fear of an impending attack than you realize, because you know that one can flare up at any time or any place.
Identify the source. Your mind is really, really powerful. You know that, because you’ve seen it trick you into feeling like your body is under attack. What you might not realize is that you have a certain amount of control over where your thoughts can take you. You’re probably well aware of your trigger, so it helps to identify and combat the cause of your distress, rather than the feelings it brings forth. For example, if you have a fear of small spaces, don’t just focus on the size of the plane or how trapped you feel.
Remind yourself that this will pass. Remember all those Pins you added to your Pinterest Travel board? Whether it was beachy, snowy, or just plain breezy, give those another run-through to help re-route your mind to a much happier place: your destination! If you’re about to take off and can’t access your phone just yet, concentrate on your mental happy place. Remember how at-peace you felt on your last getaway? Toes in the sand, the sun kissing your shoulders, everything smelling like sunscreen and happiness… Channel that feeling.
2.) Stick to Water
Once you’ve made it past the TSA, buy the coldest bottle of water you can find—just in case you need to press it against your neck for a nice little wake-up call. And when the flight attendants come around to offer snacks and beverages, avoid anything with caffeine or alcohol.
You read that right: no alcohol. The occasional drink to help decompress after a long day is totally fine, but studies suggest that your serotonin levels and neurotransmitters can get a little wonky when alcohol comes into play. This means you might end up feeling more anxious once the effects wear off, totally defeating the purpose of that drink in the first place. If you were really looking forward to that Bloody Mary (and who can blame you?), try it without the vodka to simulate the experience of winding down.
3. Check Off All Five Senses
Anxiety is very much a physiological experience (but you already knew that), which means it can start as an innocent concern about missing your flight, and progress very quickly into a clammy, nauseous, out-of-body experience.
When you’re feeling anxious, your body’s fight-or-flight response kicks in. Once your attention moves to this response, you’ll immediately notice that your teeth are clenched, your posture is defensive, or your muscles are tense, and this realization alone can help you unwind. Though it may sound counter-intuitive, don’t fight the anxiety. Instead, acknowledge the attack for what it is, and focus on your five senses.
- Touch: Feel your feet flat on the floor, and focus on your toes, one at a time. Count them, wiggle them, do whatever you need to do.
- Taste and Smell: These senses go hand-in-hand. Chew on a piece of minty gum or break out the lip balm and focus on the smell and taste, by taking deep, long breaths.
- Hear: Listen to the whir of the engine, the soft conversation, and the in-flight announcements, or music that you know calms you down.
- See: Look around you for something to concentrate on. Anything. Concentrate on that one object for one full minute, and let your mind move on to more peaceful thoughts.
4.) Find A Distraction
If there’s in-flight entertainment, tune into a TV show that you’d marathon through on a normal day at home to help you feel more at ease. This will help pull your focus away from your anxiety much more easily than if you just close your eyes and try to power through. In case you don’t have a working monitor of your own, bring a tablet with a movie, or a book you’ve been reading to help your mind stray far, far away from #AllThingsHorrible. Puzzle books, sketches, and crochet are all phenomenal ways to get through a flight, even if you’re currently hating life.
Now that we’ve listed our top tips for overcoming travel anxieties, tell us some of your own! What do you do to keep calm and travel on?