In recent years, over 10 million Australians have headed overseas to explore new regions of the world. While more Australians are travelling overseas, travel is not the only statistic that is on the rise in the nation. In this day and age, with high levels of stress and urgency, anxiety is also on the rise. Unfortunately, travel and anxiety tend to go hand in hand, since travel is an experience that puts you outside of your comfort zone and tends to invoke feelings of stress and discomfort. From turbulence to crowded airports, planes and unfamiliar places, it seems like every new experience when we travel has the potential to cause us some anxiety.
So, what exactly is travel anxiety?
Anxiety is caused when you worry, feel nervous about or fear the unknown. Since travel often leads you into the unknown and can place you in uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations, it is very common for people to develop travel related anxiety. While everything from flying to eating new foods might trigger anxiety, it is important that you learn coping mechanisms so that you can experience new people, places and cultures. After all, travel is supposed to be one of the greatest pleasures in life.
While the thought of suffering from anxiety during travel will likely cause you more anxiety, mild travel anxiety is very common amongst most travellers, including the most frequent of travellers. If you avoid something that gives you anxiety, you tend to fear it more than ever. So instead of feeding your travel anxiety by avoiding travel, face it head on with some of our fantastic tips. But first, let’s consider 8 reasons why people tend to develop travel related anxiety.
8 reasons for travel anxiety
- Organizing your trip. The thought of even planning a trip can bring on anxiety. Instead of allowing these feelings to creep in, plan your trip over an extended period of time in order to lessen your anxiety.
- Packing for your trip. This can be a big one that tends to cause many travellers anxiety. Just remember, anything you forget at home, you can likely buy in most other countries. Just don’t forget your passport!
- Busy airports and delayed flights. More people than ever are taking to the skies. This not only means airports are more crowded, but it also means more flights tend to be delayed or even cancelled. Manage your anxiety by realistically managing your expectations.
- Turbulence on the plane. Once on the flight, your anxiety can completely feel out of your control, especially when it comes to factors like turbulence. Caused by air masses moving at different speeds, you can really only learn to breathe through this unpleasant experience.
- Long haul flights on small planes. Since planes are now capable of flying for many hours consecutively, some flights can have you sitting in your seat for up to 16 hours or longer. The thought of taking a long flight on a small plane can trigger anxious feelings.
- Terror attacks. With seemingly frequent terrorist attacks in recent years, this is one of the biggest factors that causes travel anxiety among even the most frequent of travellers.
- Stressful life events. Everyday events can cause you enough stress to contribute to your anxiety. Travelling may just be the icing on top of the cake to make you notice your anxiety.
- Arriving in a foreign place. Some people only get anxious once they arrive in an unfamiliar destination.
Now that we know what the most common reasons for travel anxiety are, let’s consider different ways you can minimize your travel anxiety before and during a flight.
8 ways to minimize your anxiety before flying
- Get a good night’s sleep the night before. Sleep is the number one way to ward off and manage anxiety. Make sure you get enough sleep the night before your flight in order to feel well rested and clear headed.
- Exercise the morning of your flight. Tire yourself out a little and get some fresh air before you spend a number of hours trailing around airports and sitting on a plane. Not only will exercise help you rest on the plane, it will also help you get any anxious thoughts under better control.
- Eat healthily before your flight. Skip the fast food and snacks at the airport and eat healthily. Salads and fruit can help put your mind at ease before getting on a flight. Not only will you reduce any possibilities of having an upset stomach, you will just feel more comfortable in general.
- Pack light and don’t leave it until the last minute. The less things you take with you, the easier your travels will be. Finding yourself bogged down with physical baggage will definitely add to your mental baggage. Skip overpacking and only take what you need.
- Arrive to the airport early. Give yourself plenty of time at the airport before your flight. With more people travelling these days, airports can be incredibly busy. Cut stress out by arriving early and giving yourself plenty of time to check in, pass security, find your gate and stroll around.
- Keep busy and distract yourself. If you find anxious thoughts creeping into your head, distract yourself by reading a book, watching a movie or simply having a conversation with someone.
- Do your research. The best way to avoid anxious thoughts in terms of things that are out of your control, like terrorist attacks, crashes and other stressful factors, is to do your research. Know that out of the millions of people who travel every year, only a small percentage run into serious problems.
- Manage your expectations. Other stressful factors like delayed or cancelled flights can really spark up anxiety. Remember that it’s important to manage your expectations and realise that not everything can be in your control.
8 ways to reduce your anxiety during the flight
- Choose the right seat. Pre-book your seat online or arrive early to the airport in order to get a seat that makes you most comfortable. Whether that is a seat beside the window, in the aisle or close to the bathrooms, choose whatever makes you the most comfortable.
- Try to get some sleep. If you find you are feeling uncomfortable or anxious, simply close your eyes and try to get some sleep. Especially if you are on a long flight, sleeping can be a great way to pass the time.
- Download an app. Before you get on the flight, download an app that allows you to keep your mind busy, yet relaxed. Some apps that may help include Calm, which is a meditation app, or download a podcast that makes you laugh or entertains you.
- Meditate and breathe. Take some time to simply focus on your breathing during the flight. Think about positive things and focus on the things in your life that you are grateful for. Meditation and breathing can be an excellent way to feel a sense of calm and relaxation.
- Read a book or watch a movie. Distract yourself by reading a book, whether that is a paperback book or one on your phone or tablet. Alternatively, you could tune into a movie that is playing on the plane and focus on that for a few hours.
- Avoid drinking alcohol on the plane. Although alcohol can relax you, it can also cause the opposite effect. You may find that drinking on the plane causes you worry and discomfort. Avoid the alcohol.
- Drink lots of water instead. Stay hydrated and comfortable by drinking lots of water
- Get up and stretch. Take the time to get out of your seat and walk down the aisle to the bathroom, whether you need to go or not. Simply getting out of your seat can help calm any nerves you have and distract you, since you will need to focus on where you are going.
While these tips will ultimately help you reduce and release your anxiety before, during and after travel, the best way to overcome any type of fear is to repeatedly expose yourself to it. Start off small, like a weekend trip to a nearby city, and eventually work up to taking a long haul flight overseas.
So now that the answer to helping minimise your travel anxiety might be to travel more, where will your next adventure take you?