Anxiety is your body’s stress response to feeling fear. Around 19% of U.S. adults struggle with anxiety disorders. Anxiety can come in many forms, such as travel anxiety. This is the fear of traveling to unfamiliar places.
Even if you do not have any previous track record of anxiety, the idea of being in an unfamiliar place can cause you to panic. It may come with the stress of making plans, packing, and overall organizing the trip. It’s normal to feel nervous about going to a new place, but it can become a problem when it stops you from enjoying a vacation.
Pinpoint Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety symptoms can come out in different ways for everyone. If these symptoms occur during thoughts of travel, or when you travel, you may be experiencing travel anxiety:
- Restlessness and irritability
- Rapid heart rate, pains in your chest, or difficulty breathing
- Trouble focusing and sleeping
Causes of Travel Anxiety
There are plenty of reasons for you to feel anxiety about traveling. Many triggers can be different depending on personal experiences.
One study reported that 65% of people who have previously been in a significant car accident develop travel anxiety. Some common causes of travel anxiety are:
- Fear of flying. This fear can come on for many different reasons. It may be because of air turbulence, taking off and landing, fear of crashing, or the idea of being miles off the ground. You may not like the idea of sitting close to other people. For many, the COVID-19 pandemic brought on a fear of getting an illness, as well.
- Previous bad experiences. Suppose you tune in to the news often. You may hear about horror stories while traveling. Whether it is injuries or crimes, it could affect your mental well-being if you associate travel with negative outcomes.
- Middle-of-trip fears. You may start out excited about your trip, and then fears creep up on you later. It can come from jetlag, not knowing how to get to various places, or insufficient money to last the trip.
- Your genes. Studies show that there is a link between genetics in anxiety Your anxiety may not fully be your fault and could come on purely because of your genetics and how it affects your brain.
Healthy Ways to Cope
If you find that travel anxiety is affecting your life negatively, these tips can help you overcome it. Try out each option to see what is the best for you.
Figure Out Your Triggers
The first order of business is getting to the root of what triggers you. A trigger is an initial event that starts and increases your anxiety. If you know your triggers, your travel anxiety can be more manageable.
They can be specific to traveling, like booking the trip, boarding your plane, or figuring out activities to do on the trip. Try to self-assess in these moments to see if any anxiety symptoms are kicking in. Sometimes, the triggers could be outside of specific experiences and are more to do with external reasons. You may have taken in caffeine or have low blood sugar contributing to the feelings, for example.
If you’re worried about the “what ifs” of traveling, create a plan to combat each one that crosses your mind. Although it’s not practical to have a game plan for every scenario, you can plan for common issues like:
- Running out of money. Have a friend you can call if an emergency arises. You could also bring backup forms of payment if they’re available.
- Getting lost. Be sure to care a map or guidebook with you. You can also use your phone, but having a backup hard copy can ease your mind further.
- Getting sick. You can buy travel health insurance before your trip. Research places where you can receive healthcare during your trip if you need it.
You may feel more anxiety about the things going on at home over what’s happening during your vacation. There may be pets or kids at home that could set off stress. You can plan for people to cover your daily responsibilities while you’re away.
Find a house sitter or a trustworthy friend to come by your place or stay over to take care of the things that need to be done when away. A good sitter can provide you with a sense of ease and keep you updated on things to keep the worrying to a minimum.
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