Traveling When You Have Chronic Pain
How to Travel when You Have an Anxiety Disorder
Traveling with an anxiety disorder can be a seriously daunting challenge. Many people struggle with large crowds, unfamiliar places, time-sensitive schedules, and fear of flying. If you don’t cope with your anxiety properly, you could be at risk for panic attacks.There are a few simple, non-medicinal ways to calm your nerves and make travel easier. If your anxiety is particularly serious, consider some over-the-counter and prescription medications to put you in the right state of mind
Preparing For Your Trip
Make a to-do list.It can be helpful to make a to-do list that includes tasks you need to complete before your trip. This might include arranging care for a pet, doing laundry, or purchasing certain items for your trip. Checking off items once they’re completed can help you feel more in control and will also let you see what you have accomplished.
Pack ahead of time.Packing at the last minute can be a source of considerable stress that starts off your journey on the wrong foot. Have your bags ready to go the day before your trip.
- You can also make a list of items to be packed before doing the actual packing or pack slowly over a few days rather than all at once. Separate things you’ll need to keep out between the time you pack and the time you leave like a toothbrush.
- If packing causes you stress, consider using a sample packing list, which can be found online. This may help you get the ball rolling.
Gather carry-on items.Any items that you’ll need to have on hand during the trip, such as your keys, wallet, phone, phone charger, and travel tickets, should be gathered ahead of time. Make them visible so that they can't be missed, but keep them clear of children, pets, or housemates who might confuse them for their own belongings.
Wear comfortable clothing.For many forms of travel, you will be seated for long periods of time, typically in a confined space. Wearing restrictive clothing can make matters worse and increase your stress. This physical discomfort could trigger the effects of your anxiety disorder.
- Prioritize your comfort over looking good. Loose-fitting jeans, sweatpants, shorts, t-shirts and sweatshirts are all good options for a comfortable trip.
- Consider the temperature when dressing. It may be hard to know ahead of time what the temperature in the vehicle might be like, so consider dressing for a warm temperature and taking a sweatshirt or blanket you can easily throw over yourself if it turns out to be cold.
- If you are concerned with looking nice, you may want to bring a change of clothes as well as quick grooming items (such as a toothbrush, hair brush, or lipstick) in your carry-on luggage to use when your trip is over.
Eat a light meal.Travel anxiety could distract you from eating well before your flight, but traveling while hungry will amplify your anxiety.On the other hand, a large meal may leave you feeling bloated, tired, or even sick in a confined space. Eat a light meal before you leave so you’re comfortable.
- Dehydration can exacerbate anxiety.Drink water beforehand and bring a bottle with you on your trip. If you are flying, you’ll need to buy the water at the airport past the security checkpoint.
- Sliced fruit, yogurt, baby carrots, celery, and nuts are great options to provide healthy energy for your trip. These foods are also relatively easy to take with you to eat during the trip.
- Avoid foods that might give you gas or bloating. These include dairy products, bran, legumes like beans or lentils, and cruciferous vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, artichokes or onions. You should also avoid anything with a lot of grease, trans fat, or sugar.
Set alarms.If you have an early trip, set your alarm as soon as possible so you don’t forget. You can also set an alarm for when you have to leave for the trip itself. Anxiety disorder can cause you to obsess about being on time so you don’t miss your flight. Therefore, knowing you have the alarm set could ease that anxiety.
- If you have a friend or family member that typically rises early, ask if they will call you to ensure you are awake.
Leave early.Leave for your trip early so you don’t add unnecessary anxiety when you hit traffic or other unexpected hindrances. If you get there early, you can spend a while sitting and relaxing to center yourself before you board your vehicle.
Coping With Anxiety Without Medication
Plan activities.One of the best ways to deal with travel anxiety is to simply take your mind off it.Have some work, school, or recreational activities planned so that you’re distracted from whatever is making you anxious about the trip.
- Practicing art or writing is a great way to distract yourself from your anxiety during a trip. Bring along a loose-leaf journal with plenty of paper. Try sketching or writing a creative story.
- Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and other games are popular options for passing time during travel.
- Read exciting or compelling books to help you disconnect from anxiety triggers around you. If you get motion sick, try audio books with headphones.
- Calming music or guided meditations on your phone or music device can aid in relaxation. Invest in some comfortable earbuds or headphones.
- Taking along a laptop or portable gaming device will greatly expand your options. Have some games or tasks you can complete available offline in case Wi-Fi isn’t available for your trip.
Smile.Smiling is clinically proven to reduce anxiety and stimulate the body's relaxation response. Even if you’re nervous, try smiling to yourself or at the people around you. It really can help you feel better and reduce your heartrate.
Practice deep breathing.If you feel an anxiety attack coming on during your trip, try deep breathing. It is a great way to calm your nerves and take your mind off your anxieties. Better yet, you can do it anytime, anywhere.
- Open your mouth and gently sigh to let the air out of your lungs. Let your upper body and shoulder muscles relax as you do. It may help to close your eyes.
- Keep your mouth closed and slowly inhale through your nose until your lungs are full. Try to pause for a second or two once they are full.
- Open your mouth slightly and slowly exhale until your lungs are empty. Repeat several times until you feel like your nerves are under control.
Take a travel companion.Traveling with someone will help ease your anxiety. Select this person carefully to make sure they are understanding of your anxiety and will comfort you. Choosing someone who will be critical or judgmental can add unnecessary stress.
- If you don’t have a companion, try making conversation with the person next to you.
- Have a trusted friend or loved one you can call while stressing if you feel an anxiety attack coming on.
Bring pillows and blankets.Making yourself comfortable will go a long way to lessening your anxiety and calming yourself during an acute episode. It may be difficult to sleep while experiencing travel anxiety but just making yourself comfortable can ease your tensions. Bring along a plush blanket and small pillow that you can use while seated upright.
- You may want to bring along a sleep blindfold and earplugs as well.
Maintain a routine.People with anxiety disorders often comfort themselves with a predictable routine. Travel can throw this routine off but you can still try to replicate it as much as possible during your trip.
- Consider things like when you eat, when you wake up and go to sleep.
Be prepared for panic attacks.If you’re in an unfamiliar place, research local doctors ahead of time so you can react quickly. Prepare traveling companions by explaining your condition so they can help. You can also plan to contact a friend back home via video messaging or phone if you find them comforting. Make sure you have any other resources that you would typically have for dealing with an attack at home.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from locals or other passengers if you’re experiencing the symptoms of a panic attack, especially if it’s as simple as needing someone to talk to.
- If you have a therapist, make them aware that you will be traveling. They may be able to be accessible to you for assistance if you have a panic attack.
Coping With Anxiety With Medication
Purchase melatonin.Melatonin is an over-the-counter medication that replicates a natural hormone in your brain. Its primary use is as a sleep aid but is also effective for controlling anxiety and high blood pressure and is often used for travel anxiety specifically.It can be found at any pharmacy.
- If you have diabetes, clinical depression, hemophilia or any other clotting disorder, chronically low blood pressure, epilepsy, or have recently received a blood or organ transplant, do not take melatonin. Speak to your doctor about alternatives.
Try an antihistamine.Some travelers also use antihistamines, such as Benadryl, for a subtle calming effect. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label.
Ask your doctor about benzodiazepines.Benzodiazepines refer to a broad range of prescription medications that are designed to treat anxiety. Though you’d typically need to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder before being prescribed a benzodiazepine, physicians will sometimes give you a small number of pills to use for travel.
- Diazepam, known by the brand name Vallium, Alprazolam, known by the brand name Xanax, Lorazepam, and Clonazepam are commonly prescribed for anxiety. Tell your doctor you’re specifically looking for something to cope with travel anxiety.
Avoid alcohol.Many people with travel anxiety drink alcohol before or during their trip to ease their stress. This is a mistake as alcohol tends to make anxiety worse, especially as it wears off. If you do drink, do so lightly or you can become sick.
- You absolutely cannot drink alcohol if you are also taking anxiety medications for the trip. This can cause serious health problems.
QuestionEvery single time I enter an airport I start to gag and feel awful, up until I hit security and board the plane. My family is yelling at me as we are checking in our bags, what should I do?Top AnswererTalk about this to your parents, preferably when not in or near an airport. Tell them how you feel and ask for advice on what to do. You'll need to think of what are the underlying causes. We recently had a terrorist attack at our airport, and now people are mortified to go there. It's probably not something as drastic as that with you, but it's worth thinking about it.Thanks!
QuestionI am traveling to an amusement park for a school trip, and I have emetophobia. I have never traveled that far without my parents before. How will I be able to do this?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerFor your emetophobia, dramamine works great to prevent nausea while on a rollercoaster. Stick close to your friends when you go, to make you feel a bit more "at home". Remember that you will go home at some point, and you will probably be distracted because you will be having fun.Thanks!
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