Elizabeth Wiener is an educator who lives with depression and anxiety. Lisa Brookman is a clinical psychotherapist based in Montreal. Together, they form WiseWomenCanada.com. Follow them on Twitter at: @wisewomencanada
Travel can be a wonderful bonding experience for a couple, but for those who struggle with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), it can be overwhelming and frightening. The body’s natural response to an anxiety-provoking situation is “fight or flight.” It would be very easy to extinguish the anxiety by avoiding the trip altogether, but you’re already one step ahead of the game by choosing to fight the urge to cancel your vacation plans. Here are a few suggestions for you to keep in your toolbox for an anxiety-free and fun trip.
In my private practice, I often deal with clients who experience travel anxiety. Although routine and predictability can help anxiety sufferers feel calm, travel is an enriching experience that takes you out of your comfort zone and builds confidence, independence and self-esteem.
Take It Easy
• You might feel overwhelmed by a hectic travel schedule, so try to plan a structured and organized agenda, with only one or two activities per day – that way, you’ll know what to expect and feel less out of sorts. Once you start feeling comfortable in your new environment, increasing the level of adventure and excitement is always an option.
Talk It Out
• Remember to communicate. Expressing your apprehensions to your travel partner can make you feel supported and understood. Having someone to talk to about your fears can alleviate anxiety and validate your feelings.
Contact Your Health-Care Provider
• Before you leave on a trip, make sure to discuss your anxiety with your doctor. If you take medications, ensure that your prescriptions are up to date. Also, consider time-zone changes and discuss adjusting your medication schedule accordingly with your pharmacist.
As a long-time sufferer of GAD, I have always found travelling to be a challenge. In the past, I tried to avoid it – I felt best staying in my comfort zone, with my predictable routine. Fortunately, I married an avid traveller and, over time, I’ve learned several coping mechanisms to help me enjoy the experience and keep my anxiety at bay.
Bring Something From Home
• I know it might sound cumbersome, but I always travel with my pillow and a scented candle. Having a couple of pieces of home helps me feel safe and secure in a new environment.
• My husband likes spontaneity, but that doesn’t really work for me. I like to have a detailed plan for my first few travel days. Having everything mapped out helps me feel more in control, which reduces my anxiety.
• While I love spending time with my husband, having some alone time to regroup helps me decompress and keeps my anxiety under control. Taking a long bath, hitting the gym and writing in my journal help me recharge my batteries and give me the chance to process new experiences.
Although travelling with anxiety can be a challenge, look at your experience as an accomplishment. Be optimistic. Having the right tools can help you achieve success, even when you feel like the cards are stacked against you. Bon voyage!