Whether going across the country, on a winter vacation or simply driving across town to visit relatives, traveling during the holidays, especially when you have an anxiety disorder, can be stressful. The following are some tips to help make your travel plans a little easier:
Make a travel essentials checklist. What do you need to travel? If going outside the country, you need your passport. If going by train, bus or plane, you need your ticket. Write a checklist of all the documents you need on your trip. Keep these in one place so you can easily find them. Include other essentials such as medications, laptop or tablet, insurance information, toiletries.
Plan on how to manage symptoms. When you have an anxiety disorder, you know that symptoms sometimes strike without warning. You are fine one moment and the next you feel complete panic. Have a plan that includes coping strategies, such as visualization, deep breathing or meditation. Knowing you can quickly manage symptoms if they appear can help you stay more relaxed throughout the trip.
Bring along a "calming" item. This may be your iPad (with calming music), something to fidget with, a journal to write in or anything that helps you stay calm.
If going out of town, research your destination. Even if you are traveling to see out-of-town family, do some research and find activities you will enjoy. You may need to take a break from your relatives and having some pre-made plans gives you the perfect way to give yourself some down time while enjoying yourself.
Be sure you take care of yourself in the days leading up to the trip. Get enough rest, eat right and exercise. Taking care of yourself reduces stress levels and makes traveling easier.
Talk to your doctor before you go. Find out what resources are available at your destination. Make sure you have enough medication for your entire trip and ask about ways to contact your doctor while you are away if there is an emergency.
Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination. If flying, make sure to allow plenty of time to get through baggage check and security lines. It is better to arrive early than to be rushing or running late, which can increase your anxiety levels.
Understand your warning signs. Know when a situation is creating anxiety and could lead to a panic attack. Find a out-of-the-way area you can sit and engage in some relaxation techniques to calm yourself down before the situation escalates.
Wear comfortable clothes. Choose clothes that you would wear at home. This can give you a sense of familiarity and comfort.
Bring along music. Choose music that is soothing and relaxing. There are also a number of apps you can use to help you stay calm.
Be aware of your limitations. While you don’t want limit your life because of your anxiety, you should be aware of your limitations. If you have social anxiety, consider bringing along a friend who can help you navigate situations when you must interact with others. If you have a fear of flying, consider taking a train.
Bring along distractions. If you begin to feel anxiety symptoms, have ways to distract yourself on hand. Bring along a book, magazines, puzzles or games. This helps to turn your thoughts away from your anxiety.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with panic or anxiety symptoms, go with it. Allow your panic attack to run it’s course, reminding yourself that panic attacks usually only last a few minutes and then begin to subside. Trying to fight a panic attack once it begins may only increase your symptoms. Instead, let it happen and once it is over, remind yourself that you made it through.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.