Anxiety can strike anyone at anytime for a number of rational or seemingly irrational reasons; and as an anxiety counselor, I know there are many people who suffer with anxiety on an almost-daily basis and there are also many people for whom bouts of anxiety are only linked to a specific activity or situation. Traveling is one of those activities that can trigger anxiety in people who fear it or dread it; and with the holidays fast approaching, those people will face the choice of finding a way to deal with their anxiety or staying home to avoid it. If you are one of those people who is dreading the thought of crowds at the airport or being jostled by strangers on a train, here are some tips for dealing with your travel anxiety:
▪ Rid Yourself Of Negative Thoughts
When you start to become anxious about traveling, you may find yourself in a downward spiral of thinking patterns that can exacerbate negative feelings. One type of thinking pattern, or thought trap, is putting unhelpful pressure and judgment on yourself. For example, you feel anxious about driving for the holidays so you think, “I shouldn’t feel this way. No one else feels this way. I’m so stupid for feeling anxious.” Not only are you feeling anxious about the upcoming activity, you’re also judging your anxiety – essentially applying layers of negative thought that won’t allow you to engage in that activity. Another example is not filtering out information from your thoughts. If you decide not to fly for the holidays because you’ve just seen a news story about a plane crash, you are focusing on one piece of information. Knowing that a plane has crashed is not helpful information because there are thousands of planes that fly every day that don’t crash. You can remove these negative filters and try to disengage from negative thoughts by willing yourself to stop.
▪ Find Positive Distractions
If you focus your thoughts on something else, you’ll be less likely to fall into your thought traps; and the fewer thought traps you fall into, the less anxiety you’ll have while traveling. If you’re driving to your holiday destination, bring your favorite music or an audiobook you’ve been meaning to listen to. If you’re flying, watch the in-flight movie or TV or bring a book to read. Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up for having a negative thought. Let it come and go and then return to your movie or book.
▪ Move And Stretch
Some physical movement that releases endorphins, which are feel-good hormones, can help to relieve you of some travel anxiety. If you’re driving and you stop for gas, get out of the car and walk around. This is a way to reset yourself before getting back on the road and it also helps to break your trip up into manageable chunks that don’t seem as daunting. If you’re flying or taking a train, walking around periodically may not be comfortable or possible so you can try seated exercises like progressive muscle relaxation or doing small stretches with your ankles, wrists, arms, shoulders and neck to relieve tension. These limited movements will also keep you from disturbing your neighbors.
Seeing an anxiety counselor is also a good option that will help to prepare you for holiday travel. If you feel you need more than self-help, give me a call at Insight Child & Family Counseling at (972) 426-9500. To learn more about what an anxiety counselor can do for you, visit www.ldscounselor.dfw.com.