I’ve lived with anxiety for a large portion of my life, and I feel like I’m learning how to deal with it better and better. Anxiety is one of those things that will probably never go away, so learning how it works for you, how to live with it and how to handle it is key to living a happy, fulfilling life. I feel like I’m finally getting a pretty good grip on my anxiety, so I’d like to carefully start sharing a few tips here and there, for those of you who suffer from anxiety as well.
First of all, I feel like I should address what anxiety holds for me, for those of you that have no experience with it.
My anxiety manifests in constantly worrying about things that I have no reason to worry about at the moment. Sometimes an anxiety attack occurs, which will start with a minor concerned thought, then turn into major worrying, after which I start thinking up all kinds of worst-case scenarios and if I don’t snap out of it by then, I can go into a physical panic attack, where my heart starts to beat really fast, I have trouble breathing and I don’t know what to do with myself. This will last for a few minutes and then subdue. Usually these thoughts are involuntary, the idea that something horrible might happen just pops up in my mind and the wheels start turning, until I pretty much convince myself that it will happen and it will be terrible and unbearable. It’s a really strange experience because I usually know I’m being irrational and that nothing’s really happening, but I can’t stop the thoughts. It’s very scary and since you can’t see it on the outside, it’s pretty hard to explain to others that something’s wrong.
Throughout the years I’ve figured out that my anxiety is based around control. I’m afraid of things I have no control over; mostly the death of my loved ones, but also being robbed, getting assaulted, losing my job, etc. Knowing there’s nothing I can do to prevent these things and, in case of death, the inevitability of it can send me straight into a panic attack. One situation where I have to let go of a lot of control is traveling. And that makes me anxious.
When I say travel anxiety the first thing that comes to mind may be fear of flying or crashing, but that’s not it at all. What gnaws at my mind are all the horrible things that could happen to my home, belongings, but most importantly my loved ones while I’m away. And the fact that when these horrible things do happen, I won’t be there to fix them or deal with them.
Knowing that traveling is a trigger for me of course eventually turns into a fear of getting travel anxiety, and there you have your lovely downwards spiral. BUT! I’m quite proud to say I’ve been doing a pretty good job of snapping out of it the past year or two. I’m not going to let anxiety rob me of all the amazing experiences traveling offers!
I think it’s important for us anxious people to share experiences and coping techniques. Just knowing you’re not alone in this can be a huge help sometimes. There are a few things that help me snap out of irrational anxious thinking specifically when I’m traveling, so here they come:
– Realising time flies when you’re an adult. When I was a kid, a week might as well have been a year for how long it felt. Nowadays I find myself wondering where the months have gone. A week-long vacation will be over before I even notice!
– I tell myself “NO” and rationalise. It may sound weird, but giving myself a stern talk, forbidding myself to doom think and pointing out how irrantional and silly I’m being can really help. Know when it’s just the anxiety talking and address it.
– I communicate with Robbert about everything. I’ll keep him updated on everything I do and he tells me everything he does. This way I still feel connected and am reminded that I’m not really missing out on anything that exciting back home. It’s also an affirmation that nothing horrible is happening over there.
– I’m here now. There’s no point in not enjoying it to the fullest. I have to consiously use my “appreciating the little things” way of thinking, look around me, and see all the amazing things I’m surrounded by. I mean come on, how awesome is it that I’m even here?! Do I want to let my worries ruin all of that?
– Stay busy. When I’m home, one of the best ways to battle anxiety in my case is always having something to do. My mind is content when it’s occupied. When I have too much time off however, the wheels in my brain start turning and it can go into overdrive, which is when I get anxious most often. Luckily, vacations are the best time to stay busy in very exciting ways. Explore, enjoy, keep yourself occupied and time will fly by. New, fun experiences really help you stay happy, enjoy where you are and what you’re doing and forget about whatever it is you’re anxious about.
This is what I’ve found really helps for me. If you have any tips for dealing with travel anxiety or any type of anxiety really, please share them in the comments! As any battle, this one is best fought out in a team 🙂