There is no limit to who can see the world. People with an anxiety disorder are not an exception to traveling unless their case is severe. According to the World Health Organization, 264 million people worldwide suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Traveling has long been my passion even before the appearance of an anxiety disorder in my life. Coping with this issue has just made me change the way I travel. In this post, I will share 6 tips for travelers with an anxiety disorder. In the hope that this post helps you to ease anxiety and discover the world!
First and foremost, if your symptoms are severe, wait until the situation gets better. If you want to travel but are not sure whether you should, ask your primary doctor for professional clinical advice before leaving.
If you are on medication I suggest putting the medicine in your carry-on luggage. It’s not uncommon for luggage to go astray. I have never been stopped by security when I bring medicine (SSRI/Xanax), but regulations vary between countries, so you may want to check with the embassy of the country you are going to before you travel.
2) CHOOSE A TRAVEL BUDDY WISELY
It’s not where you go, it’s who you travel with. Choose a person you can feel relaxed with and if possible who is aware of your condition. I often go with such a person and it helps me feel relief. If you are comfortable enough, even share with them effective ways of handling a potential anxiety attack.
It’s also a good idea to choose someone who can spend the day on their own in case you don’t feel well enough to go out. I don’t recommend going with someone who loves crammed itineraries. It gives you a lot of pressure which is not good for an anxiety disorder.
3) START FROM CLOSER TO HOME TO GAIN CONFIDENCE
I know how scared you may feel if it’s your first time traveling with an anxiety disorder. I feel for you. So, start by going somewhere closer to home to gain confidence! Distance doesn’t matter. The key is gaining confidence!
You may travel to the nearest state or province for an overnight trip or simply start with a day trip. If there is no major issue during your 1st trip, travel a little further afield. Gradually, you will gain confidence and eventually, when you are comfortable enough, go on a big trip or even take a solo trip! Do you think it’s impossible to go on a solo trip if you have an anxiety disorder? It’s not at all! I love solo travel!
If you are a newbie to solo travel, it’s a wise decision to travel where you have a friend so that you feel relieved. On my first solo trip, I went to Hong Kong, which is less than 4 hours away from my country, and I had a friend there. (FYI: I went on my first solo trip 1 year after anxiety disorder appeared in my life). My condition was getting better around that time. That first solo trip was a huge confidence boost for me.
Editor’s note: Another great option is to go on a group trip like Travel Girls Getaways, where everything is planned for you and you have a great group of likeminded people to travel with!
6 years after Hong Kong, I went on a 6 month round the world journey. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life and it was the best decision I have ever made! If you are having similar issues at the moment and want to travel long-term, don’t give up! Rome was not built in a day but there is no rain that fails to cease.
One interesting fact is that I had never travelled solo before having an anxiety disorder. Living with this illness was holding me back, but I knew deep down that I needed something to break through and gain confidence. Which is one of the reasons I decided to try a solo trip. I might not have traveled solo if it hadn’t been for this illness! Everything happens for a reason!
4) DON’T PUSH YOURSELF TOO HARD
We all want to make the most of it when we travel but putting pressure on yourself could end up making you worse. Traveling is fun and exciting but it is an easy trigger for anxiety. It can sometimes be stressful even for those who don’t have an anxiety disorder, as we will be immersing ourselves in an unknown environment. Always put your health first. You know the most about your health. Listen to your body/mind and skip itineraries when you don’t feel good and have rest.
I felt sick multiple times whilst traveling and had to change or skip itineraries. This experience taught me to be selective. Choose only a few places or things to do in advance, and decide the rest when you get there. We may not be able to go or do all the things we want to, but it’s a good excuse to return to the place!
5) TAKE SOME TIME TO RELAX BEFORE TRAVELING
I can totally relate to your anxiety before traveling! The worries are endless. Will I sleep well? Will I be okay with the cuisine/culture? What if I have an anxiety attack? If you feel the same, do what you can to feel calm and relaxed, a few days before leaving to unwind anxiety.
I highly recommend using Headspace to help you be calm and deal with the feelings you have before you go. I started using this app when I was overwhelmed by anxiety before leaving. It calmed me down and even improved my quality of sleep. I use it regularly now! The first ten days are free and different themed sessions are available. Along with relaxing, make sure to get enough sleep as it is said that lack of sleep triggers anxiety.
6) OBSERVE THE PATTERN
Your health might be better under specific conditions. Observe your pattern and take it into consideration when deciding where to go. For example, my condition is stable when it’s warm and sunny, so I try to choose these places as travel destinations especially when it’s winter in my country. I also prefer destinations popular for health and wellness, since getting a massage eases my tension physically and mentally which makes me feel better.
It’s true that we need a little bit more effort than others, but it’s totally worth it!! Interact with locals, immerse in different cultures and be blown away by breathtaking sceneries, discover yourself… The experience we gain through travel is a lifetime treasure.
Have you ever traveled with an illness? If you have any questions about the information please leave these in the comments below.
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