Travel can be stressful at the best of times, but add in having experienced a global pandemic and anxiety can almost seem overwhelming.
While most things that cause us anxiety while traveling are highly unlikely to occur, events like this pandemic are a legitimate concern to take seriously. There’s no doubt we’ll face more virus’ in the future.
If you’re someone that regularly struggles with anxiety, traveling after an event such a pandemic can send terror through your entire body and prevent you from even considering making travel plans.
But thankfully, there are many ways you can learn to control your anxiety which will hopefully allow you travel with much less stress and discomfort.
The first step is recognizing you have anxiety and then seeking out ways to combat it. Getting help from a licensed anxiety therapist can help you recognize whether you are dealing with severe anxiety and can instruct you on how to avoid your triggers as well as offering up solutions on how to reduce your anxiety in order to lessen its impact on your travel.
Ways to Reduce Anxiety When Traveling After a Pandemic
Why it’s Important to Manage Your Anxiety
While anxiety affects everyone differently, it’s important to know that you aren’t alone in your struggles with it.
Everyone deals with anxiety and if left to get out of control it can lead to chronic sleep disturbance, high blood pressure, digestive issues, and other serious health complications.
When it comes to traveling during heightened stressful periods, here are some things you can personally do to help ease your anxiety so you can enjoy traveling once again.
Choose the Right Time to Travel
If you’re prone to getting anxious when you travel, one of the best ways to minimize the level of your anxiety is to choose an appropriate time to travel where you aren’t already stressed.
You may want to postpone travel if you have recently had health issues that are still a concern to you, are having difficulties or big projects in the works at your job, or are dealing with important family matters at home.
You want to have a clear head before traveling, and if you currently have a lot on your mind, then the usual anxiety of traveling will only be heightened. Deal with any issues you may have first before planning a trip.
If nothing seems to be causing you stress or anxiety, then ask yourself whether taking a holiday at a specific time could potentially cause headaches. If booking a trip will greatly interfere with work, school, or domestic affairs then it may not be the best time.
You should also make sure that your planned travel won’t negatively affect you financially to the point where it could cause you anxiety during your trip or upon your return.
Thoroughly Research Your Destination Choices
Currently, there are a number of countries that are imposing quarantine mandates, mask requirements, and other guidelines relating to the pandemic. It’s important to research how local restrictions could impact your holiday in your planned travel destination.
There may be curfews in place and certain businesses and attractions may have been forced to close. You don’t want to find yourself expecting to do certain things or go to certain places, only to realize you can’t.
Some nations are now requiring that you provide proof of a recent negative COVID PCR test in order to enter the country. In the near future, some countries may require you to show some kind of certificate that you have been vaccinated against COVID-19, in a similar manner to a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate.
Revisit What You Pack
Packing for a trip can always cause a lot of anxiety. Making sure you have everything you may need plus trying to adhere to luggage size and weight restrictions can be difficult.
In the current climate, you now have to make sure to pack a mask as they are currently regularly required in many places such as airports, on flights, and on public transport.
You’d also be wise to pack hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and alcohol wipes to disinfect your plane seat and tray table before you settle in.
Being Smart with Transportation
Pandemics and the need to practice social distancing can make traveling in confined planes, trains, and buses quite stressful. If you are worried about being packed in close with a large group of people in a confined space, you may want to consider a road trip instead of taking a plane somewhere.
If taking a flight is unavoidable, you may wish to at least rent your own private vehicle instead of using the subway or other public transport for getting around once you get to your destination.
In addition to worrying about your health on flights and public transport, you should also be aware that both have been affected by the pandemic in terms of availability and schedules. Many airlines have reduced flights and exchanged long haul flights for shorter connecting flights in order to do more regular cleaning.
If opting for a road trip, be aware that certain rest stops and public bathrooms have been closed due to the pandemic in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. You will need to do an internet search to see what facilities will be open on the route you are taking.
Plan Relaxing Travel Activities
Another great way to make sure you keep your anxiety in check while on holiday is to choose relaxing activities.
Attractions and events that draw large crowds of people such as concerts and sporting events are often loud and chaotic, which could potentially exacerbate your anxiety. These types of activities also make you more vulnerable during a pandemic, which is why many have been restricted or cancelled.
During stressful times, you may want to look at booking experiences like spas, yoga on the beach, or small group tours. Hike local nature trails or simply spend time in a quiet park.
The point to remember is that you don’t need to do everything the travel guide recommends in order to have an enjoyable holiday. The whole point of taking a vacation is to enjoy a break from your hectic everyday life.
Don’t Overload Your Itinerary
Trying to cram too much into each any every one of your travel days will only promote anxiety attacks. While you may want to make the most of your time in your travel destination, trying to experience too much will only reduce the quality of each experience.
Do your research and select attractions or activities that you really wish to experience before your trip and then read through your list to determine if you realistically have the adequate amount of time to really appreciate each experience.
If not, start to remove things off your itinerary so they will not impact the top things on your wish list.
During stressful times like these, it is important to also schedule in down time to your itinerary. This will allow you to take a minute to breathe, meditate, or do whatever it is that best eases your anxiety.
Scheduling in periods of relaxation during your travels acts as a sort of reset which helps to prevent stress and anxiety from building up to unhealthy levels.
Make Bookings with Generous Cancellation Policies
Making nonrefundable bookings whether it be for accommodation or tours can create a lot of anxiety, especially when you believe there may be a strong possibility that something will impact your plans which will force you to cancel and lose your investment.
During the pandemic, we have seen flights cancelled, attractions forced to close, and country or state borders closed. While many airlines and hotel brands have tried their best to accommodate people amidst the ever changing restrictions and circumstances, many travelers who made non-refundable bookings have lost out.
If you have no choice but to book non-refundable flights, hotels , or tours, purchasing a comprehensive travel insurance policy will go a long way to easing your anxiety in the lead-up and during your trip.
Travel insurance not only covers you financially in the event you are forced to cancel your trip or experience travel delays, but also if you happen to lose your baggage or require overseas medical treatment.
Be sure to check your travel insurance policy to see if it covers pandemics including the current one, as often known-pandemics will be excluded from coverage should it be the reason your travel was impacted.
Listen to the Science
It pays to listen to the science and trusted medical advice while traveling during a pandemic.
You should adhere to the latest advice offered by organizations like the CDC or World Health Organization and avoid trusting guidance offered up on social media through unrecognized sources or individuals.
A lot of misinformation has been spread through social media in regards to what you should be doing to keep yourself and others safe. This mix of often conflicting invalidated information can easily trigger your anxiety as it leaves you not knowing the best course of action to take.
By ignoring social media and trusting reputable doctors and scientists, you will have the best chance of getting the most truthful information. In times like these, anxiety over staying clean and safe can also easily lead to OCD behaviors.
If you find yourself going above and beyond the recommended advice of science in an effort to avoid catching a virus or disease, you may want to seek counseling to see if your thoughts and behaviors are irrational as they can begin to negatively affect your daily life if left unchecked.
Build up Your Immune System
While the idea of boosting your immune system may sound enticing, there aren’t really any scientifically proven ways to do so. It’s not so much boosting your immune system that is important, rather it’s making sure your current immune system is working effectively.
Having a healthy immune system does not prevent you from contracting COVID-19. Your immune system is a system that does its best to eliminate harmful invading viruses and bacteria once they infect you.
Having a super enhanced immune system might actually work against you as it may begin to attack beneficial bacteria and other friendly things that your body needs. It’s all about having a properly functioning well balanced immune system.
You may have heard that taking vitamins and supplements or eating certain foods can help boost your immune system, but they generally don’t have any direct effect on your immune response. What is important is to look after your general overall health as things like diabetes and obesity can prevent your immune system from working 100% effectively.
So while you may not be able to prevent catching things like COVID-19 with a strong immune system, having a properly working system will put you in a much better position to fight off the virus so you won’t suffer as severe effects.
Easy ways you can keep good health include eating healthy, getting adequate sleep, staying hydrated, and getting recommended vaccinations.
Get Advice and Coping Tips from a Therapist
If you feel your anxiety has become too difficult for you to manage on your own, then it may be time to seek a therapist. Stressful situations affect everyone in different ways, so there is no one set solution that will remedy your anxiety.
A therapist will be able to help you determine what exactly is triggering your anxiety and offer ways that may help based on your own specific situation and personality.
Licensed therapists may use psychotherapy techniques like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) which may help you better manage your anxiety. If your anxiety is extreme, they may even discuss possible prescribed anxiety medications that can help.
Trying to self-diagnose the severity of your anxiety can lead to you making wrong decisions that may only worsen your condition, which is why getting professional help is important if you are struggling to get on top of your anxiety alone.
If you’re suffering from a mental health condition, it doesn’t mean that you can’t travel the world, but it may mean you have to do a bit more planning to manage your health.
What has been your experience traveling the world while managing your mental health?
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