I have been had G.A.D for about 4/5 years now and I have been on Medication, been to counselling, tried all sorts of home remedies and self-help techniques, so I understand the ins and outs of having an Anxiety Disorder. For those of you that don’t know G.A.D is Generalised Anxiety Disorder, this is where the sufferer is in a constant state of heightened anxiety. This can be about anything at all. It’s different to Social Anxiety as that is centred around social situations rather than, well, everything!
My Anxiety comes out mainly in physical symptoms, which most people aren’t aware of. What this means is that I have a lot of trouble with going out and particularly travelling, although I am still a high functioning anxiety sufferer. I won’t go into too much detail about that now as I may do a blog post about my anxiety in the future if you guys want me to, where I’ll go into all of that!
Anxiety, much like all mental health, is one of those things that a lot of people don’t really understand, which is why I wanted to write this blog post so that should any of you guys find this at all relatable, you won’t feel alone and it might help you! So in no particular order here is my guide to travelling with an Anxiety Disorder:
Be Prepared (like, too much!) – I know this might sound obvious but you need to be overly prepared. The best ways I have found to do this is to; write checklists, research where you are going to (e.g. Weather, Culture etc.), luggage requirements and anything else you want to know about what to bring and what to expect when you go away! Try to be ready for ANYTHING your anxiety decides to throw at you. Writing lists is my favourite thing ever (which is really sad but I love it, judge me) and a really useful way to remember everything you need to pack. Split it into two halves ‘Hand Luggage and Hold Luggage’ so then you can organise everything effectively. Do it in the notes section of your phone so you can add to it wherever you are. On the iPhone app they have a checklist feature, which is really handy!
Understand your Fears – It is so important to try to understand where your anxiety stems from. What triggers it? Now this is definitely easier said than done but start paying attention to what you’re ‘What if-ing’ about! As I mentioned my anxiety is mainly all physical symptoms and I panic a lot about being sick as when I get anxious I tend to get quite nauseous, so recently I have started taking Travel Sickness tablets when flying, after almost being sick when experiencing some turbulence last year. I have got travel sickness since I was a kid anyway so this just helps to eliminate this being an issue at all. I also have this weird complex where I panic about being sick and being trapped and having to get up to be sick and everyone seeing me (I know right) so in order to help myself with this I always book my seats in advance. I usually try and go for the front row, aisle seats or extra legroom. Doing this gives me peace of mind because then I know whom I’m sitting next to and I know I don’t have to try and get on the plane ASAP to get a good seat. This may be something for you to consider doing too.
If motion sickness is something that bothers you then there are hundreds of articles online that you should have a look at. I personally have found that sitting in the front row by the window was the best place for me so that I could see out the window and my eyes could actually see us moving and also being in the front row meant I wasn’t trapped and I could get up with ease. This might be different for you.
Distractions – Bring things to distract yourself with on the flight! I always make sure I bring my iPod so I don’t use all my phone’s battery, and make sure it’s got hours of good music and TV shows on it. I also usually try to go to sleep if it’s going to be a longer flight (over an hour or two). I personally have never tried this myself but I have heard of people using sleeping pills to help themselves get to sleep on a flight. I would recommend researching this more yourself and talking to your Doctor to ensure you understand all the risks and are safe if doing so.
Travelling with Somebody – I know this isn’t always possible but travelling with someone, especially someone who understands can help so much. If you are travelling with someone then try to explain to them that you have Anxiety and how it affects you. If you know, then tell them what your triggers and symptoms are and what you need from them should something happen.
I understand it can be really difficult putting your anxiety into words and it can be ever harder trusting someone enough to reach out and ask them for help, but if there is someone you can talk to you might be surprised by just how caring and willing to help they can be. I travel with my boyfriend a lot and my anxiety flares up pretty much on a day-to-day basis and he always tries to do as much as he can to help me!
If you are travelling alone then there are countless articles and other blogs about this that you should have a look at. I have never done it before but it is something I am looking to do soon.
I’m not a professional and I’m in no way trying to pretend that I am, so these aren’t going to be tried and tested theories and they might not work for everyone but here are just a few of the things that I do to help myself when I’m struggling:
- Water – I literally always have a bottle of water with me wherever I go because of my anxiety. It’s a good habit to have but I’ve made it a bad one for me because I can now be reliant on it and sometimes panic if I know I can’t have it with me for a period of time. However sipping on cold water sometimes helps me to prevent myself from feeling sick.
- Zoning Out – People sometimes stress me out a bit when I’m travelling so this is really where the distractions come into play. Not only does this help to pass the time but it keeps you calm too.
- Breathing exercises – It sounds silly and I’m not expecting you to start practicing full blown yoga on the plane but just keeping your breathing steady will help keep your heart rate down and help you keep your cool! Taking some deep breaths and having some kind of counting strategy will help you to control your breathing.
- Wear comfy clothes – Don’t wear anything restrictive that’s going to stress you out at all. Something loose fitting would be best.
- Wear layers – Getting hot stresses me out sometimes so by wearing layers you can control your temperature easier. I don’t mean loads of layers just like a t-shirt and a hoodie instead of something like just a sweatshirt with nothing underneath!
- Find what works for you – It takes time finding the things that work for you so just try your best to be patient.
I hope reading this gave some of you some peace of mind knowing you aren’t alone and there’s other people going through similar things to you when it comes to travelling with mental health problems. Hopefully some of the things in this post will stick with you and maybe make travelling a little easier too! I know it’s not just people with Anxiety that can have a rough time travelling too so hopefully if you are just someone that has a trouble with it this will help you too!