If you are diagnosed with having anxiety and panic attacks, you might not be able to travel as much you and your family want. Psychology describes a panic attack as something that is disabling to a person in terms of his physical and mental well-being. It is a significant distraction to someone who is trying to do something that often triggers his panic disorder, making him even more distraught and frustrated.
Traveling is among its common triggers, and if you are out of your comfort zone and in a new place, you usually feel scared and unsure. You might also be afraid that other people might see you at your worst – manifesting panic and nervousness. But according to Katharina Star, Ph.D., “The anticipation of uneasy travel will often bring on more stress and anxiety about your upcoming trip. Be ready to face your panic attacks by having a plan of coping skills ready beforehand.”
Thankfully, there are a few ways that you can try to do to handle your panic and anxiety symptoms while you’re traveling so that you can enjoy your time with your family.
Always Be Ready. When you know the date of your travel, make an effort of preparing for your trip, including thinking about how to manage your symptoms. Expecting that you will have an uncomfortable trip will often lead to more anxiety and stress. When your panic attacks do come, be ready for them by creating a list of coping skills that you can try. For instance, deep breathing is a very powerful tool that can help alleviate your fears. Other techniques include meditation and visualizations. You may also do some relaxation practices a few weeks before your trip. Focus on learning to relax while you’re sitting on your car and thinking of unpleasant or scary thoughts.
Don’t Fight The Feelings. “Travel anxiety is very common,” says psychologist Greta Hirschhen, a clinical director of the Ross Center for Anxiety in Washington. When you notice that the panic symptoms are slowly overpowering you, distracting you from keeping a clear head, simply let them. Fighting them will only aggravate the nervous feelings. Instead, Let the panic run its course, do some breathing and relaxation, and notice the panic symptoms gradually dwindling. Trying to go against the strong negative emotions will sometimes make you lose control, and it’s not going to be good for you especially when you’re traveling. So try surrendering to the symptoms and keep in mind that it will all be over soon.
Distract Yourself. It is typical to notice that your symptoms are emerging while you’re traveling. But you can try to stop this by distracting yourself with things that can help you not think about panic and anxiety. For example, read your favorite book or magazine, play a new game, or listen to relaxing music. Do things that will make you feel positive and happy so that you will effectively replace your negative thoughts that are trying to come up. “Practice visualization by imagining a relaxing place and what you would be experiencing with your sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell,” says Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a licensed psychologist. Add some positive self-talk like ‘I am okay’ or ‘this will be gone in a few.’
Being aware of your breath is also a great tool to distract yourself from the unpleasant physical and mental thoughts. Try counting your breath as you inhale and exhale, and then take it to the next level by doing deeper breaths along with some stretches. When you’re done with five or more, you’ll feel so much lighter and your mind so much clearer.
Travel With A Partner. For people with panic disorders, it would be better to bring along someone you can trust, like a close friend or family member. Travel with someone who knows about your predicament and you’re comfortable telling him that you are getting anxious or nervous. Also, having someone close with you may be just what you need to have a wonderful trip. If you’re getting uneasy and you think you can’t handle things on your own, tell your travel buddy and don’t hesitate to ask for help. This is why he should be someone you trust and who knows that you have the condition.
Seek Professional Help. Visit your physician and tell him about your planned travel. Update him about what’s new regarding your condition – if things have improved or if it has progressed into something more. The doctor should be able to know this so he can determine what he can recommend for treating your panic and anxiety symptoms. He may prescribe you with anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepine, Klonopin, or Xanax for relaxation.
When you are living with anxiety and panic disorder, your life can be a challenging one but don’t let it stop you from establishing your travel goals and fulfilling your dreams. Try following some or all of these techniques on your upcoming trip. With some preparation and practice, you’re on your way to achieving a stress-free and happy trip.