I'm a travel blogger, so flying is part of my job. Unfortunately, I also have travel anxiety. My anxiety began less than two years ago after I fainted on a flight from Rome to New York.
Since then, I get at least a pinch of anxiety before every trip, and occasionally a full-fledged attack (throwback to the time I went to North Korea).
Until recently, I had no idea how common travel anxiety actually is. Although I don't have a magic potion to melt it all away forever, there are a few things I do to help ease it down a bit.
Here are five helpful tips to make sure your travel anxiety doesn't get the best of you:
If you're one of those people who consumes a ton of water, go ahead and skip down to the next step. For the rest of you: Drink water.
Truth: Most days I drink between 0 to 4 ounces of water (why drink water when you could have a beer, I say!) But when I travel, I drink a whopping 8 to 16 ounces (don't judge, it's the best I can do) and keep my coffee intake to below three cups.
I consciously down water the day of travel to prepare my body and to get it as healthy, strong and well-functioning as possible. I've made this a habit because I know I may experience stress when I get to the airport or board the plane, and I want to be able to handle that stress, acknowledge it and dance with it without shutting down.
2. Get to the airport early.
I know this seems counterintuitive to a lot of people. Airports are stuffy, loud and hectic. Why would anyone spend more time there than absolutely necessary?
Well, when you get to the airport early, you have ample time to go through security. Security in the US is SUCH a downer, and many times you turn the corner just to find the line is a 30-60 minute wait.
When you give yourself plenty of time, you won't have a conniption at the sight of that monstrosity. You won't be concerned with missing your flight, and you won't have as much anxiety as the unprepared buddy behind you. While he panics about forgetting his passport, you can pull out your phone, take a selfie and call your mom. Look at how productive you are!
Once through security, you have time to get a bottle of water. People who get to the airport last minute and get held up in the security line have to sprint to their gate, barely making it before the staff closes the door. And then, those people have to wait an hour for beverage service. Sucks to be them. Don't be that person.
When you get to the airport early, you have time to find healthy-ish food and a corner away from the busy gates with an open outlet. Once you have food, water and a tranquil space, you can work productively for an hour or two. And you were as cool as a cucumber the whole damn time.
I have had a consistent meditation practice for a few years now. I find that meditating grounds me, puts me at ease and makes me feel good in general.
If you, too, have already built a practice, I highly recommend meditating before boarding. If you don't have a meditation practice just yet, I don't recommend having your first go at the airport. Some people find that meditation (especially at the beginning) makes them feel more anxious, so just be aware of that.
Slow breathing when I'm already off-balance actually makes me more of a wreck. I prefer to do Kundalini Breath Of Fire, where you focus on pulling in your navel, while sharply exhaling through your nose (the inhale happens automatically).
Do you look (and sound) nuts? Totally. But it's the cheapest high in New York City, and a great option for the broke and anxious flyer.
4. Prepare entertainment.
I don't read on planes because I get motion sickness. And I don't often get down with in-flight entertainment because I will never get those two hours I spent watching "The Time Traveler's Wife" back.
Sometimes I just close my eyes and listen to these podcasts, and other times I simultaneously work on an adult coloring book. There's a reason these coloring books are all the rage right now. They focus your mind on something other than your problems, they allow you to express your creativity and they take up a lot of time.
However, if I'm not feeling great, whether it be due to anxiety, nausea or exhaustion, I listen to a playlist I put together to calm me down. Most of the music is a combination of Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm and A Winged Victory For The Sullen.
5. Bring doctor-prescribed anxiety medication.
Anxiety is an overwhelming medical condition, and sometimes we need to seek out help from a medical professional. Is doctor-prescribed medication for everyone? Absolutely not. But it is an option that helps a lot of people.
For me, medication is used as a last resort. Even when I'm hydrated, have meditated and have listened to my relaxing music, I need to take an anti-anxiety medication that was prescribed to me by my doctor. When I have had anxiety attacks on flights, I landed at my destination with the mentality that I was a victim.
I didn't see all the beauty of the country; I didn't engage my senses. I saw what could hurt me or make me uncomfortable. I was emotionally off-balance, and it would take a day or two to recover back to my bubbly, optimistic self.
I never want to be the victim. So, if my body needs it, I do what I need to do to allow myself a peaceful rest during my flight and to land at my destination with an open mind and full heart.
I understand how anxiety can prevent someone from traveling as much as they would like to, but I hope some of these tips can be utilized to make traveling a bit more bearable.