Friday 7 February 2020

My travel anxiety tips

For years, I had no issues surrounding anxiety when flying. I would be more than happy to hop on a plane, enjoy the excitement of take off and the occasional spot of turbulence, and look forward to landing in a new destination. However over the past few months, I seem to have developed a bit of anxiety when flying, so I wanted to share some tips regarding what has helped to make my flying experience more enjoyable and a bit less anxiety-inducing.

1. Pack early with a list - one of the things that I find can bring on anxiety is the fear of leaving something crucial at home. To combat this, I find that writing a list on my phone a few days before a trip really helps to ensure I don't forget anything. I also keep a 'last minute packing essentials' list on my phone (with items like my phone charger, laptop and charger, last minute toiletry items, water bottle etc) that I can look over on the morning of a flight to make sure I haven't forgotten these essentials.

2. Allow plenty of time to get to the airport - after a not-very-enjoyable experience in Washington DC a few years ago where we got stuck in traffic and missed our flight to Chicago, I am very keen to allow plenty of time to get to the airport before my flight. If possible, I like to be at the airport at least an hour before a domestic flight to allow for any traffic problems or long queues at the airport, and to give me time to grab a drink or snack at the airport and relax a bit before my flight.

3. Check in online before the flight - I love the fact that I can check in for my flight a couple of days before the actual flight, as this allows me to choose a seat, download my boarding pass onto my phone, and most importantly, avoid having to queue up at the airport to check in (particularly if I'm just travelling with carry-on luggage - my favourite way to travel). By eliminating the additional step of queuing at the check in desk, I find that I am a lot calmer before having to queue to go through security.

4. Avoid scheduling plans at my destination straight after the flight - this is a new one for me, as I often try to squeeze in a lot of catch ups with friends and family whenever I fly back home to Sydney. However, after a few recent flight delays which resulted in having to change or cancel plans, I noticed this added quite a lot of anxiety to my travel experience, so I am now going to try and have at least a couple of hours' leeway before scheduling in any plans at my destination, to allow for any flight delays and frantic rushing as soon as I get off the plane.

5. Noise-cancelling headphones and relaxing music - a couple of years ago I invested in the Bose noise-cancelling headphones, which are great for cancelling out background noise on a plane. I often listen to a 'yoga chill playlist' that I have downloaded onto my phone whenever I feel a bit anxious during the flight, which really helps to calm me down.

6. Have all your essentials in your carry-on - I like to make sure I have everything I'll need for the flight within easy access in my bag. These include my phone (as close as possible to fully charged, with downloaded music, YouTube videos or favourite shows for entertainment), my noise-cancelling headphones, a book or kindle, my water bottle, some snacks, mints or gum, lip balm and tissues. Knowing I have all these things helps make my flight experience more enjoyable.

7. Wear comfortable clothes - there is nothing worse than being stuck in uncomfortable clothes, particularly on a long-haul flight. If I am flying domestically, I'll often wear a loose-fitting dress with a jacket or cardigan for warmth, or if I'm flying internationally, I love to wear black leggings (the Lululemon align pants are amazing) with a comfy t-shirt and jumper and slip on shoes, so there is no need to worry about tight, uncomfortable jeans or shirts restricting me.

8. Avoid big meals before a flight - one of my fears with flying is feeling nauseous on a plane, so I've found that if I can avoid having a big meal right before a flight, I will be much less likely to worry about any feelings of nausea arising on the flight.

9. Make the flying experience as normal as possible - I have recently found that if I can talk my mind into remembering that flying is actually a very normal and safe mode of transport, and that thousands of people do it every day, then I really don't have much about which to worry. It is when I start letting irrational thoughts into my mind that I start to build up the experience as something much bigger than it is, which brings a whole lot of unnecessary anxiety into the flight. If I can get comfy in my seat, put on my headphones with some relaxing music or entertaining show to watch, have some tasty snacks and water on hand, and remember that it is a very normal experience, then I am much less likely to feel anxious throughout the flight.

10. Think beyond the flight - often when I experience anxiety during a flight, it is easy to fixate on the aspects that make me anxious - the turbulence, the feelings of claustrophobia, not being able to escape, etc. However, I find that if I can think about what I will do when I arrive at the airport, get to my hotel, meet up with friends that evening, or go to one of my favourite cafes for brunch the next day, it brings a sense of excitement and provides a distraction from the flight itself.

Hopefully these tips can help anyone else who experiences travel anxiety, whether it be days before a flight, at the airport, or on the plane itself. I think that preparation is key, and being able to remind yourself of the normality of the experience, as well as the fact that travelling can bring so many incredible experiences, adventures and memories, makes it all worth it.

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