Saturday, 21 April 2018

Preparing To Travel When You Have Anxiety | Mental Health

Hey lovelies! If you guys didn't already know, my best friends & I are heading to Portugal next month and I am super excited! The main agenda for our trip is to celebrate the Eurovision Song Contest, which will take place on the 12th May in Lisbon, however we decided to book eight days and make it a holiday! It's been two years since I travelled to Sweden with one of my besties for Eurovision and with it being a longer trip too, I'm feeling pretty damn anxious >.< I have been preparing myself for this trip for a while now and I thought I'd share some of the ways that I've been getting myself psyched for my travels, to help my fellow anxiety-riddled people! Although this post should be helpful for anyone who's going on vacation and has some nerves surrounding it!

When it comes to travel tips, there's quite a few vlogs and posts out there all about dealing with in-the-moment anxiety whilst holidaying, or how to cope with specific anxiety surrounding the flight and/or journey itself, but there's little on how to prepare before you actually set off. For me (and I know for many others too) however my anxiety is a problem before an event or trip actually takes place. Anticipatory anxiety is what causes me to work myself up and I often let the panic build to the point where I end up having to cancel my plans. Holidays are great for this in one aspect because once you've paid all that money for your flights and accommodation and whatever, you can't really go back on it! This is a blessing in disguise though when you feel like there's no turning back, but in the end it makes you work through your anxiety and conquer your fears. I know that I felt great after I'd come home from Stockholm, I was proud of myself and I had the best time so all of it was worth it, even dealing with the stress of it all! Travel is really fun and you shouldn't let things hold you back from exploring new places :) Anyhow, I feel like I'm rambling, let's get on with this post haha!

Anxiety & Travelling

Lists are your best friend!

Making lists is something that I do all the time, on a daily basis, sometimes several times in a day. This includes to do lists, goals, weekly plans, money plans, blogging objectives, the list is endless (haha, see what I did there! XD I attempted to be funny). I find that planning my life like this really helps to reduce my anxiety. Having things written down after thinking them through in my head is stress-relieving. It allows me to feel... I don't know how to word it... secure. Secure in the fact that if I stick to my lists, everything will go to plan, and for someone with anxiety of which a very common symptom is a fear of the unknown/uncertain, of not being in control, this can be super helpful. Reading through my lists, and checking things off as I go along, helps to reassure me that everything will be okay and that I'm achieving something, no matter how small of a step I've completed.

So when it comes to going on a trip/holiday, I make no exceptions... I make lists, lots of them! I start a few months before the trip, so that I give myself time to mentally prepare for travelling and everything that comes along with it. It can be a stressful experience for anyone, but add a brain that thinks that anything and everything is a life-or-death situation, and it's a whole other thing! I re-write these lists over time, updating them and that helps me somewhat memorise them, which again gives me some relief because I feel that little bit more prepared. It's very easy in a panic situation to not be able to think clearly, so memorising things ahead of time can be important. 

So you're probably wondering by now what sort of lists I actually make, right? I write lists for what I need to pack in both my suitcase and my hand luggage, what I'm going to wear each day of the vacation, what I already have and what I need to buy, a plan for the travelling to my destination and one for the journey home (times, places I need to be, what I need to bring with me, etc.), what I'm going to eat when I'm out there... basically ALL THE LISTS! For any aspect of the trip I can possibly think of, I write it all down and it helps to clarify everything for me. I recommend that you have a go at this too if you struggle with anxiety or you are super nervous about your trip. You don't have to go as extra as I do haha! But writing lists and checking them off can be essential for keeping you from panicking last minute, which is only going to make things worse!

Excitement reduces anxiety

Those dreadful anxious thoughts that circulate constantly in our minds when we are worried about something can be greatly reduced when we have something to distract ourselves. Having things other than all of your negative feelings to concentrate on is super important whenever you're experiencing anticipatory anxiety. You need to be able to channel your thoughts onto positive subjects when you're starting to feel overwhelmed by your nerves! I know all too well that it is easier said than done to try to think about other things when you are in full on panic mode, but this is something that you really have to put all of your energy into doing. If you are looking forward to something it makes it just that bit easier to distract yourself. Whenever I get anxious before going to Comic Con each year for example, I think about all of the amazing cosplay I will see, I spend the days leading up to the convention watching YouTube videos of cosplay and looking back through photographs I took at previously Comic Con's I've attended. I think about all of the awesome merch I can buy and about how much fun I'll have spending time with my best friend. I save things onto my phone so that I have easy access to something positive surrounding the thing I'm freaking out about. 

And it's the same when it comes to travelling! More than likely if you're going on holiday somewhere, you are going to be looking forward to it. No one is going to pay all that money to visit somewhere they don't want to go, so you're already one step in the right direction to begin with! There's already reasons why you are interested in visiting this destination and so it's time to focus on these reasons :) Are you a fan of history or architecture or art? Then have a google or a search on social media to find things that catch your eye! Are you going over to another town or country to see a live band or a musical? Then pour all of your attention into the fact that you actually get to see them/it in person.

For me, I love watching travel vlogs! I will (and have) spend hours and hours watching people's videos of their time visiting the place that I'm going to. The more amazing sites and interesting places I see, the more pumped up I get to see them for myself :) Honestly this has been something that has really helped me and I have not shut up to anyone who will listen about all of the awesome things to see and do in Lisbon! List making has overlapped with this too because I've now made lists of all of the sites I want to see! :D So if you are nervous about going on vacation, be sure to focus on why you want to go there and the fabulous time that you're going to have, and it will make such a difference to how you feel. 

Anxiety & Travelling

Planning is key

Some people would prefer to visit a new place and only have a rough idea, or even no idea at all, what to expect to see and do there. Although it can be exciting to not know too much and be surprised by what you discover when it comes to travelling, this is not something that is possible for most of us with anxiety. I love surprises when they involve minor things like opening presents and subscription boxes,  finding new items in a store, going to see a new movie at the cinema or trying sweets from another country, etc., all these things are not going to have a negative impact on how I function. But when it comes to visiting somewhere new, if something happens that I am not even considering and thus totally unprepared to deal with, it will more than likely have a big effect on how the rest of my time there goes. I will be on edge of said thing happening again and I might not be ready to deal with it in the moment and/or the aftereffects. Even things that seem like they wouldn't be an issue to most people may be problems for people with anxiety, so we have to prepare for so many things that might not even cross your mind. This is why planning is key!

I like to plan everything down to a T as much as is possible, but when you are travelling with multiple people this can be difficult to achieve as you have to take into account what everyone in the group wants to do. Of course travelling with a spoonie means that there are things that they are not going to be able to do so it's important that you are aware of their limitations beforehand. You wouldn't go to an all dairy restaurant (imagining that they don't have dairy-free alternatives of course) with someone who is lactose-intolerant. Just as you wouldn't go to a butterfly house with someone who has a phobia of butterflies. Planning with all people involved in mind is going to be something that will help you prepare for your travels and put your mind at ease about anything happening that you're not comfortable with or whatever.

The things that I like to plan include: what are the local attractions, how much it will cost for admission and how would I get there from where I am staying, what might I need to bring, and what can I expect from visiting such a place. Something that is a popular suggestion from counsellors and therapists is to create action plans for dealing with specific events that trigger your anxiety, such as 'going to the shopping centre'. You write down all of the things that make you anxious about going there, all of things that you predict might happen that would be a problem for you, and then write up solutions for how you are going to deal with it if what you predict does actually happen. It is also recommended that you score your predictions based on how likely they are to really occur. An action plan can be useful for anyone's mental health, whether you have anxiety disorder or not, so you should definitely give it a go if you think it might be useful for you :) 

Research, Research, Research

This point coincides well with what I said about planning, but it goes that one step further to helping those with anxiety prepare to travel. It's great to have an idea of what you're going to do on holiday and doing some basic reading about what your accommodation is like for example. However for me, researching everything I possibly can about certain places is reassuring and puts my mind at ease. I know that a lot of people like to be organised and thorough with their planning so they research the heck out of their holiday destination anyway, but I thought it was still an important suggestion to make.

When I've been researching for Lisbon, I've looked into all sorts such as locations of the attractions and what other things there are to see in the same area, so that I can spend less time on public transport. I checked out what kind of restaurants there are in Lisbon, what some of the traditional foods and drinks are, what the nightlife is like, what time the various public transport runs until, how far our accommodation is away from places I'm interested in going to, etc etc. I have read a lot of reviews about attractions, restaurants, the area in general, our accommodation and more, and seeing great reviews has helped me to feel more confident about visiting. I actually find researching really fun because I'm a dork like that :P Watching vlogs has always been a way of researching, and being able to actually visualise the locations is something that I find very useful. When I actually arrive at the destination and see places that are now familiar, it makes me feel less uncertain, and that little bit more secure in my surroundings :) 

Don't prepare everything in the last week!

Everyone I know gets kinda stressed when they are making sure that they have everything they need for their vacation ready and packed. However a lot of people I know sort most of these things out last minute, or at least within the last week leading up to their take-off date. This is something that I would advised against for anyone preparing to go on holiday, but even more so for people who are experiencing anxiety. There is nothing more stressful than feeling rushed when you're dealing with insecurities, and thoughts that you have forgotten something essential and that you are not ready to leave. It's horrid! So give yourself lots of time to get everything in order and to make yourself feel comfortable that you are well and truly prepared as far as packing goes. Try to get your holiday shopping done as early as you can. Make a check list and follow it, ticking off the items as you buy them. Read your list to someone else because they might notice something you've missed that's important to get for your trip. Even if you don't organise your suitcase and hand luggage until the final week before departure, I recommend having your suitcase ready and putting everything you buy inside so that you know where it is when you need to finish packing. Just do it as soon as you feel is good for you and then you can take your time :) Oh and make sure you know where your passport is if you're going abroad, find it early and pop it in your suitcase! 

Bring distractions & comfort items with you!

Lastly, I want to include a tip that isn't necessarily something you do to get yourself ready to go on holiday but more so to prepare yourself for any anxiety you'll experience on your journey and whilst you're there. As I was mentioned earlier in this post, distracting yourself from those anxious thoughts is something that will definitely help with your mental and emotional state, because you will not be focused on that negative internal voice, overthinking all of the worse possible scenarios. It is good to keep your mind occupied by doing things that you enjoy, whether that be by listening to music, reading, colouring in or doing a puzzle, playing with some kind of fiddle toy, drawing, watching a TV show or movie. Whatever it is that calms your mind or that pulls you in enough to focus on something other than your anxiety, bring it on holiday with you! Remember to download your music or shows/films for the plane beforehand because you won't be able to connect to the internet. Don't forget to pack a pen if you're packing something like a crossword book. 

Other than things to keep you distracted, it can also be beneficial to bring something with you that reminds you someone, something that makes you happy, something that is your good luck charm. Whatever it may be, take something that brings you comfort and make you feel better :) A lot of people experience 'home sickness', anxiety about being away from home, so a comfort item like this can help make them feel in a way that little closer to home.

So, those are all of the main preparations I make to give myself as much opportunity as I can to enjoy my holiday despite having generalised anxiety and social anxiety disorder. All of this might seem a lot to do before going on vacation, but for me these steps are essential for me to not be a complete nervous wreck. I am determined to not let my awkward brain spoil myself having a great time and doing something that I have always wanted to do, which is to travel. I might not be able to jet off all the time, or take advantage of those cheap, spontaneous trips available online, but I am doing my best to still explore the world one step at a time. I know that this was a long post, but I had lots of say and I hope that my suggestions are helpful! Let me know in the comments if there's anything  I missed that you do to help reduce your anxiety when preparing to go on holiday. 

Thankyou for reading! 

Are any of you guys going on holiday this year?

I'd love to here all about it! 

Check out this post I wrote all about travelling when you're a spoonie! 


No comments

Post a Comment

Blog Design Created by pipdig