-Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Most people who have known me since college or earlier were shocked to find out that I travel the world alone. Having suffered through years of severe anxiety, I was the last person anyone would think of when they heard the term “solo-traveler.”
Travel became a type of immersion therapy, which basically means I put myself in anxiety-inducing situations. Armed with my 5 tips for traveling with anxiety, I was able free myself of the crippling fear that was preventing me from creating a life of travel that I love. Now you can too!
Stock Up On herbal remedies
For years I was prescribed Xanax for panic attacks and anxiety, but over time I found that my anxiety was actually made worse from it. I needed to take more and more – and let’s be real – nobody wants to feel that kind of dependence on a drug.
After years of trying every herbal remedy I could get my mitts on, I finally narrowed it down to a few that actually work and are legal to carry with you to most countries (always check on the embassy’s website to be sure).
First is Valerian Root, which is great to take before a flight to any calm nerves, to quiet your mind before bed, or in the event of a panic attack. Next, is Passion Flower Extract, which is great for day time anxiety. It won’t get you through a panic attack, but it will surely take the edge off on a day out exploring. Lastly is Melatonin + L-Theanine, which is fabulous for sleep.
Though I don’t need these regularly anymore, I’ve definitely been known to mix Valerian Root and Melatonin + L-Theanine when a bout of insomnia ensues.
2. Discover Your Calming Scent
There’s a reason that spas invest in high quality essential oils to help lull you into an almost meditative state during a good massage – they work! Anxiety 100% starts in your head and scent is scientifically proven to have an effect on your brain. According to psychology Professor Herz at Brown University, our brains are trained to react certain ways to different scents (like how grandma’s perfume might make you feel like home), however this varies by person.
I tend to choose lavender, frankincense, and bergamot when I like to relax. Something in my past caused me to associate these scents with being calm. They work every time. I like to rub one of them on my wrists and behind my ears any time I need to relax or calm down. Oil diffusers are great for at home or to travel with too!
Many times stores that sell essential oils, like spas or Whole Foods, have tester bottles available so you can smell them before you buy. I always call the store first to make sure they have testers available. Go to the store and smell some different scents. When you pick up the right scent to find your “inner calm,” believe me, you’ll know. Viola!
Pro Tip: Bergamot, Basil, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Lavender, Marjoram, Palmarosa, and Ylang Ylang are good scents to try first.
3. Give Guided Meditations A try
Ironically enough, I used to be a nervous flier. To stay in zen travel mode, the first thing I do when I sit down in my seat on the plane is put on my noise cancelling headphones with a guided meditation. I actually listen to one of these every night before bed too. If you’re the type of person whose mind races when you try to meditate, a guided meditation is a great option for you.
By far my favorites are by Meditainment. They have limited meditations available for free, but they have a great variety at a reasonable cost. Another great option is Headspace, which is an a free meditation app with more options available at cost. Headspace not only offers short and effective meditations, but it also reminds you when you’re slacking on the meditation front. Lastly, YouTube offers thousands and thousands of free guided meditations. Once you find someone with a voice that calms you, take a look at what else they offer on their channel. I really like Jason Stephenson’s Meditation Channel.
4. Download some calming music
Music is also scientifically proven to have an effect on your mood. I listen to classical when I’m working or writing to improve concentration, I listen to upbeat pop, hip hop & R&B when I work out, and I listen to calming music when I need to chill.
My favorites were actually discovered during a stay at Ritz-Carlton Naples. During turn-down service housekeeping would press a button on the alarm clock called Bedtime beats. When I walked into my room with that soothing music playing I was instantly relaxed. I loved it so much that I Googled it right away and bought it.
I have both Bedtime Beats Classical and Bedtime Beats Jazz. Both are great background music when you just want to relax or to help you fall asleep. Of course, you’ll also find a bunch of free options on YouTube too if you search for “relaxing music.”
5. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Whether you’ve dealt with anxiety for years or it’s only the beginning, anxiety is just as terrifying every time you have an attack. After all, the definition is having excessive fear. The only thing that changes over time, is that even though your body is experiencing fight or flight mode, your brain knows it’s just your anxiety. Use this to your advantage.
This is perhaps the most basic of these tips, but in my opinion, the most effective. Instead of focusing on the uncomfortable feelings getting worse, focus on how they actually feel. Become OK with being uncomfortable.
For example, when I used to get anxiety attacks I got tightness in my chest and had trouble breathing. My rational side knew it was anxiety and not something worse, so I focused on exactly how my chest felt. I told myself that it would go away in a little while, but for now it was OK that I felt uncomfortable. Surprisingly, once you accept the uncomfortable feeling for what it is, it tends to just ::poof:: go away.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I would never recommend or endorse a product unless I truly believe in it and use the product myself, but I will receive a small commission if you purchase these products through the links provided.