Travelling is a prime situation for your anxiety and panic attacks to happen. I myself have suffered with anxiety for as long as I recall, and I have had panic disorder since I was 19 years old. It’s a disorder, which has in the past stopped me from doing one of my favourite things to do… travel. Being in new and strange places, away from the safety of your home, can easily make you feel insecure and vulnerable. And that’s not including being afraid of others witnessing your fear and nervousness.
Panic attacks can strike at any time without warning. And attacks are typically experienced through a combination of uncomfortable physical sensations, disturbing thoughts, and upsetting emotions. Common somatic symptoms include rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, and chest pain. It is not unusual for a person to become frightened during a panic attack, feeling as if they are losing touch with reality and fearing that they will lose control or even possibly die.
Good news though! There are some steps you can take to manage your symptoms while traveling so that you can enjoy your trip.
One way to manage your symptoms is to put your focus elsewhere, and I do this a lot with my anxiety both at home and when travelling. Instead of concentrating on your body, try to bring your attention to other activities.
Use affirmations to centre on more calming thoughts, such as repeating to yourself: “I am safe” or “These feelings will pass” or “I will be okay regardless of what happens right now”. It can also be beneficial to focus on what you are looking forward to on your trip. Have an itinerary that will include activities you enjoy.
When making your travel plans, also put some effort in planning and preparing how you are going to deal with your symptoms. I always feel less anxious when I am organised, as I am more in control of things going wrong. Be ready to face the anxiety head on – and this confidence alone should help you through!
Use deep breathing techniques, visualization or meditation may be all you need to get through your fears. Practice relaxation techniques and other self-help strategies in the weeks before you travel and you may find your symptoms stay under control on your next trip. You can become even more focused by counting each of your breaths, counting on each refreshing inhalation and again on each deep exhalation. Once your breath has steadied, you can also relax your body.
Don’t fight it
If your symptoms become too overwhelming to distract yourself from, try to simply allow them to run their course. Panic attacks often heighten within a few minutes and then gradually taper off. If you have panic and anxiety while traveling, try to surrender to your symptoms, reminding yourself that they will soon pass.
Go with someone you trust
I mostly travel with Theo, Katie and my mum – all people I feel comfortable around and fully trust. They know me better than anyone and know how to help me with my panic attacks if I need them. If possible, try to enlist a trusted friend or family member to travel with you.
Living with panic disorder and severe anxiety can be challenging, and it can change or affect your life. However, where possible try not to let it ruin your life and follow these easy steps so you can manage your disorder.