Anxiety can make traveling, even for vacation, very difficult. Regardless of what kind of anxiety you have, leaving your regular routine and surroundings can cause intense distress.
Having to deal with new people, places, and situations can put you constantly on edge. Different spaces or obligations can make you feel trapped.
You may have limited or no access to support people and sources of reassurance.
In addition, you may feel pressure to “have fun” or “just relax.” If you’re anxious, it can feel like you’re doing something wrong. The people you’re traveling with may get mad at you for impacting their trip.
If you combine these factors, an “easy” trip can quickly become a nightmare.
However, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself ahead of time by packing specific items.
When you pack, keep 3 goals in mind:
- Be comfortable. Anything you can do to increase your physical and emotional comfort will give you more energy and patience.
- Minimize the need to keep track of stuff or information. The less you have to problem solve, the better.
- Be prepared. Have what you need for difficult situations, especially emergencies.
Below if a list of items that will help you meet these goals. I’ve also included an explanation for how each item can help you manage anxiety.
The 12 Essential Items You Have to Pack If You Struggle with Anxiety:
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- Sturdy carry-on size bag or back pack: Keep most of the items on this list with you at all times. This way you can get to your comfort items quickly. It’s also important in case you’re separated from your luggage. You can always go buy new clothes. It’s harder to replace your meds quickly.
- Travel Wallet: Keep everything (e.g., credit cards, money, passport, tickets) in one place. The less you have to keep track of, the better. The Zero Grid travel wallet holds 4 passports and boarding passes: https://amzn.to/2M4Abev
- Portable Charger: Make sure you can charge your electronic devices no matter where you are. Having devices run out of power is a worry you can easily prevent. The Anker PowerCore portable charger is compatible with various device types and models: https://amzn.to/2M771vA
- Waterproof cable organizer: Keep all chargers, cables, and adaptors organized in one place. Things will be easier to keep track of and find. The small BAGSMART cable organizer has a combination of pockets and bands for the greatest amount of storage and flexibility: https://amzn.to/2JRZbcv
- Gallon size zip lock bag with all your medications: Keep all your medications in one place. If you are flying, this must come with you during the flight. The clear bag will make it easier to get through airport security. Have a list of your medications in the bag (include the dose, prescribing doctor’s name and number, and your pharmacy’s contact information).
- A folder with essential information: This should include copies of tickets, passport, itinerary, hotel information, medication lists, necessary medical information, and contact info for local hospitals and urgent care clinics. Paper copies seem outdated until you need information but are stuck somewhere with poor cell signal. The BTSKY waterproof travel organizer can hold documents, pens, and an ipad: https://amzn.to/2MEcXNw
- A comfortable blanket or sweatshirt: Anxiety can make people shiver and feel cold. Something soft, warm and familiar will help you feel safe. If possible, bring a pillow and/or blanket from home to further increase your comfort.
- Healthy snacks: Hunger and low blood sugar create symptoms that feel like anxiety. Don’t rely on rest stops or airport food courts to provide healthy snacks that will keep your blood sugar stable. Carry snacks with you throughout your entire trip so you never get too hungry.
- Large water bottle: Bring a large water bottle that you can fill and carry with you. Dehydration will make you feel sick and further increase anxiety symptoms. Try to avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks which can cause physical sensations that feel like anxiety. This BPA free silicone water bottle is collapsible for easy packing and carrying: https://amzn.to/2K1jFvp
- Ear plugs or noise cancelling head phones: Anxiety can increase your sensitivity to noise. You want to be in control of the level of noise around you. Foam ear plugs are the least expensive, but will only muffle sound. Noise cancelling headphones will completely drown out noise around you (i.e., everything gets quiet) and let you listen to music.
I’ve listed 2 options for noise canceling headphones: Cowin and Skullcandy.
Cowin gets good reviews and is less expensive than Skullcandy. I have used Skullcandy products and so have my patients and family members. We’ve all been pleased with the quality of their products.
- Cowin (2018 upgraded) Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones: https://amzn.to/2MIdJJq
- Skullcandy Crusher Bluetooth Noise Isolating Headphones: https://amzn.to/2tldgUF
- Chewy candy: Anything that makes you work hard to chew produces a relaxing response in your brain and body. Make sure you always have some with you in the car, airport, plane, and in public spaces. Some examples include gum (the thick square kind like Bubble Yum), Starburst, and Tootsie Rolls.
- Fidgets: Anything you can hold and move around will help you release extra tension and produce a relaxation response. Bring an assortment so that you have a choice based on how you are feeling. Some examples include:
- 1. Putty (I like Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty because it has more tension to it and makes you work harder. The harder your hands work, the better the relaxation response): https://amzn.to/2ytFrqm
- 2. Fidget cubes (Here is a 12-sided fidget cube that will provide a variety of relaxing sensations and movement): https://amzn.to/2tbaJNp
- 3. Stress balls
- 4. Squishees: Slow rising foam stress balls in various colors and shapes. They’re also great for kids who struggle with anxiety or sensory issues. I have seen these at toy stores, discount stores, and even supermarkets.
Traveling When You Have Anxiety: Always Plan Ahead
When you struggle with anxiety, traveling anywhere is tough. You’re very brave for traveling despite your anxiety. Remind yourself of that.
The best strategy for managing anxiety while traveling is to prepare ahead of time and make your comfort a priority.
I hope that, with the items on this list, your trip goes as well as possible.
Wishing you strength and safe travels,
Bucks County Anxiety Center
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