Taking Your Anxiety on Vacation
Last week’s post was about helping you make the most of summer given who you are and your circumstances. As promised, part 2 of this post is about going away on trips and vacations when you are chronically anxious.
At this point, you’re probably wondering why a day trip or vacation is hard. Isn’t “getting away” the go to recommendation?
Well, an anxious brain doesn’t like change and the unexpected. By travelling somewhere new, you are changing up all sorts of routines and rules. You lose access to the things you take for granted that make it possible for you to get through a day.
Traveling also takes you out of your safety zone. Any person with chronic anxiety will tell you that there is a certain area around home in which they feel safe. If they have to leave this circle of safety, even for a day trip, they often pay a price. This is worse for people who also have a chronic illness. Home means easy access to medications, doctors, symptom relief, and a controlled environment.
Being away is also hard because it often involves other people. You often have to go along with others’ schedules or plans. This further disrupts your schedule and leaves you little to no time to decompress. Instead, you’re constantly managing anxiety symptoms. The fact that you are away from home is just geography.
You have to plan a getaway or vacation given who you are and what you need, not based on what others need you to be.
I’m not telling you to be an insensitive jerk. There is a wide continuum between compromising and completely ignoring everything you know about yourself.
Four Essential Anxiety Management Steps For Travelling:
Here are four steps I want you to follow when planning anything from a day trip to a vacation. These will maximize the chances that you will be as comfortable and prepared as possible. As a result, they increase the likelihood you will enjoy yourself.
1) Schedule Time to Be Alone: You need to build in time to be by yourself to decompress. This can be anything from reading a book in a quiet room to going for a walk. Locking yourself in the bathroom for 15 minutes totally counts.
2) Eliminate Surprises: The human brain isn’t wired to like surprises or the unexpected. An anxious brain hates the unexpected. It is already jumpy enough. Do as much research as possible ahead of time about where you are going, accommodations, restaurants, rest stops, etc. Watch videos about what it’s like to actually visit that place. YouTube seems to have videos of every place on earth. Stay away from PR videos on destination web sites. They tend to highlight the lovely and overlook what it’s actually like to be there. Make a plan so that you have a rough idea of where you’ll be going. You should also always have a plan B.
3) Make the Destination Exciting: Make it worth it. I can’t stress this point enough. If you are going to take a risk and expose yourself to a lot of discomfort, you should be getting something out of it.
4) Expect to Be Anxious and Plan Accordingly: This one is all about attitude and mindset. Make the conscious choice to be there. Accept you may be physically and emotionally uncomfortable. Come prepared with a list of statements you can tell yourself to help you focus on getting what you can out of the experience instead of on your anger. It can be as simple as “I want to be here and I can do this.” A simple phrase can make all the difference in how you look at an obstacle.
Widen Your Safety Zone
When you are dealing with chronic anxiety, the world becomes very small, very quickly. This gives you a sense of safety and control. The problem is that, in order to maintain this sense of safety, you have to keep making the circle smaller.
I want you to work on making the safety zone bigger. Depending on your situation, it may mean going out to dinner in another town. If you are really up for a challenge, go somewhere completely new and stay overnight.
You want and deserve a full life. Getting out and seeing the places on your list are part of that.
Now I want you to do a few things to get your thoughts moving in a positive direction:
1) Post this or forward it to anyone who may benefit from it.
2) Forward this to anyone you may be spending time with so that they can understand your needs.
3) Let me know: How does anxiety impact your ability to get away?
Under this post is a section called “Leave a Reply.” Go in there and send me an answer letting me know how anxiety impacts the way you travel and your vacations.
I read and respond to every e-mail.
Talk to you soon,