travel anxiety

Travel Anxiety and How to Cope with It

Is travel anxiety a concern for you or someone close to you? Perhaps during more than any other time in history, people are struggling when they leave home. After a worldwide pandemic left many of us working remotely to some degree, this is all the truer. 

Travel was kept to a minimum, whether that was for personal or family reasons, and the “rebooting” of society has been a challenge. The Delta variant is further complicating matters too. For many, just getting out in public feels more stressful.

So, as we all start again in a world that, in some ways, looks permanently different than the pre-COVID one, how do we get moving again as travel becomes more common? Here are some thoughts if travel anxiety is a struggle for you at the moment.

Explore What’s Bothering You About Traveling

Regarding travel anxiety, there are many specific aspects of it that could be causing stress for you. It’s possible you can relate to several of the following and other elements of trip anxiety not listed:

  • Separation anxiety from your family after working remotely
  • Feeling the added stress of a long commute (safety, financial, and time/energy loss)
  • Stress about being away from home for an extended trip
  • Pre-travel anxiety
  • Anxiety due to a loved one or close friend traveling
  • Vacation anxiety (before, during, or afterward)
  • Social anxiety linked to traveling
  • Car travel anxiety or road trip anxiety
  • Travel stress tied to COVID concerns
  • A mental health diagnosis leading to increased travel stress
  • Flight anxiety
  • Physical travel anxiety symptoms (fatigue, digestion problems, etc.)
  • Panic attacks or phobias linked to travel stress

Although certainly not the end-all, pinpointing what specifically stresses you out about travel is one of the first steps to better manage your anxiety.

More Travel May Be the Answer

When you’re in the middle of travel stress, the last thing you want to think about is doing more of what’s making you anxious. But, for many out there, that’s just what they may need for their anxiety to decrease. 

We tend to become less anxious after falling into a routine. Until then, anxiety can plague us during tasks we must complete. Picture a rookie just called up from the minors to pitch in his first major league game. He will almost certainly feel some serious jitters. Fast forward to that pitcher as a baseball veteran with a decade of experience. He will hopefully feel far less anxiety when he steps onto the mound at that point. Still, if that pitcher is injured for a year, his first few appearances in a game after healing up will be more nerve-wracking until he falls back into a routine again.

In much the same way, a lot of our anxiety can be alleviated by getting back into a routine at home and work. Think of the stress of starting a new job and how that should lessen over time as you get used to things. The stress just naturally decreases as you do something more such as travel. 

So, be encouraged that much of the travel anxiety you experience as we gradually come out of COVID will improve in time. Just understanding how this process works can help you feel less anxious. You can see a path to your travel stress getting better, and that gives you hope.

Travel for Fun First

If you’re struggling with travel anxiety, consider traveling just for fun to get used to it again. Some of you need no encouragement with this. Perhaps you’re more outgoing or passionate about travel, making this a no-brainer. If that’s you, great!

But many of you became so isolated during COVID that you’re having trouble socializing or re-engaging like you were beforehand. If the prospect of work travel feels stressful, consider doing a road trip or extended stay somewhere. Just make it something that you enjoy doing. 

This will allow you to view travel in a more positive way, making it less stressful. Try something that pushes you a bit out of your norm too. For instance, maybe instead of going to a local park near your house, you drive several hours to hike somewhere. Or, you visit a close friend or family member you haven’t seen recently who lives a considerable distance from you.

Remember that Travel is an Essential Aspect of Personal Wellness

In her “Psychology Today” article entitled Why Travel is Good for Your Mental Health, Jean Kim M.D. shares the following:

“Overall, travel is a way to even temporarily provide the goal of living life for its own sake, apart from the drudgery of daily responsibility and routine. It helps with personal growth and appreciation, and can also benefit mood and intellect. “

Although traveling for fun should be a powerful reason to go somewhere new, the mental health benefits you’ll experience if you do are even more compelling.

Consider Smaller Steps First

If you find yourself struggling with travel anxiety, consider easing back into it if possible. If your schedule allows, gradually introduce more travel into your life. That way, it won’t feel so overwhelming. 

Allow time to work through whatever triggers your anxiety too. Anxiety triggers could include being away from your family more than usual after working from home (separation anxiety). Of course, there are many other possibilities, as we mentioned earlier too. 

Negotiate Less Work Travel

Are you transitioning from remote work to an in-person setting? If so, it might not hurt to see if you can negotiate to keep more remote work. It’s also possible that you can at least lobby for a more gradual return to in-person work. 

This strategy isn’t the best advice if you want to avoid travel because it makes you anxious. You don’t want those feelings to lead to a lower quality of life because you no longer do things that once made your life healthier and more meaningful.

At the same time, it’s possible your travel stress is caused by a loss of life quality you previously had because of remote work. In that case, it’s understandable that you want to keep that arrangement if you can. Many who can’t are finding a career elsewhere where they can still work remotely to some extent. 

Still, it’s important to point out that remote work didn’t work well for everyone. Some professionals found themselves working longer hours from home, feeling more stressed out, and like the distinction between work and home life was impossibly blurred. 

Consider Counseling for Your Travel Anxiety

We hope some of the travel anxiety tips mentioned in this article help. At the same time, we recognize that some of life’s challenges are more complex than implementing a few strategies.

This may be true of the travel anxiety you’re experiencing. If a mental health condition involving anxiety, depression or both is interfering, you likely won’t find a significant reduction in your travel stress until your mental health condition is properly addressed. Some individuals also struggle with extreme travel anxiety to the point of a phobia known as hodophobia (excessive fear of travel). Hodophobic fear reactions can be truly frightening, involving intense physical and mental stress responses. 

Are you struggling with travel anxiety that feels difficult to impossible to overcome? If so, please get in touch with us. The OC Relationship Center is here for your individual, relationship, and marriage counseling needs. Feel free to reach out to us for an appointment at your convenience.

Our trained and compassionate counselors are here to help. Please call (949) 393-8662, text (949) 393-8662 for an appointment, or schedule online.

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