Can’t wait to travel but feeling anxious before your trip? It’s normal. An expert shares common symptoms and tips to manage travel anxiety during the pandemic.
Raise your hand if you’re ready to travel again now that the Covid-19 restrictions have eased up. In a recent survey conducted by The Straits Times, close to three out of 10 Singaporeans are planning to travel overseas despite the uncertainty of the current Covid-19 situation. Judging from our Instagram feed, with the bulk of our friends posting about their travels (not jealous at all), this proves to be true.
Essential tips to help you with travel anxiety
I fall into this category and I too was stoked to travel. But for some reason, my stomach was in knots as the day approached. In fact, the usually cool, calm, collected and overprepared me was a ball of stress before my flight. I was having heart palpitations and even had a minor brain fart (I had packed my portable charger in my check-in luggage instead of my hand carry bag). The worst part, I was travelling solo after being cooped up for two years. It was as though I forgot how to function.
Do you have travel anxiety during the pandemic era? It’s totally normal.
Luckily, I’m not alone. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us may be apprehensive about travelling. While travel anxiety isn’t an officially recognised disorder, it refers to feelings of worry or fear associated with travelling. Travel anxiety can occur for several reasons, including fear of the travelling process, being away from home and your comfort zone, or insecurity related to being in a new environment and meeting new people.
Jae-Mie Yiew, clinical psychologist at Psychology Blossom, says it’s common to experience some degree of nervousness before a trip or vacation as we often feel a loss of control when we travel.
“At home, we tend to maintain a routine, which may be boring, but feels safe and predictable. When travelling, we’re taking ourselves out of our normal routine, and as a result, we start anticipating problems that may occur or the worst-case scenario when doing so.”
Throw Covid-19 in the mix and we may feel more distressed when making decisions while travelling, since it reinforces the feeling of uncertainty when it comes to being exposed to the virus.
Common symptoms and expert tips to manage travel anxiety
While anxiety symptoms can be different for everyone, common symptoms include breathlessness, increased heartbeat, nausea, tightness in the chest, and insomnia. If these symptoms become overwhelming, they might even cause panic attacks. So, what can you do?
- Plan ahead: it doesn’t hurt to be overprepared. Check in advance and make sure you’re got all your travel documents ready. Familiarise yourself with the travel guidelines of your destination to avoid any surprises.
- Engage in activities that’ll help keep you distracted and calm: immerse yourself in a book, watch a movie or listen to music.
- Picture the outcome of your trip: think about all the exciting places you’ll be visiting and what you’ll be doing when you’re there.
- Remind yourself: you can expect many positive experiences in the future.
I’m no expert, but some tips that helped me was wearing comfortable attire for the flight, regulating my breathing, spritzing on calming essential oils (I used This Work’s Stress Check Roll On), and taking melatonin (remember to consult a doctor beforehand).
How to help someone with travel anxiety
“One positive way to support someone dealing with travel anxiety is to openly talk about it. Think about how you can help the other person cope with their symptoms or confront the challenges they’re facing. This can offer many emotional benefits not only for the individual but for yourself as well,” Jae-Mie says.
Also, avoid comments that may invalidate the other person’s feelings – though you might do it unintentionally by trying to cheer them up. Don’t use phrases such as ‘you’re overreacting’ or ‘you shouldn’t feel that way’.
“Playing down the person’s experience might lead to confusion, and self-doubt, and cause them to hide their emotions,” Jae-Mie explains.
As for myself, the anticipation of flying was much greater than the real deal. Once I cleared customs and was on the plane, I calmed down and told myself, ‘Hey, that wasn’t so bad after all’. I’m planning another trip ATM so it’s safe to say I’m dealing with it pretty well.
With these coping tactics, we hope you can manage your travel anxiety and enjoy your vacation too.