Truth is, you’re not alone in feeling a little stressed about travel as mask mandates disappear everywhere. The world is going back to normal and the best thing we can do is adjust and try to take care of one and other. Traveling again? Here are some ways to handle travel anxiety as you go back to dealing with crowded airports and mask-less passengers on flights.
Some Ways to Handle Travel Anxiety
The first step to handle travel anxiety is acknowledging that it is there. So just accept that what you’re feeling is perfectly normal if you’re traveling for work (or leisure) again. Especially as wearing a mask has become optional on all major U.S. carriers for both passengers and crew as well as Europe and some countries in Latin America.
You can’t (and shouldn’t) fight it. However, as work makes you travel again, there are some other ways to handle travel anxiety that could help you make it a smoother transition back to “normal.”
Prepare for Your Trip
- Make a list: If you know what you need to bring with you so you can eliminate any of the anxiety that comes from travel. Having it all written down and crossing things off will help you feel more in control.
- Do your research: Being informed about what you need at your place of destination can help you handle travel anxiety as well. Check your destination on the CDC site for recommendations so you can prepare and make sure you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines before traveling to moderate to high risk destinations. Make sure you’re getting your information from reliable sources and trust the experts.
- Buy what you need: Prepare yourself with wipes, hand sanitizer, and medical masks so that you can change them throughout your trip, especially if it’s a longer one with many stops. Remember you can still choose to wear a mask even if others choose not to. There are simple hygiene measures for you to follow to stay safe.
- Control what you can and don’t overdo it: Plan when you are leaving for the airport and book direct trips whenever possible to try and avoid multiple layovers. Remember that spending too much time worrying about your trip will only worsen your travel anxiety and impact your life leading up to the trip. So make sure you know what you need to know and don’t overdo it.
Respect Travel Etiquette
- Keep your distance: You won’t always be able to control how close you are to other passengers and accepting that is important for you to handle travel anxiety. People are now much less worried about social distancing, but you can try to keep your distance whenever possible and use a mask during the flight and in crowded areas at the airport.
- Comply with local regulations: Familiarize yourself with what the rules and safety measures are wherever you are going and make sure you respect them. Not just while you travel there, but once you arrive. You will be less likely to struggle with travel anxiety if you know if you’ll be needing things masks (and what kind) for public transport or other places you visit.
- Plan things in advance: Make sure you plan things in advance, it’s one of the best ways to handle travel anxiety before it can get bad. Since so much of it comes from uncertainty, being prepared for your destination will make it easier for you to relax in the knowledge that you’ve done what you can to take care of yourself and others.
Follow Simple Safety Measures
- Basic hygiene procedures: Keep your hands clean by washing them regularly while you travel. If that’s not an option, use antibacterial wipes or sanitizer. When you’re on the plane, use your wipes to clean the areas you might touch or rest your head/face on (armrests, window, table, screen…) Clean your phone too.
- Wear a mask: Your peace of mind is what matters most and wearing a mask, even if it gets you a few weird looks from travelers who are far more comfortable, can help you handle travel anxiety. Some people have decided to go completely without a mask, but there are still plenty of people who will feel like you do and will hang on to their mask for the foreseeable future.
- Cover your sneezes and coughs: Travel and wearing a mask through it all can dry your throat and make coughing inevitable. Consider that other people may also be experiencing anxiety and remember to cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow for everyone’s safety. Be respectful to other passengers who are trying to handle travel anxiety just like you.
If Travel Anxiety Strikes
- Breathe: Just breathing deeply can achieve absolute wonders when trying to handle anxiety in general. In fact, stress can speed up the rhythm of your breathing so it makes sense that slowing it down will help you feel better if anxiety strikes while you’re traveling. If you’re starting to feel anxious, find a place where you can sit and try box breathing – inhaling, holding your breath and exhaling in four second intervals until you are feeling more relaxed.
- Walk and stretch: Get up and walk or stretch before and during your flight. Moving your body can help you reduce anxiety so try to walk around. A session of yoga, running or even just dancing before your flight could help you make a difference and feel more relaxed and focused when it’s time to go.
- Avoid your triggers when possible: If you know that drinking too much coffee will make it harder for you to handle travel anxiety, then maybe skip your morning coffee or switch to decaf before a flight. You know yourself better than anyone so trust your instinct and do what you need to make this work trip as smooth as possible. Have breakfast, get a good night’s sleep, wear comfortable clothes – no one does you like you, so make sure you’re taken care of.
- Distract yourself: Download on your phone or computer the feel-good shows you love, a game, or book you know will help you handle anxiety. If you’re traveling for work, you can do a little revision to make sure you’re well-prepared. And if you’re not traveling alone? Ask for help keeping your mind off potential stressors.
Be safe, take precautions, and try not to let your thoughts spiral into chaos. There’s a lot you won’t be able to control while you’re on your trip and accepting that will help you handle travel anxiety. Remember to breathe and enjoy your trip!
Aline Cerdan Verástegui
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