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Monday 6 July 2015

Travelling With Anxiety – The Summer Vacation Guide

With summer finally here, many people will be thinking about jetting off for a vacation. Whether you are taking an internal flight within the US or travelling further afield, the whole point of a vacation is to relax and unwind, right? Unfortunately for people who suffer with anxiety (particularly travel anxiety) the prospect of going on vacation can be anything but relaxing. Preparations can become stressful, flying can be frightening and being away from your home comforts in unfamiliar surroundings can exacerbate the already anxious into states of near panic. And yet avoiding travelling won't only mean depriving yourself and your family of a wonderful trip, it will also prevent you from facing your fears and ultimately conquering your anxiety. So here are some tips on how to have a happy, stress-free vacation for those who suffer from anxiety.

Don't avoid it

For anxiety sufferers it often feels like the easiest thing to do is hide away in the safety of your home but this avoidance will only feed your anxiety. Exposure therapy is a form of anxiety therapy that pushes you to gradually face your fears by putting yourself in anxiety-inducing situations. At first it'll be tough but over time it will become easier and the symptoms of your anxiety will gradually reduce. In turn, your confidence will grow and your thought processes will shift allowing you to go about your life with reduced anxiety. View your vacation as a step in exposure therapy – once you have been and realized that nothing bad happened, you will feel awesome and able to do it all over again.

Address your fears

Work out what it is about the trip that is making you anxious. Flying? Leaving the house unattended? Visiting unfamiliar places? Write down your fears then think of ways you can control them. Anti-anxiety medication? House sitters? Research of the area? Of course you can't be in control of every single aspect of your trip but having plans in place can help you feel more confident.

Be prepared

Studies show that planning a vacation is stressful for even the most grounded of people. There is a lot to consider so leaving key stages of the organization until the last minute will be chaotic and leave you feeling panicked before the vacation has even begun. Little things like tackling your packing a few days in advance or spending time locating a good quality travel insurance policy will really help you to feel more prepared, in control and protected should the worst happen. That way on your morning of departure there will be no need for stress and you will start the trip on a relaxed note.

Don't feel guilty

If you feel anxious during your trip you may feel withdrawn, irritable or lethargic. Don't pressure yourself into having enforced fun and don't beat yourself up if you're not willing or able to join in with the rest of the family. Remind yourself than anxiety is a medical condition – not something you choose. Guilt and self doubt are counter productive and won't ease your anxiety at all.

Use distraction methods

Experts advise that the brain cannot focus and panic at the same time. Therefore distraction can be a great way to reduce the symptoms of anxiety should you feel them creeping in during your vacation. Some people are particularly nervous fliers – they may worry about being in a plane accident or they may feel uncomfortable in confined spaces. If this sounds like you then taking reading material, music or games in your hand luggage could be a big help. Even focusing on simple breathing exercises can help to calm you down and practicing meditation or mindfulness techniques will teach you how to focus on the present moment and give you a greater ability to control the feelings within the body.

Don't have too many expectations

If you're feeling nervous about your vacation than the key is not to have too much planned. A strict itinerary with lots of excursions just gives you more to think about and more pressure to have fun. Plan to do nothing other than relax and get used to your surroundings. If you feel able to venture further afield during the trip then great but don't put any additional pressure on yourself beforehand. It just gives you more to worry about.

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