Whether you are hitting the road or getting on a plane, traveling can be a recipe for anxiety.
Oftentimes, the journey to your final destination may involve unexpected changes that can take a toll on your mental health, like delayed flights, road closures and lost luggage. Understand that it is completely normal to experience stress or anxiety while traveling; even therapists, who may seem like they have it all figured out, are experiencing these feelings too.
HuffPost asked therapists for insight on how they de-stress while in transit to their destination. Here’s what they had to say:
1. They plan ahead.
While travel may evoke feelings of uncertainty, focus on what you can control, said Erica Basso, a marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles, California. That includes your schedule.
“When I know I have travel days coming up, I plan ahead to make sure I stick to my same schedule as much as possible. This includes steps like having my favorite snacks on hand and maintaining my regular meal times,” she told HuffPost.
2. They use a grounding exercise.
Sage Grazer, a psychotherapist based in Los Angeles, California, said she engages in a grounding exercise when she feels anxious: “One of my favorite grounding techniques is called 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding, where you engage your senses by naming five things that you can see, four things that you can feel through touch, three things that you can hear, two things that you can smell, and one thing that you can taste.”
This practice can help you feel more centered, present and in touch with yourself. It also comes in handy if your anxiety is skyrocketing as you sit on the tarmac.
3. They allow their anxiety to happen.
As you observe your anxious thoughts building, tell yourself that your feelings are valid and it’s OK to feel this way.
“When things get really stressful, like a delayed flight or lost luggage, I sit on my own for a few minutes and cry if I need to,” said Israa Nasir, a therapist who founded the mental wellness brand Well.Guide. “This helps reset my nervous system and helps redirect my energy to acting on my problem, like rebooking a new flight or submitting a lost luggage claim.”
4. They pack a creative activity.
While traveling, engage your senses with activities you love like knitting, coloring, writing letters or postcards or journaling. This allows you to be creative and use the time you’re spending in transit in a way that is fulfilling, said Dr. Nina Vasan, the chief medical officer of Real, a mental health platform.
Doing an activity you enjoy will help you channel your nervous energy and regain a sense of calm. Kids may enjoy this as well, especially if they’re a little nervous for a plane ride.
5. They imagine their destination as they’re traveling.
For those longer travel days that may cause boredom or anxiousness, visualization techniques can be helpful for distraction.
“Since our mind is powerful I focus on imagining being at my destination already and incorporate the five senses to actually feel like I’m transported there. This alone can help change my entire feeling state in the present moment,” Basso said. Not to mention it can help build the excitement and anticipation. This is also a great activity to try with your kids if you’re traveling with them.
6. They stay nourished and hydrated.
“While traveling, we can get hungry or dehydrated, which directly impacts our mood. I also don’t want to stress about searching for food in transit, so I always make sure to have my own snacks on hand,” Nasir said.
If you are traveling by plane, pack an empty water bottle to fill once you get past the security checkpoint to make sure you stay hydrated.
7. They take breaks during their trip.
Whether you’re traveling alone or with others, there can be an underlying pressure to make the most of every hour while you’re traveling and overschedule yourself.
“I find it crucial to set aside some down time for myself when I travel. In that time, you can meditate, listen to music or whatever feels restorative to you,” Grazer said.
8. They prioritize sleep.
Vasan recommends prioritizing rest while traveling as it will help you release your stress and leave you feeling refreshed.
It may be difficult to get enough shut-eye in transit, especially if your normal sleep-wake cycle gets altered due to change in time zone. Make sure to listen to your body to get the rest it needs.