As anyone can understand, sometimes traveling with your family can be anxiety-ridden even when you are completely mentally stable. For me, traveling anywhere with my sister, no matter how healthy I am, causes frustration and stress so I have come to learn some tricks to stay calm and happy even when I’m thousands of miles away from my home. Hopefully these help you as well!
1. Aroma Therapy
I love keeping a small candle or a perfume sample with me at all times, especially when traveling on a plane or in small spaces. (My favorite scent is Apple Pumpkin from Yankee Candle). Smelling something that you love not only puts positive thoughts in your mind and helps distract you from any chaos you may feel or may be around you, but it also helps regulate your breathing. This is an especially great trick if you are on the verge of a panic attack or are someone that has trouble breathing when anxious.
Always keep something simple you enjoy on hand that will keep you busy. For me, it is a pair of headphones and my spotify playlist. It can be as simple as keeping your favorite book in your bag, or a sketchbook to draw in. Having a task that you enjoy and are interested in that does not take much brain power is great when you start to feel overwhelmed and your thoughts are flooding. (It is also a good way to stay calm on a long flight). This serves as a simple distraction and a great way to either calm and soothe you, or to channel your anxiety into positive energy.
3. Time For Yourself!
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS take time for yourself!! It can be really hard to even hear your own thoughts when traveling with family and staying in a small hotel room with them, but in order to stay sane, calm and happy, it is important to take time for yourself. Even if that time is just a 20 minute hot shower listening to your favorite songs, or taking a walk down to the pool or to a coffee shop, being alone and having a break from the same people everyday really helps lower that anxiety. Think of it as rebooting yourself everyday so you are ready to keep going and take on another one.
4. Stay Hydrated
I’m not going to sit here and preach to you about eating healthy and exercising because you’ve heard it from everyone, but while traveling it is so important to stay hydrated and drink lots of water. I know personally that when I am dehydrated I tend to lose control of my emotions and anxiety a lot easier. Drinking water will also help you stay energized throughout what can seem like very long days while traveling, especially if you are flying. The change in air pressure and the oxygen from the flight will dry you out along with the extra sun you may be getting if you’re traveling to a warmer location! There are two tricks that really help me stay hydrated. The first is to carry around a water bottle.
When there is water in front of you, you are so much more likely to drink it rather than going and buying a water or walking to the water fountain. Also, just holding that water bottle is a great consistent reminder to stay hydrated. My second tip is for those morning coffee drinkers like myself. Try to have a glass of water each morning before your coffee. I like to think of my coffee as a reward so I’m more motivated to have the water first. Coffee can dehydrate you, so it’s important to drink some water first. It is also a great way to boost your metabolism (an added plus especially with vacation bloat).
Okay, my last tip may sound stupid but hear me out. When we smile, the muscles in our face send signals to our brain which results in our brain releasing serotonin which is a chemical that makes us feel happier and more energized! Even if you are not happy at all and it is a fake smile, you can trick your brain into thinking your are happy and are genuinely smiling.
It is called the facial feedback hypothesis. A more clear example is, if you are at a social event and you feel uncomfortable or anxious, when you smile you will slowly start to feel happier and less anxious, just because our brain reacts chemically to the muscles used to portray emotion on our face. If I’m anxious I try my best to smile even if I just go to the bathroom during dinner and smile in the mirror for a minute, chances are I’ll feel better because of the serotonin or I’ll feel better because I look idiotic with a giant smile across my face in the middle of a bathroom. Try it out and see if it works!
Anxiety is difficult when you are in your comfort zone at home where everything is familiar, let alone when you are in a foreign place and in tight corridors with family or friends. I hope these tips I use while traveling (and even when I’m not traveling) help you as well!