How to Overcome Holiday Travel Anxiety
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The holiday season, a time of joy and festivities, has finally begun. This is a season of cheer, lights, and friends and family reunions. But, the journey you may need to take to reunite with your loved ones you haven’t seen in months can lead to stress and worry for many people. The anticipation of holiday travel seems exciting for many people, but for some, can be rooted in uneasiness and apprehension. The constant pressures and stressors that traveling brings can lead to the unwanted feeling of holiday travel anxiety.
Headaches, racing thoughts, and excessive worrying are all symptoms of holiday travel anxiety. If you have any of these symptoms while traveling during the holidays, you may have holiday travel anxiety. Keep reading to learn more about this, what causes it, and how to cope with this newfound feeling.
Holiday travel anxiety is the stress and apprehension that comes with the act of traveling during the holiday season. It encompasses a multitude of emotions and worries that gradually intensify as the travel date gets closer. The pressure to create a joyful experience for all amplifies the initial anxiety that many of us have. It isn’t just about reaching the destination— it’s the pressure to meet all the expectations set in your head that makes traveling more stressful and anxiety-ridden.
Anxiety, in general, is the way your body responds to certain situations it perceives as dangerous. It’s a spectrum that each person handles differently. According to Dawn Potter, a clinical psychologist who works with Cleveland Clinic, “Travel anxiety could be a bunch of different things for different people,”(How to Manage Travel Anxiety). Whether it’s the crowded airports, uncertainty in travel plans, or even the pressure to meet expectations, having these feelings of anxiety can dampen the fun and unique experience that you and your family have been waiting for. Here are some signs of holiday travel anxiety and some techniques to cope with it.
Signs of Holiday Travel Anxiety:
- Headaches: As people begin to prepare for the highly anticipated holidays, stress and worry can lead to tension headaches and migraines. Tension headaches can be described as a dull, constant pain that travels from the neck and shoulders up to your temples and forehead. Stress and anxiety cause your neck and shoulder muscles to tense and tighten, which trains them and leads to aching in these areas. Migraines are also common. Stress, change in routines, lack of sleep, and being in a different environment can trigger a migraine.
- Racing Thoughts: Holiday travel anxiety may bring a flurry of thoughts and worry. As travel plans begin to come to fruition, many people may feel their thoughts begin to race as they worry about a handful of different concerns. Things like travel disruptions, forgetting important items, and more, all run through your mind. Racing thoughts can lead to heightened stress levels, physical tension, and an overall sense of unease that can significantly impact the enjoyment of the holiday season.
- Panic Attacks: Panic attacks are sudden and intense surges of fear and anxiety. Holiday travel anxiety could be a trigger for some people. The stress that comes with planning and the journey itself can be too much for some people and can lead to panic attacks.
- Restlessness and Irritability: Restlessness and irritability are both feelings that can manifest from holiday travel anxiety. As you prepare for your trip, the anticipation of crowded spaces, long wait times, and the overall unpredictability of travel can contribute to a sense of unease. This restlessness can cause fidgeting and other factors that make it harder for people to find that sense of comfort and relaxation. This goes hand in hand with irritability. It’s the emotional response that individuals experience during holiday travel anxiety. Small inconveniences or delays that might be manageable under normal circumstances can trigger a more pronounced emotional response during the travel period.
How to Cope with Holiday Travel Anxiety:
1. Plan Ahead: Planning ahead helps relieve some of the uncertainty that might be present. Creating a travel itinerary that has all of the essential details like travel information can help minimize uncertainty and create a sense of control.
2. Mindfulness: Engaging in mindfulness practices can help ground yourself in the present moment and slow down racing thoughts. Practices such as meditation and breathing exercises are just some of the ideas that you can implement into your daily routine to practice mindfulness. Slow and deep breaths help calm your nervous system. Meditation sessions can help bring a calm mindset as well as slow your racing thoughts which can be effective in reducing anxiety.
3. Establish Boundaries: While planning the trip, it is important to set realistic expectations. Be honest about what you can handle, both in terms of travel activities and social interactions. Establishing boundaries is not about creating distance, but rather fostering an environment that promotes healthier well-being and reduces anxiety. By setting clear expectations, communicating openly, and prioritizing self-care, individuals can navigate holiday travel with a greater sense of control and comfort. Recognizing and respecting your own needs is a powerful tool for managing anxiety and ensuring a more positive travel experience.
4. Carrying Comfort Items: Comfort items are an essential tool to have during these times of travel. Carrying comfort items is a practical and effective strategy for managing holiday travel anxiety. Pack your favorite book that always captivates all of your attention. Bring the soft warm travel pillow that you have so that you can have that familiar touch and warmth which will create a sense of security, especially in unfamiliar environments like airports or planes.
5. Open Communication: Having a level of honest communication is a crucial aspect of managing holiday travel anxiety, especially when traveling with others. By openly discussing specific stressors and sharing feelings, you can establish a supportive environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their concerns. This also helps in the face of challenges. This kind of communication helps with decisions and problem-solving so you don’t have to burden yourself with these challenges.
Managing holiday travel anxiety is a task that many people grapple with when this season begins to approach. However, by embracing mindfulness, setting boundaries, and keeping open communication with loved ones, you will be able to overcome the challenges of holiday travel anxiety with ease. As the holiday season unfolds, remember that the journey is as significant as the destination. With a mindful approach and a commitment to open communication, holiday travel can become not just a physical journey, but a rewarding and memorable part of the festive season. Safe travels and happy holidays!
- Beabout, Leandra. “Why Is My Vacation Giving Me Travel Anxiety? 9 Ways to Deal.” Greatist, Greatist, 21 Feb. 2022, greatist.com/health/travel-anxiety#vacation-anxiety.
- “How to Manage Travel Anxiety.” Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, 27 Nov. 2023, health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-manage-travel-anxiety.
- Montijo, Saundra. “Travel Anxiety: Signs, Tips, Prevention, and More.” Psych Central, Psych Central, 24 Feb. 2022, psychcentral.com/anxiety/travel-anxiety#travel-anxiety.
- “Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 4 May 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021.
- “Travel Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/travel-anxiety#symptoms. Accessed 14 Dec. 2023.
- “What Causes Travel Anxiety and How to Overcome It.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/what-to-know-travel-anxiety. Accessed 14 Dec. 2023.
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