At the start of the year, many South Africans might be hoping to escape the thick blanket of heat that January can cause since it is one of the year's hottest months. Whether you’re looking to spend a couple of weeks away in a country with a milder climate or going on a weekend excursion, travelling can be an excellent way to give yourself a break from the beautiful yet relentless rays of the South African sun.
However, while some prospective travellers might be fingering glossy travel brochures as they choose their next destination or throwing clothing into their suitcases excitedly, others find travelling fearful and anxiety-inducing. These emotions are often called‘ travel anxiety,’ and it has been found across the globe with a percentage of 7.3%, alongside other general anxiety disorders.
However, no matter how severe or slight your travel anxiety might be, there are hundreds of tried and tested coping methods to help you deal with it – the tricky part is finding one that helps you. From practising breathing techniques to distracting yourself by playing video slot games, we outline several of the best coping methods to help overcome your travel anxiety below:
Play A Video Game
Despite gamers getting a bad reputation, there are many mental health benefits playing video games can grant players, alleviating anxiety being one of them. Regardless of the genre of game played, video games can help alleviate crippling mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and many more.
Since today's games are visually striking and have complex narration, video games can distract from the pain and psychological trauma that disorders like those mentioned above can cause. This is because to be successful at gaming, a player must use their entire focus to accomplish the game's goal; this concentration can help steer thoughts of panic or anxiety away since it provides a different focus for the user.
Due to this, if you suffer from travel anxiety, you might benefit from carrying a handheld gaming device like a Nintendo Switch or Steam Deck with you if an anxiety attack appears. Alternatively, you could internet-based platforms on your smart devices to play online games since a whole host of them can be accessed anytime and anywhere, whether RPG, shooter, puzzle, or online slots.
If you’re going to game online, ensure that you do so safely by using reputable sites like Jackpot, which is home to health and safety resources, and a selection of traditional and modern casino games from slot games, poker, blackjack and much more.
Travel With Loved Ones
Another way to reduce travel anxiety is to bring a loved one with you each time you travel. Although this cannot always be done, travelling with a friend is an excellent way to give yourself emotional support when fear or anxiety strikes.
Being around a familiar face can give you a boost of much-needed confidence during the times you need it most and can also help calm you down should something trigger your anxiety while you are out and about.
With a loved one around, you might find that you’re able to do things that your anxiety prevents you from doing, whether meeting new people, leaving the house, taking part in a particular activity and many more.
Not only will it help your anxiety, but it means that you and your loved one can spend quality time together, which we’re sure they won’t mind. Plus, no matter where you go, you and your friend are bound to be able to find joint activities for you both to participate in, so neither one of you will feel bored when you’re together.
Get It Off Your Chest
If you’re starting to feel that familiar panicky feeling in your stomach as your travel date looms, or you begin displaying anxiety-related symptoms whilst you’re away, don’t forget that your friends and family are an excellent support system for you to fall back on.
It could also help if you list several people you know you can call at any time when you need support before you leave for your trip. Then, if you start to feel anxious or panicked at any point throughout your holiday, you can call them up and discuss what makes you nervous and your needs so that you can be talked down off the ledge.
Suppose you’re travelling outside the country and are worried about your phone bill when making these calls to family or friends. In that case, you could consider downloading and using one of the many free-to-use telephone apps like WhatsApp, Skype, Google Duo, and Text Free, which allow users to make free telephone calls/texts from wherever they are in the world so long as they have an internet connection.
On the other hand, it’s also completely valid if you don’t want to discuss your anxiety-related issues with your friends or family members. If this is the case, you might consider reaching out to your doctor, who can refer you or put you in touch with a therapist.
Talking to a qualified mental health professional can help you manage and overcome your issues if you're going through an upsetting time or are feeling more anxious than usual. During your sessions, your therapist will listen to you and help you find the answers to your own problems; they may also teach you coping methods or skills to help you during upsetting moments.
Another way to cope with your travel anxiety is by practising self-care, which involves looking after everything that will keep you physically and mentally healthy. Self-care will look different depending on the type of person practising it; for one person, it might look like lying in a bubble bath with a face mask on and for another, it may look like eating a nutritionally dense meal.
Whichever way you practise it, self-care can help you minimise any anxiety-related symptoms that you do feel, so long as you’re gentle with yourself when they appear (because they will!). Anxiety can be a very physically and mentally draining disorder to live alongside; ensure that you look after yourself properly by completing some of the following suggestions:
- Take the time to freshen up in the bath or shower after a long day of work, entertain friends, and visit family.
- Listen to music and concentrate on reciting the lyrics word-for-word in your head so that your focus is on something else, not what is triggering your anxiety.
- Practice breathing exercises when moments of stress arise.
- Make yourself a hot beverage.
- Say no to doing certain activities to prioritise your mental health or rest.
- Eat some comfort food.
- Set yourself positive goals that you want to achieve each day.
- Take anti-anxiety medication or any other medication you might have been prescribed.
- Start each day by meditating and many more.
Make Preparations Ahead Of Time
Managing your travel anxiety can be easier when you prepare ahead of time so that you know what to expect and there’s less chance of something shocking you out of the blue. This includes booking your accommodation, reserving a rental car, asking someone to housesit, arranging transport to the airport and your hotel, planning daily activities, and much more. While you cannot prepare for every scenario, you might feel better knowing that most bases are covered.