Packing only the necessities, jumping into the car, and setting off on a spontaneous road trip sounds like a dream come true for many people. However, if you happen to have anxiety, it could sound more like a nightmare.
Traveling is stressful enough as it is. You need to plan your route, book accommodation, handle insane traffic, organize your finances, and do a million little things before you even set off. It only gets more nerve-wracking when you have anxiety, but you don’t have to suffer through it.
While it’s not always easy, there are several things you can do to ease your anxiety and learn to enjoy all the beautiful things that road trips have to offer.
What sets off your road trip anxiety
Over 40 million adults in the US alone have anxiety disorders, and every one of them has unique triggers. Some people see a spike in their anxiety levels simply because they’ve taken too much caffeine. Others have very particular stimuli, such as a song, a specific sound, an image.
For those with road trip anxiety, a trigger can be a negative association.
If you’ve experienced a major car accident in the past, just seeing a slightly overloaded defender roof rack can get you into panic mode. You associate it with a negative experience and can’t shake the feeling that something similar will happen again.
You don’t even have to have lived through a bad road trip-related experience to develop travel anxiety. Just hearing about it or seeing it on the news could be a trigger.
Telltale signs that you have road trip anxiety
Feeling some nervousness or anxiousness when you’re going on a road trip is entirely normal. When traveling, everyone gets a bit stressed – you’re worried about forgetting to pack something, leaving your stove on, locking your doors, and encountering heavy traffic. It’s all part of the road trip experience.
However, road trip anxiety is a bit different. You’re not simply stressed or nervous. Traveling or even thinking of traveling can trigger a negative mental and physical response. You could display symptoms such as:
- Excessive shaking;
- Inability to focus;
- Difficulty breathing;
- Increased heart rate;
- Chest pains;
- Excessive agitation;
It’s essential to learn to recognize these symptoms and handle them to the best of your ability as soon as you notice them. If they become too intense and overwhelming, they could lead to a panic attack.
Tips to stay on top of your anxiety on the road
To stay on top of your road trip anxiety, you’ll need to be proactive. It will help you minimize your symptoms and allow you to enjoy traveling a bit more.
Whether you have anxiety or just feel very nervous every time you head out for a road trip, take a look at the following tips that’ll help you keep your cool.
1. Start planning early on
Staying organized and having a well-thought-out plan is the key to overcoming travel anxiety. If you’re doing everything last-minute, you’re only setting yourself up for failure.
So, start planning your trip. Make a list of all the things you’ll need to bring a few weeks before you set off – clothes, food, road trip games, wallet, passports, phone charger, every last thing. Revise the list a couple of times to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything.
Additionally, plan for all your “what if” scenarios that could trigger your anxiety. “What if I forget to turn off the stove?” – leave your house key to a neighbor or good friend and have them check it out for you. “What if I lose my wallet?” – contact a friend or family member who can give you a helping hand.
2. Keep your home in good hands
Many people aren’t anxious about the road trip itself; they’re anxious about leaving their homes, pets, or children. If that’s the case with you, you’ll want to ensure that you’re leaving your home in good hands.
Hire a housesitter (a babysitter or pet-sitter) who you trust. Explain your worries, and have them keep in constant touch with you. Make a check-in schedule and have them update you once in the morning and once in the evening. If needed, ask for picture updates as well.
3. Use calming distractions
Simple distractions are often the best way to alleviate your anxiety symptoms and keep your road trip stress-free. Come up with several of your favorite activities that can keep your worries off your mind. Video games can work wonders, movies act as excellent distractions, and board games can get you so immersed that you forget about your anxieties.
Bring some calming distractions, as well – puzzles, novels, even adult coloring books.
Taking part in fun and calming activities can increase your serotonin levels and allow you to focus on positive things.
4. Talk with your doctor
If your road trip anxiety is too overwhelming, you might want to consider talking with your doctor. Anxiety is highly treatable with therapy and/or medications, which could be the key to improving your overall quality of life.
Don’t neglect your mental wellbeing; consult your doctor, and see what you can do to alleviate your anxiety symptoms.
Road trip anxiety is common, but it can get overwhelming at times. To alleviate it, plan, leave your home in good hands, bring distractions, and if all else fails, consult your doctor. Use these tips to make every road trip an experience you’ll gladly remember.