10 Ways to Handle Anxiety While Traveling Abroad

By Alyssa Ramos of MyLifeIsAMovie.com

If you said you felt a little anxious about traveling to the Middle East or traveling in general, you wouldn't be alone!

If you said you felt a little anxious about traveling to the Middle East or traveling in general, you wouldn’t be alone! Being in a foreign place where you don’t know the culture or the language is intimidating for most and can lead to some anxiety, especially for those who might be prone to it. Travel Expert Alyssa Ramos never had a problem with anxiety until she had a panic attack abroad. Since travel is her life, there was no quitting, so she found ways to deal with it, such as having a physical object to hold on to. Here are her top 10! (Alyssa has some great tips, but we made some additions in red, which are specific to our Holy Land Pilgrimage travelers!)

1. Count Your Breaths When You Start Feeling Anxiety Abroad

Many meditations will teach you how to do this as a fundamental practice because it helps steady your breathing, heart, and mind. I actually do this while hiking long treks, and didn’t realize until now that that’s probably what always kept me calm!

There are a couple different methods for counting your breaths; one is that you count both the inhales and exhales until thirty, then start over again. Another is called “box breathing” where you count in for two seconds, out for two seconds, then repeat. Find a method that comes naturally for you, and if you find yourself losing count, just start over, but keep focusing on the breaths and the numbers as much as possible.

2. Repeat a Positive Mantra

Think of a few sentences that motivate you, and repeat them as you breathe deeply.

I’m a bit of a realist, so when I need to immediately start repeating something to myself to keep my mind away from thinking it’s going to have an anxiety attack, I immediately say, “You’re not going to die. Your life is awesome. You have a lot more awesome stuff to do. Anxiety sucks. You’re better than anxiety.”

Then once I get in a more focused/relaxed realm, I think more profound things like, “You are so lucky to have this life. You have so many more people to help. You have so many epic ideas. The sunny beach and cold wine are waiting for you.” If you’re having trouble thinking of something, try repeating your future travel goals, and picture yourself doing them!

Catholics visiting the Holy Land have an easy way to repeat a positive mantra - pray a rosary!

Olive wood Rosary from the Holy Land.

(Catholics visiting the Holy Land have an easy way to repeat a positive mantra – pray a rosary! Many people credit regular prayer of the rosary for adding more peace into their daily lives and helping them to cope with stress. In addition, popular Catholic author Neal Lozano (author of Unbound) believes that things like depression and anxiety can have a spiritual element. He recommends regularly practicing forgiveness of people in our lives who’ve caused us fear or anxiety and then taking the authority Jesus gave to His disciples over the negative emotion by renouncing it in His name. People engaging in this practice say they’ve gained relief through it, some even getting rid of anxiety for good. “In the name of Jesus, I renounce a spirit of fear, anxiety, panic, etc., and send you to the foot of the cross for Jesus to deal with you as He wills.”)

3. Remind Yourself Your Meds Are Close, But You Don’t HAVE to Take Them

If anxiety has been a regular battle for you, your doctor may have prescribed you anti-anxiety meds to take when feeling especially anxious. So far, I have had several times where I’ve needed to remind myself that my meds are there, but just doing that has helped. I haven’t had to take them! If you DO need to take meds, do so as directed by your doctor, and don’t forget to get your prescription filled before you travel. If you happen to forget or run out, don’t worry, because most meds are available abroad (and for cheaper); you’ll just need to pop into a hospital for the prescription (also super cheap). Some people also recommended Benadryl or Diphenhydramine, which both make you sleepy, if you happen to not have your meds.

4. Remind Yourself You’re Not Alone and You Can’t Die

Again, knowing the number of people who reached out about having anxiety, many on a daily basis, really helped me. It actually motivated me to figure out how to help others with it so we can all be better and happier, which in part is why I’m writing this post! Another piece of advice that helped me was to talk to a flight attendant if I felt anxiety on a plane.  They are trained to handle people with anxiety attacks abroad and will understand the situation. I think many of us may feel embarrassed when it happens because you don’t want people to stare or make a big deal, but just remember you are not the first or only person this happens to!

Also, remind yourself that you technically can’t die from anxiety. At least that’s what the doctor at the hospital convinced me of when I asked eight million times if it was possible that I was dying. Knowing that and knowing that if I felt like I needed to go to the hospital again, they would just tranquilize me and send me home with pills.  This also helped calm me down and reminded me it’s up to me to mentally solve it.

5. Think of Your Favorite Funny Memory

I thought a whole lot about my cute animal encounters to avoid thinking of anxiety!

Anxiety is a mind game. For me, I tend to feel trapped, which is impossible, since I’m a nomad and could jump on a plane to anywhere at any time. I also didn’t get anxiety on my first plane ride with anxiety abroad, even though that’s the number one place you should feel trapped. This is how I know this anxiety beast is just messing with me.

But when the anxiety does poke its obnoxious little head up into my thoughts, and I need something stronger than counting and mantras, I try to think of my favorite memories, especially the funny ones. I guess technically that’s what the doctor meant by “Have positive thoughts”….

Anyway, laughing and smiling, even to yourself, definitely helps! Which leads me to…

Watching crazy cat videos for a laugh is a popular pastime.

Watching crazy cat videos for a laugh is a popular pastime.

6. Scroll Through Happy Photos/Accounts

I had to follow about ten cute animal accounts to get me through the first car ride following my bus accident and anxiety attack. Not only did I constantly feel trapped inside the car, but my mind would not stop pre-assessing every possible accident that could happen. So, to take my mind off of it, I scrolled through endless photos of a cat that sleeps on a dog’s head, all the Pomeranian accounts, and of course anything related to animals doing things. They made me laugh, feel happy, and ultimately distracted, which is what I needed most at the time.

7. Rest and Treat Yourself

It took me publicly posting to over 200k people that I had an anxiety attack and about 50 people’s same responses to realize that I have not taken a day off of working, traveling, and hustling in about five years. Mix that with some traumatic accidents, and it’s almost shocking the attack didn’t happen sooner.

The first thing everyone told me to do was take a day or two off to relax, maybe get a massage, and most of all, NOT work. This was hard for me because I love my work and can’t stand to rest. But I listened, and I put my laptop and phone away for almost five days to properly rest and practice self-care.

Since resting and doing nothing kept sparking my anxiety (since all I had left to do was overthink), I would instead go to the beach, go shopping, eat out at restaurants, and listen to live music. I call it “active resting.” It also felt really good to go get my hair and nails done and get a massage after a groggy week of recuperating! You should designate me-time once a week if you can, and while you’re at it, throw on some soothing music, light a candle, and remind yourself how awesome it is to be alive!

Talk to Someone to Avoid Anxiety Abroad

8. Talk to Someone to Avoid Anxiety Abroad

Lately, all it took for me to not have anxiety at an airport while waiting for my thirteen-hour flight was a random guy coming up to me and asking if I’d test the perfume he makes and leave my response on his social media page. I didn’t tell him I was extremely worried about freaking out on a plane; we just talked travel, and it made me relaxed and without anxiety.

Also, when I first had the anxiety attack, I happened to run into a friend from college in Bali (random, I know), and immediately told him about my accidents and struggles. I was so lucky that the universe at least gave me that one person to vent to who also happened to be fun.  This made getting over the anxiety a lot easier.

If you’re having anxiety abroad and you aren’t comfortable talking to a stranger, consider FaceTiming a friend or family member!

Comfort Crosses from the Holy Land are carried by many to find a little security and love in their faith.

Comfort Crosses from the Holy Land are carried by many to find a little security and love in their faith.

9.  Wear and Touch Something Familiar

My younger brother revealed that he has very bad anxiety, and one thing his doctor told him was to wear and touch something familiar to remind him that he’s present. For him, it’s a simple rubber band, and he just snaps it on his wrist when he’s having bad thoughts.

For me, I went the extravagant route and got a handmade quartz necklace that I touch and put to my lips in order to remind myself how powerful the earth is and how strong I am to handle it. BUT, I also wear a rubber band to remind me of my brother and how much he’s struggled to overcome anxiety and depression, and why I need to be strong for him too.

Frankincense is an aroma known for aiding in relaxation and combating negative emotions.

Frankincense is an aroma known for aiding in relaxation and
combating negative emotions.

AROMATHERAPY probably deserves its own number on this list, but I just remembered it now and ran out of space, so I’ll add it here! A lot of people suggested aromatherapy and essential oils, and I’ll agree that they are definitely soothing if not just a mental distraction!

I picked up a lavender and eucalyptus roller in Bali right away (convincing myself that I was doing the whole “spiritual cleansing and resting” thing).

10. Drink Wine and Laugh A Lot

This option isn’t for everyone, but for me, wine and laughs are always the answer.

Full disclosure here, drinking wine may not be recommended by doctors (and definitely not if you took meds), and a few people online also said it doesn’t help since it’s technically a downer.

BUT for myself and a handful of others, drinking wine did help, especially when paired with things that make you laugh! For me in general, drinking white wine calms my brain down from thinking so much (which I do 24/7), so when I can’t control the rapid unwanted thoughts of anxiety, it pretty much does the same thing. This was my method of anti-anxiety on that thirteen-hour plane– white wine and funny movies! Plus it helped put me to sleep!

BONUS: Convince Yourself That You Can Get Rid of Anxiety!

What’s most important to me is being strong, smart, present, active, adventurous, and healthy, which means I don’t have time for this anxiety monster!  I will just keep convincing myself of that until it fully goes away!

Original post here.

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