Manhattan psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona offers his advice for dealing with the stress of travel:
Traveling often poses unique challenges for people with genuine mental health issues, as well as those with “issues” that may fall short of a clinical diagnosis. People with anxiety, panic, or that are coping without a lot of stress often find that traveling can trigger symptoms and make symptoms they normally experience much more frequent and intense. The most important factors are perceived pressure (often related to time) and irrational fears related to mishaps (e.g. lost luggage or delays) or calamity (e.g. plane crash).
People suffering from depression or dysthymia (a milder form of depression) can find the added rigors and responsibilities required for effective travel daunting and even overwhelming. They are also sometimes prone to negativistic thinking and generalizations based on a distorted or exaggerated negative perception of things. For example, over-reacting to the consequences of luggage being lost or a flight being delayed.
Feelings of powerlessness can also be important. Many aspects of traveling can highlight certain elements of powerlessness for many people. This can decrease the normal capacity to cope with unexpected stressors and can subsequently lead to heightened anxiety for some people.
Here’s what you can do to stay calm and relaxed while traveling:
1. EXTRA PREPARATION–Taking some extra time to create a “just in case” action plan for common travel related problems like missing a flight, getting delayed, or losing luggage can help minimize the irrational thinking and decrease stress and anxiety around travel-related fears. I encourage people to list their three greatest fears and make a clear, written plan as to what they will do if the fear actually happens.
2. CONTROL THE THINGS YOU CAN–Put some extra focus on things that you can control that you know impact your stress level and ability to cope effectively with problems. For example, be sure to eat a good breakfast or avoid caffeine if you know it makes you shaky or moody. Put an extra cell phone battery or charger in your bag if the thought of being stranded without a cell phone makes you nervous.
3. PLAN DISTRACTIONS–One of the moist effective remedies for stress, anxiety, and irrational thinking is distraction. Have an arsenal of distractions that work for you easily available for your trip. Technology these days makes it easy to have many good options. When one stops working, have several more ready to go