Travel restrictions have since eased all over the world. Because of this, people may now go on essential or non-essential travel as long as they observe the necessary health protocols and requirements. But even with strictly-implemented health guidelines, travel anxiety stops people from going on trips nowadays.
As the mental health website Psycom pointed out, travel anxiety means expecting worst-case scenarios such as car or airplane crashes, or missing travel documents such as your passport or plane ticket. No thanks to the pandemic, people’s travel anxiety now includes contracting COVID during the trip.
While the fear is real, this fear need not take control of your life and leave you hiding in your home. As Dr. Lily Brown of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania said, anxiety management means managing false alarms. You need to distinguish real risks from overblowing situations or thoughts in your head.
So if you’re experiencing pre-travel anxiety around an essential or non-essential trip, read this guide. This comprehensive guide includes easy techniques and tips that will help with anxiety management before, during, and after your travel during the pandemic.
You’re now preparing for your trip, and you can’t help but feel pre-travel anxiety. Maybe because it’s your first time to go out in months or it may be because of the thought of contracting coronavirus. As your fear sets in, not even the thought of the beautiful landscapes at your destination might help ease your negative thoughts.
Inhale and exhale. This can help you manage or control your thoughts of what could go wrong during your trip
Knowing you have protection against the virus may help stop your travel anxiety from creeping in. So, remember to pack COVID travel essentials such as disinfectants. Prevent contracting COVID by adding handy disinfectants such as sanitizers, wipes, and sprays to your luggage. You may also bring contactless tools such as your own pen to press on ATMs or to sign forms, or even disposable gloves.
Another set of travel essentials you should prepare for are items for health protection. These include your vitamins and supplements, your face mask and face shield, and your health and travel insurance.
Truly, it would induce travel anxiety if you’re not sure if you’ve completed your travel documents. And with the pandemic, your usual travel requirements don’t just include IDs or a plane or a bus ticket. Some areas might require different travel documents during the pandemic: a medical certificate, round-trip tickets, confirmed accommodation, or negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test.
You also need to be aware that some locations will require electronic check-ins and QR codes; so it would be handy to always have mobile data ready.
Make sure to inquire about these documents from your travel destination authorities. Create a written checklist; so that you are 100% sure that you don’t miss anything.
One of the best travel anxiety tips includes taking care of yourself. This means eating healthy food, exercising regularly, sticking to a sleep routine, and avoiding excessive alcohol or smoking. Aside from beating anxiety, these ways also count as health and wellness tips for COVID protection.
But, remember, stick to a healthy lifestyle before, during, and after your trip. Don’t fall into the trap of overindulging in food or depriving yourself of sleep. Keep your immune system in good condition.
If you enter a place without knowing what’s waiting for you there, you will naturally feel scared. The same goes for your travel accommodation. You would naturally feel pre-travel anxiety if you don’t have any idea how your hotel keeps its premises sanitized and safe.
To prevent such occurrences, make sure to extensively ask about your accommodation’s safety precautions. Find out how often they sanitize common areas, what their staff training is on virus prevention and their hotel requirements for guests like you. Always abide by these requirements for your own good.
Ask yourself: Am I fit to go on this trip? How am I feeling right now? Asking these questions is one of the COVID-19 health precautions that you should practice.
If you know you’ve been feeling sick lately or have just recovered from an illness, then, by all means, do yourself a favor and cancel this trip. You’d be more susceptible to the virus if you are not feeling well, and you won’t have the energy to enjoy your activities on the trip anyway.
But if you must continue on your trip, try to reschedule it instead. It’s also better to consult your doctor about your health condition; so that you can get the necessary medical advice and care.
You’ve finally found out how to stop anxiety on its tracks before you go on your trip. Now that you’re on your way to your local destination but begin to feel the travel anxiety kicking in, smile and know that you’ve got this.
Apply these tips to overcome your travel anxiety during your much-awaited trip:
It is easy to practice social distancing on your own. But you don’t have control over other people’s actions, which may trigger travel anxiety during your trip. One of the tips to deal with people who don’t practice social distancing is to politely ask them to observe the six-foot rule. Who knows? They might be busy on their phones or thinking about something that they didn’t even notice that they were standing too close to you.
If you’ve already asked them but they didn’t budge, remember to politely repeat yourself and explain the social distancing protocols. But if there’s extra space somewhere, stop your attempts and just opt to move far away from them. If there is a safety officer nearby, you may also report the said person.
A sure-fire way to stress yourself out is to watch, listen, or read about devastating news online or on your hotel’s TV. Don’t feed your anxiety. Stay away from stressful news as much as possible because these are not within your control. Watch and listen to funny, inspiring, or relaxing social media content instead.
Also, make sure that if you do read or watch news online, stick to the facts. Don’t listen to hearsays or form your own assumptions about the virus. Listen to government protocols and rely on health experts, just like articles or videos wherein epidemiologists debunk coronavirus myths.
Just because you coughed or sneezed doesn’t mean that you have automatically contracted the coronavirus. It’s not good to keep associating every symptom that you feel to COVID, because this will surely intensify your travel anxiety.
Whether your symptoms are COVID-19 or something else, it helps to record your symptoms, first, then re-evaluate your actions. Maybe you are having a headache because you slept late last night or drank too much, or you sneezed because you put on too much perfume. But, generally, if you feel unwell, then you should stay in your room and rest.
You’ve packed your COVID-19 essentials; so bring them out and use them. Your travel anxiety will be at ease if you regularly sanitize everything in your room, aside from the sanitation protocols already being performed by your accommodation’s Management.
Remember to clean high-touch surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, chairs, or other items. If you do buy items outside, remember to disinfect them before using them.
If your anxious thoughts are taking over, try simple ways to stop anxiety. This could include listening and singing along to your favorite songs or watching a funny movie or series.
If your favorite techniques fail to get rid of your anxiety, try anxiety exercises. One example is to find a comfortable spot in your hotel room and count slowly from 1 to 10 or more. Take note, though, that your anxiety will not magically go away. So be patient and focus on counting more than on your anxious thoughts.
To avoid travel anxiety, it’s best to choose activities that will not have you touch shared objects or put you in close proximity with other people. For example, group activities, like basketball or volleyball, will cause you to bump or touch a shared object. Even simple activities, like taking the elevator, could make you more prone to getting the virus.
Opt for activities that will help let you practice social distancing easily. Some activities such as taking the stairs, hiking, swimming, biking, or dining in restaurants will help you avoid large groups of people.
It’s time to head home. Start to think about how you’ll protect yourself and your family. As you go through possible health precautions and you find yourself asking: What if something goes wrong? Resist the urge and just focus on what you can do.
You’ve managed to keep yourself safe and healthy before and during your trip. You can do this once again. Try these techniques on how to overcome anxiety once you reach home:
Once you get home, get rid of the bacteria, virus, dirt, or dust on your body by taking a bath. You might be tempted to just change clothes or insist that taking a bath when tired is not good. But today’s medical experts say otherwise.
For one, Filipino medical expert and cardiologist Dr. Willie Ong suggests resting for 20-30 minutes before taking a lukewarm bath after a trip outside or working out. He explained that in addition to keeping your body clean, bathing will relax your muscles, put you in a good mood, and help you sleep comfortably.
During your trip, you have handy disinfectants to sanitize objects and keep your travel anxiety away. Even when you get home, disinfecting your things shouldn’t stop. Clean everything that you used during your trips such as your shoes, luggage, slippers, clothes, plus your accessories such as watches or eyeglasses.
Cleaning possibly infected items as soon as you arrived home should be your top priority. If you could directly put your clothes in the washing machine once you get home, then do so.
To make sure that you are completely healthy and did not contract the virus, observe a 14-day self-isolation period. According to the research published by the National Library of Medicine, COVID symptoms appear in 5 to 14 days from the time of exposure to the virus. As such, the isolation period will give you time to be on the lookout for any symptom and determine if you are safe after 14 days.
If it isn’t possible to self-quarantine in your home, maintain social distancing instead and wear your face mask when interacting with your family and housemates.
While you’re on self-isolation, talk with your family and friends virtually. This is a safe and good way to stop anxiety without having to worry about your loved ones’ safety.
In addition to talking with your loved ones online, you can also spend this time bonding with them. Host virtual parties and games that will last until your self-isolation time is over.
When you do notice COVID symptoms, you might find your anxiety creeping in. To deal with COVID as calmly and as logically as possible, have a COVID plan in place.
For your COVID emergency plan, prepare a journal of symptoms. If you notice any presenting symptoms, call up your doctor immediately. Answer your healthcare provider’s questions as honestly as possible; so he or she can give you the best medical care and advice. Follow your doctor’s instructions to ensure your best chances at recovery.
Traveling during the pandemic can bring about travel anxiety. But this does not mean that you should just barricade yourself at home until the vaccine rolls out, and let your anxieties win over your thoughts.
For now, your best response is to manage your anxiety by taking steps that will also help you strengthen your protection against COVID-19.