Holidays are supposed to be fun, relaxing, a special treat to look forward to and a chance to recharge those batteries. So many of us though, find packing up to leave our jobs, homes, family pets and usual routines behind, simply fill us with dread.
These feelings of stress and anxiety leave us wondering whether it’s actually worth it.
Fear is a natural and essential human emotion: after all, being programmed with the ability to have feelings of fear is what saved our ancestors from being eaten by sabre-toothed tigers. But there aren’t too many sabre-toothed tigers for us to deal with nowadays and most of the things that we worry about never happen, so we can exhaust ourselves for nothing. Feelings of fear and anxiety are just that – feelings – and the good thing about feelings is that they can be changed.
Follow my top tips for dealing with travel anxiety and make your holiday one to remember
Write your worries down
Make a list of all the things that are worrying you – this will help you to pinpoint the cause of your travel anxiety. You’ll then be able to address them cognitively by writing a solution alongside them. Some of those worries may be easy to address eg. ‘I might forget my plane tickets and passport’. Others, such as ‘I’m worried the plane might crash’ may seem harder to find a solution for, but remember, it’s the thoughts and feelings that you’re looking to address at this stage, because you haven’t got on a plane yet. Focus purely on what you can do at this moment to alleviate the anxiety – it could be learning some relaxation exercises.
Get rid of over-imaginative thoughts
We can’t predict the future, so don’t waste time and energy by filling your head with disaster-like scenes. The quickest way to change your feelings is to change these images:
– Become aware of the worrying thought and the pictures and sounds that accompany it.
– Imagine holding a pot of white paint and a huge paintbrush. Dip the brush into the paint and paint all over that image, whitening it out completely.
– If there’s any internal dialogue that accompanied that picture, imagine playing a favourite piece of music really loudly as you paint the picture, to drown the sound out.
– Once you have erased this image completely, you can bring yourself back to the present moment and focus on your surroundings. If you are perfectly safe in the ‘here and now’, you have no need to feel anxious.
Start dreaming about your holiday
Get into the holiday mood by filling your mind with wonderful images. See yourself looking relaxed, happy and well at your holiday destination – too many of us forget to do this. The bigger and more colourful you can make these images, the better you’ll start to feel. Above all, see yourself having FUN!
Avoid falling into last minute bad eating habits by living off leftovers from the fridge, takeaways or last minute ‘crash-dieting’ regimes. Certain foods alter anxiety levels and create mood swings. Foods such as wholegrain breads, fish, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese, avocados and less ripe bananas will help to keep you on an even keel.
These will exacerbate those feelings of worry and if you’re working late to finish things off before you go away, you may find yourself consuming more than usual. Reduce caffeine levels – e.g. coffee, tea, chocolate, coffee-flavoured ice- cream and cakes. Be aware of the stimulating effects of sugar, cheese, red meat, alcohol and nicotine.
Learn some relaxation exercises
Breathing exercises such as imagining that you are blowing up a balloon whilst blowing out slowly and deeply into your hand will make a difference to how you feel, as you’ll be expelling those stress chemicals from the body. For anxious travellers, it’s useful to have some hypnosis and relaxation CDs in hand luggage to listen to whilst travelling.
Alicia Eaton is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and NLP based in London’s Harley Street. You can read more about her strategies for success in her latest book: “Fix Your Life…with NLP”. For more details see www.aliciaeaton.co.uk