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Does Your Anxiety Get Worse on Vacation?

Donna Chambers

Traveling can be a lot of things, including exciting and fun. For some people, though, leaving town means dealing with increased anxiety. If you feel nervous or out of sorts before a trip, you might have vacation anxiety.

Fortunately, there are ways to manage your symptoms so you can make the most of your travels.

photo of an airplane, glob and passport and map props.

Vacation Anxiety: Is That a Thing?

For many people, vacation anxiety is very real and very disruptive. While vacation anxiety might not qualify as its own mental health diagnosis, it’s quite common for people who have an existing anxiety disorder to feel their anxiety kick into overdrive when embarking on a trip or holiday.

As Dr. Katharina Star at Very Well Mind notes, travel can be a major trigger for anxiety and panic attacks. “If you have panic disorder, panic attacks and anxiety-related symptoms might keep you from traveling. Being in new and strange places, away from the safety of your home, can make you feel insecure. Additionally, you may be afraid of others witnessing your fear and nervousness.”

Just about everyone has experienced the hustle (and hassle) of airports, train stations or even a busy street in the middle of a city. Whether it’s a fear of losing your luggage or failing to make a connecting flight, travel can make for fertile ground when it comes to anxiety.

Now imagine you’re traveling for an important work conferences, where you’re expected to make a presentation or secure a major deal. Or maybe you’re vacationing in Europe for the first time, with an itinerary that takes you across several international borders. When you have anxiety, what seems like an adventure to other people may leave you stressed and overwhelmed.

And that’s no way to spend a vacation. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help manage your anxiety symptoms.

8 Tips for Managing Vacation Anxiety

If you have a vacation anxiety disorder, or traveling just makes you feel a little more on edge than usual, there are ways to manage your symptoms. Here are eight tips for making sure your vacation anxiety is under control before you plan your trip.

1. Prepare in Advance

If you’ve ever attempted to drive in a new city, you know how distracting and stressful it can be. Even with a GPS, trying to find your destination can be a challenge. The sights and roads are unfamiliar, and it’s easy to get turned around or lost.

When you travel, this kind of experience is repeated and amplified. Whether it’s a new city, state or country, the unfamiliar can trigger anxiety or a panic attack.

One way to manage these experiences is to plan ahead as much as possible. Make a list of the places you’re staying, including addresses and phone numbers. Create an itinerary for each day so you know what to expect and where you need to be at certain times. When your trip is organized, you’ll feel more in control and less stressed.  

2. Minimize Risk

For many people with an vacation anxiety, feeling unsafe is a serious trigger. Traveling takes you out of your comfort zone, which can bring on feelings of stress and panic. Traveling often means dealing with the unexpected, but there are ways to reduce risk.

If you’re worried about getting sick on your trip, purchase some travelers insurance that includes medical coverage. Concerned about losing your identification or your passport? Keep backup copies of your important documents in a secure space in your luggage.  

photo of a family packing up their trunk with suitcases.

3. Pack Comforts from Home

Being in a new place can leave anyone feeling a little disoriented. Traveling means encountering new sights, sounds and smells. You might even venture to a place where you don’t speak the language or understand the culture.

While you might want to immerse yourself in the travel experience, it doesn’t hurt to bring a few familiar items from home. Pack your favorite blanket or pillow case so you can snuggle up with everyday scents and textures. Bring a few framed photos or your morning coffee mug. These familiar sights can be a source of comfort when your anxiety has you feeling homesick.   

4. Travel with a Support Person

If possible, try to travel with a supportive friend or loved one. Solo travel can be fun, but it can also be a challenge for people who experience vacation anxiety. Having a trusted travel buddy along for the trip gives you someone to talk to when you feel panicked or stressed.

5. Stay Positive

When anxiety hits, it’s normal to get trapped in a pattern of negative thoughts. If you’re afraid of flying, for example, you might find yourself focusing on odd bumps and noises as the plane takes off and ascends.

Eventually, these negative thoughts can turn to plane crashes, which can trigger a panic attack. Even though your mind is aware of the statistics behind airline accidents, the anxious brain tends to focus on catastrophic outcomes regardless of how unlikely they are.

You can defeat this by flipping negative thoughts to positive ones. Instead of dwelling on the worst possible outcome, think about an end result that’s far more likely: You will reach your destination and enjoy your trip. Imagine the places you intend to visit when you land.

6. Use a Weighted Travel Blanket

Vacation anxiety can go hand in hand with a host of health conditions, including insomnia and poor sleep. Travel can even lead to temporary insomnia in people who don’t ordinarily have it especially if you change time zones. This is where a weighted travel blanket might help.

Weighted blankets use a type of therapy called deep pressure touch stimulation, which is firm but gentle pressure on the body. Studies have shown that deep pressure touch therapy can alleviate stress and help reduce anxiety.

Other research has shown that weighted blankets can reduce insomnia. In a study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, researchers stated that “a weighted blanket may aid in reducing insomnia through altered tactile inputs, thus may provide an innovative, non-pharmacological approach and complementary tool to improve sleep quality.”

The SensaCalm Calm-to-Go travel blanket is throw size and measures 34 inches by 50 inches. It also comes with an attached carrying handle and dual buckles, so you can easily roll it up and take it anywhere. The Calm-to-Go is machine washable and dryable and comes in a variety of color options.

photo of a woman holding her head on an airplane.

7. Take Breaks

If you’ve planned a big trip or vacation, you might feel like you need to take in as much as possible while you’re away. Unfortunately, this can set you up for exhaustion. When you have an anxiety disorder, overdoing it can also lead to panic attacks and undue stress.

If you feel yourself becoming anxious, don’t hesitate to take breaks. Instead of squeezing in the next sightseeing tour or activity, enjoy a coffee break at a local bar or cafe. Slowing down can relax you — and sometimes even lead to new experiences that make your trip even more memorable.  

8. Plan Your Return

For some vacation anxiety sufferers, the time after you return home is the source of their stress. You might worry about unpacking or doing the laundry. Other people think about the work that has backed up while they were out of the office.

If you stress about resuming normal life once your vacation ends, try to plan things so you can ease back into your daily routine. For example, make your official return to work date the Tuesday after your trip, but take Monday to answer emails from home or get a jump on projects you need to tackle now that you’re back.

You can also make your return easier by asking co-workers to help out while you’re away. If you have a demanding client, have someone on your team take over replying to that client’s emails. That way, you don’t need to worry about an inbox filled with angry messages when you get back.

Order Your Calm-to-Go Weighted Travel Blanket Today

Need some calm to go? Our Calm-to-Go weighted travel blanket may help you travel more comfortably and with less anxiety. Whether you’re a nervous flyer or you just want to sleep better while you travel, the Calm-to-Go offers the benefits of a traditional weighted blanket in a portable, easy to carry size.   

You can also order one of our custom weighted blankets, or choose from our selection of finished weighted blankets, which ship the next business day after your order.

Questions? We’re here to help. Give us a call at 855-736-7222 or use our contact form to get in touch with one of our team members.     

Disclaimer: The content on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before undertaking any type of therapy or treatment.