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Sarah Tiedemann, author of Traveling with Baggage: A Guide for the Hesitant Hiker, has dealt with anxiety her whole life.
She didn’t let it stop her from moving to Hawaii to go to college, though! Or the subsequent travel bug.
Today Sarah joins me to chat about her experience traveling with anxiety, some of the mechanisms she uses to cope, and how you can help if you’re traveling with someone who has anxiety.
It’s not easy to travel with anxiety, but what you’ll find on the other end might just be worth the fight.
Do you get anxious when you travel? Let me know @ExtraPackofPeanuts!!
Today’s episode has been sponsored by our friends at Tortuga Backpacks!
Check out the entire library of EPoP Travel Podcasts on iTunes
In This Episode
- 04:00 The beginning of anxiety for Sarah
- 05:57 How did she end up in Hawaii?
- 10:00 Flying & anxiety
- 14:00 Sharing the anxiety vs keeping it to yourself
- 18:00 As a traveling companion to someone with anxiety – how can we help?
- 27:00 Getting outside
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Just finished listening, and I’m so happy you did an episode on this topic. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression my entire life, and am also a fellow travel lover. Mental health issues can steal so much of your energy and ambition. Sometimes managing the symptoms is a full time job, leaving very little time for interests and goals.
After graduating college, I got on a plane and flew to Dublin by myself. It was the scariest and best thing I’ve ever done. I ended up starting my writing career there, and staying in Ireland long term. While traveling can exacerbate the symptoms of depression and anxiety, it is also medicinal in so many ways.
Here are a few strategies that made a world of difference for me:
Go easy on alcohol: as mentioned in the comment above mine, caffeine can make the symptoms of anxiety much worse. Alcohol tricks you into thinking it’s masking your anxiety, but the day after a bender is hell. (Imagine a hangover on top of the overwhelming sense of impending doom–it’s not pretty). Drinking is one of my favorite traveling hobbies, so I know it can be hard to abstain. You don’t have to give it up completely, just be conscious of how much you’re consuming.
Exercise: one reason travel is medicinal for me is because it often requires lots of walking. Excercise is a great way to manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety. (I’m not saying it’s a cure-all, but the extra dose of endorphins definitely doesn’t hurt).
Get adequate sleep: sleep is directly tied to your mental health. If you have an underlying anxiety disorder already, lack of sleep can make matters so much worse. Try to plan your travel activities around a full sleep schedule. (Taking melatonin or beneydryl can help in a pinch).
Mental health issues can be extremely frustrating, but my anxiety and depression have indisputably made me a stronger person. Overcoming the fear that comes with these debilitating conditions can be extremely liberating. I don’t know anyone who ever regretted taking that first big step by getting on the plane and just going.
I’m a huge fan of EPOP. You guys are great! Thanks for doing what you do.
@Ami – Thanks for the kind words, and like you, I’m really glad we did an episode on this subject, and feel very grateful to Sarah for coming on and sharing so openly. I think your pieces of advice are spot on. Even people without anxiety or mental health issues can benefit from good amounts of sleep, exercise, and watching their alcohol. Thanks for sharing!
Great episode as always Trav. I’m a hypnotherapist, specialising in treating anxiety, and as Sarah said, anxiety is a complex issue and there is no quick fix. However, here are a couple of strategies that will hopefully help other EPOP listeners, who suffer from anxiety.
1) Cut out caffeine. Having worked with a lot of anxious clients, trust me, this small change makes a massive difference to your underlying level of anxiety.
2) Meditate. This helps calm your mind and allows you to see problems in their true perspective. If the idea of meditation sounds a bit woo-woo, then use an app called Headspace. It’s very down to Earth.
3) Push your comfort circle a little every day. We all have a circle of comfort around us. In that circle are all the things we feel comfortable doing and towards the edge of that circle are the things that make us slightly nervous. The problem is, that if we avoid doing things that make us uncomfortable, we feel an initial sense of relief, which acts as a positive reinforcement. This means our comfort circle gets smaller over time, until we are very limited in what we can do. Try doing something every day that is a little outside your comfort zone and feel proud of yourself when you’ve done it.
Hope that helps.
@Cat Swatridge- This is awesome advice, thanks so much. I can attest to the fact that meditation, even if you don’t struggle with anxiety, is a great daily practice anyway. And it never hurts to wean your body off caffeine. Thanks so much, and glad you liked the episode!