how to deal with anxiety when travelling

Why do i get anxiety when on holiday?

Anxiety has its own agenda, and can come at any time, at work, watching TV, going for a walk and even on holiday. Unfortunately it doesn’t get the memo when we are away and all life’s stresses and worries need to be put on hold until we are back.

Wouldn’t that be the dream?!

Anything can cause it, intrusive thoughts, overhearing a conversation, a message from someone back home, the news or scrolling through social media. Each persons triggers are subjective to them, and they can come in the most unlikely of places. I remember camping in Oman, in the middle of the desert just looking up at the stars. We had a campfire going, had just eaten some yummy food and were putting to world to rights.

Sounds idyllic doesn’t it?

Unfortunately my anxiety had other plans and decided to remind me how scared of space I am, how fucking huge the universe is and that I didn’t want to die …. totally rationally right?! So instead of having a really nice night under the stars I was laid in my tent hyperventilating having to watch a pre-downloaded film on my tablet for such occasions as this. To try and calm down.

It’s all about finding coping mechanisms that help you. Because as anxiety triggers are subjective, so are the different ways to combat it.

Who is my safety blanket?

Photo by Isabela Kronemberger
Photo by Isabela Kronemberger

So you’re on holiday and all over a sudden you become really anxious, scared, feeling as though something bad is going to happen. Your breath starts to quicken and you get that all to familiar knot in your stomach.


Focus on your breathing.

Try taking deeper breathes.

In 2, 3, 4 out 2, 3, 4

OK who are you with? A partner? Family member? Riding solo?

I always find that talking to someone can immediately help me. These people are my safety blankets. The people I can feel completely at ease with, and freak out at them should I need too. These are my mum, my partner and my besties. I will then ring them, explain how I’m feeling or if I can’t just say ‘I’m just ringing for a chat’ i.e. I’m freaking the fuck out and I need you to dstract me.

And within minutes I can feel my anxiety slowly ebb away. This helps because they aren’t feeling what you are. They don’t have that feel of dread and panic. Therefore they can just have a normal conversation, talk absolute shit to you, gossip with you or ask what your planning to do for the rest of the day/ afternoon/ evening. And your mind is distracted, and starts to absorb their non-anxious energy.

Rolling on the river

OK so my anxiety is rearing its ugly head. The tell tale signs are coming and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed and on the point of tears. No trigger, that I’m aware of but still it’s come uninvited to join me.

What am I near? Am I at the coast? near a river? a lake? am I chilling by the pool with a Pornstar Martini?

Water really calms me. I love nothing more to just be by a body of water, listening to it lapping against the shore and just sitting there. Bliss. It’s sound is so soothing and the way it moves, just completely distracts me. Can you go and just watch the water? Just sit, take a deep breath 2, 3, 4 and watch. If you can, tip your feet in. Let it cool and calm you. Give your mind something to focus on. And just feel the anxiety melt away.

Go get a drink!

You’re on holiday, having a great time, just walking through the streets of an unknown place. Just being happy in that moment right now. When you over hear a conversation, just in passing and anxiety hits you like a tonne of bricks. Step to the side, away from the crowds, rest on a wall if you can. Feel it supporting you.

What is around you? Is there a little cafe? a cute bar with outdoor seating? Or somewhere with a snug you can go shelter in?

Photo by Han Vi Pham Thi
Photo by Han Vi Pham Thi

Go find a place you can sit and feel safe. Away from the hustle and bustle, and get yourself a drink. Now I know when my anxiety is bad I can struggle to make decisions. So have in your bag, pocket or even your bra a piece of paper with drinks on it you like. Don’t even look at the menu. Just see which of those you fancy be it water, tea or wine and order it. The less choice you have, the more of your brain you can use to focus on calming yourself. Mine is usually an iced coffee, a house wine or fresh orange juice.

Now you have time to just sit, relax, watch the world go by, have the person you’re with help distract you or call your safety blanket. You’re in a safe space, focus on enjoying your drink and plan what you’re going to do after your break.

Where’s the food at?

Anxiety stops for nothing nor know one. It’s really a selfish dickhead. It won’t give you a gentle reminder that you’ve been boozing solidly for a week in the Sun, and you feel that rough you haven’t eaten yet today. So maybe you should go get yourself a sandwich. Naaaah it would rather have you scared, that everything is bad. PRICK!

When we are hungry we can become emotional whether its hanger, tired, or anxious. And sometimes we can forget to remind ourselves that these feelings are irrational, it’s just because I’m hungry. If you’re feeling like this ask yourself:

When did I last eat?

Was it substantial? Or just something I grabbed whilst on the go?

When did I last sit down and have a meal?

Go sit and get some good food into you. Because believe me it’ll make you feel so much better. Now I know when my anxiety is bad, as I mentioned before I struggle to make decisions. And on more than one occasion my partner has looked super controlling, and has picked my food for me. Because I’m just a big ball of anxiety, and making such a simple decision is really too much for me at that moment in time. And that is OK! It’s ok if you feel like that. Just explain how your feeling and the person with you will be more than happy to help.

When I solo travel I will either ask my hotel receptionist for a recommendation, or I will google maps it. Completely taking the choice out of my hands. Therefore I don’t get to overwhelmed having to make more choices. Then when I get there, I will really try to narrow my choices by either only looking at the specials board, as there is usually only a handful of dishes or I will ask the waiter for the house special. Which in turn has lead me to try some great food, and in Bali have fish and chips as I am British and they wanted me to feel at home haha!

Lets sit and read

There’s nothing worse than when your mind is absolutely racing. It’s exhausting and can be incredibly hard to try and focus yourself. When my anxiety is heightened my mind does the equivalent of several marathons a day. So when your travelling and you’re trying to ‘push through’ these racing thoughts. Especially when you are in a busy place and that can make them worse.

Try stopping, just for a second.

Look for somewhere quiet and just go and sit.

On a bench, the beach, a sun lounger.

And try to read. Whether its a book in your bag, an article on your phone or the ingredients on the back of your water bottle. Give your mind something to focus entirely on, even if its jut for a couple of minutes. And just allow those racing thoughts to slow the fuck down. By reading you are giving your mind one focus, and the mind Derby will soon turn into a leisurely tootle down a country lane.

Can i drown it out?

There’s nothing worse than when you are away and your intrusive thoughts start kicking in. Trying to convince you of things you know aren’t true. When you’re in a quieter area of town and suddenly everyone is a potential kidnapper or mugger.

Is that person behind me actually following me?

What if they have a weapon?

What if round the corner there’s a group of their friends waiting to beat me up?

The horrible scenarios are endless. And your head becomes so loud you forget that you are here by choice, you’re having a wonderful holiday and this is actually something you are doing for fun! Now as I mention in my Pre-Travel Anxiety kit to avoid looking like a tourist, HEADPHONES can me a savior. Put them in, plug them into your phone and blare some of your favorite music out, or if you want something more calmer do you have an audio book to distract yourself with?

This will allow you to focus on something else other than your intrusive thoughts. You will realise that 6ft well built potential kidnapper is actually a sweet old lady just getting on with her day and is no threat at all. AND you can begin to enjoy your surroundings again, take in all the wonderful sights and give a middle finger to your mind.

None of this is working

Charlotte …. I’ve tried all of these amazing tips, but unfortunately they are just not working for me today. My anxiety is on tip top form and it’s winning. Mate, that is totally fine. Do not worry and please try to be kind to yourself. Some days the world can just seem a little too scary, you’ve done all you can but actually you aren’t feeling better.

Go back to your accommodation, go lie on your bed, sit on your balcony, have a shower anything that will calm you.

Because you need to look after yourself, and not push yourself, just because ‘you’re on holiday’. The stuff you wanted to do will still be there later or tomorrow. It doesn’t mean you’re not having a good holiday, or that you’ve failed or even that your weak ( a personal hang up of mine). It means you are fucking incredible and you need a little me time.

As I’ve already said just because we are physically on holiday, our mind doesn’t always get that memo. But with these top tips, we can help keep our anxiety from controlling us! Below is a picture of me after I had spent the morning crying my eyes out in Ubud, Bali. Feeling like something bad was going to happen, on the phone to my mum to talk me through it. So I sent her this picture to show her later on I was doing better.

Want a free guide to help with your anxiety whilst travelling?

IF you’re like me and love to have everything to hand in one place, grab my 3 free guides to help with your anxiety whilst travelling! These are so helpful, you can have them on you phone or in your bag / pocket and their free! Just pop in your email and I’ll send them over!

Me in Ubud, Bali after a morning of anxiety.
Me in Ubud, Bali.

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