Around 18% of people in the United States have an anxiety disorder — and travel anxiety, which is a fear of visiting an unfamiliar place or anxiety around the travel itself is a common form.
Covid-19 and global lockdowns have led to even greater uncertainty for many, leaving travellers stressed or uncomfortable with heading to the airport, remembering all the forms you need, boarding a plane and jetting off to parts unknown, let alone avoiding getting sick.
According to Dr. Charlotte Russell, pre-Covid life was reasonably predictable and certain: “The processes when we travelled were known and familiar. An unexpected situation that affects our way of life will inevitably affect our perception of how safe and predictable the world is. We experienced long periods of uncertainty with changing rules, which can leave us with a lingering sense that the world might suddenly change again.”
This, she says, triggers our body’s threat system, and can lead to physical symptoms like heart palpitations, sweating and feeling ill.
First, Russell suggests preparing. Check your destination’s requirements in regards to any paperwork you’ll need. If you’re still anxious, double-check with fellow travellers or any tour operator you’re using. Remind yourself that any residual anxiety or catastrophic thoughts are your brain coping and that you’re thinking the worst.
Russell also suggests bringing something to focus on while queuing at the airport to take your mind off stress. Bring a book, download a fun smartphone game or scroll through social media, guilt-free. Maybe even start to read about your destination to get yourself excited.
Finally, airports can be intimidating places. Russell says: “Remind yourself that you are an adult and staff are there to get you through each step safely and successfully.”