Tips to alleviate travel anxiety during and after the pandemic
For some, travel has been a top priority despite a global pandemic. For others, a sense of fear is instilled when the topic of traveling is brought up. However, life must continue with or without a sense of anxiety caused by COVID-19. With vaccines becoming increasingly available, mask mandates being lifted, and a general sense of optimism in the air, the positives outweigh the negatives.
Acenda therapists Manny Perry, MSW, LSW and Jessica Grossi, LPC share how you can reduce or calm travel anxiety post-pandemic.
How can I reduce/calm travel anxiety after Covid-19? How can I best prepare for my first trip post-pandemic?
"As a mental health professional I often see clients with severe anxiety, OCD, and other anxiety disorders. However, taking extra precautions for your health when traveling doesn't necessarily mean you have problematic anxiety. You should do what feels safest to you when it comes to traveling and taking precautions. Wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer as needed, and other hygienic practices doesn't necessarily mean you have an anxiety problem. In countries with densely populated cities, wearing masks has been commonplace for many years. Caring about your physical health is important for your mental health," Manny Perry, MSW, LSW explains.
How can I mentally prepare to be on an airplane again?
Being at an airport doesn't scream 'anxiety-friendly' to begin with. Being at an airport with a pandemic not too far behind us could heighten any anxious thoughts one might have.
"Practicing mindfulness can be a great way of mentally preparing oneself. Mindfulness is acknowledging thoughts and feeling when they arise and without judging them (or ourselves!). Simply being aware of anxiety and thoughts associated with them, can help you take back control of your mind," says Perry.
Perry explains, "There are many formal ways mindfulness can be practiced, here are just a few:
- Counting breaths
- Imagine that your thoughts are clouds in the sky, notice as the thoughts as they pass by, label what type of thought it is ("What if" thoughts? Catastrophic thinking? Worry?), describe the thoughts without judging them as good or bad, and notice as they slip out of sight. If you see the thoughts come in again that's okay too.
- Pick an object in your environment and describe it using your senses. What does the object look like? Describe its shape and color as much as you can. Does it have any particular scents or odors? What does it feel like in your hand or to the touch?"
What do I do if I feel overwhelmed in a crowd (airport, train, etc.) after Covid-19?
"Create a self-care tool kit to reduce anxiety by creating a list of different activities you can engage in while being out in a public setting. Some examples of what you can include in your toolkit are listening to a guided meditation, sipping on herbal tea, aromatherapy for stress, carry a worry stone or soft blanket for soothing touch, and a book of mindfulness skills. Practice using the contents of your tool kit before traveling so you are familiar with them. Another tip would be to recognize your body's individual warning signs for anxiety and take a moment to reduce stress whenever you notice your anxiety increasing," says Jessica Grossi, LPC.
How can I best prepare for my first trip post-pandemic?
"Take some time to think about your own comfort levels and what you are ready to reengage in. If you were never comfortable with flying, then a road trip may be a better first trip post-pandemic. Understanding your own comfort levels will help you decide what type of trip is best to plan. Once you have decided where you want to go, take some time to research what changes may have been made and what new safety measures are in place. Make sure you know what documentation you may need to bring to your destination. Think about ways you can feel in control of your environment while traveling," explains Grossi.
Read more on helpful tips for adjusting after quarantine and learn some new coping skills to handle changes. If you or a loved one are experiencing travel anxiety about life after quarantine, clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are here to help.
Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 X9500) for more information or to schedule an appointment.