Traveling and anxiety

Since I have admitted to myself that I have been struggling with anxiety issues for quite some time now, I am able to look at past experiences and behaviors and they make more sense.  Something that I love but is also difficult for me is traveling.  I know people experience anxiety around travel, people afraid of flying, not comfortable in the stress of an airport, but mine is much different.  I don’t get anxious about the actual travel, the flying or the environment I will be in.  I get anxious about everything else.  I worry about being out of my routine, I worry about sleeping somewhere other than my bed, I worry about the food I will be eating, I worry about what access to a gym I will have, along with many other things.  Some of these things have gotten way better since I have worked out other issues and I will dig into these anxieties a little bit deeper.

Being out of my routine is extremely difficult for me.  I am a creature of habit, it is where I feel safe, where I don’t feel vulnerable.  When you travel, you are obviously forced into a completely different routine.  This is something I worry about the moment I plan a trip.  I am simultaneously excited and anxious as soon as I hit the book button.  Being in control all the time is something I have been working on.  I take little steps as much as I can to give up control.  When I am less in need of having control, it makes a different routine easier.  These little things may seem silly to some but to me they are something I am proud of.  I will ask Derek at the beginning of the week what he wants as dinners instead of me just planning everything out.  I will let Derek pick what we should do after dinner whether that be sit outside on our balcony, take a walk, or watch TV.  I still always insist on driving, but that is a big thing I hope to get to eventually.  These little steps of being more okay with letting go of control have made traveling feel a little less overwhelming.

The anxiety over the sleeping somewhere different is a huge thing.  The sleep issues I have revolve around a fear that I won’t be able to fall asleep.  I basically set myself up to fail by telling myself if my bedtime routine isn’t the same every night or if I am out after 7pm that I won’t fall asleep.   When my sleeping troubles first started, I did research on the subject and found a lot of people recommended having a consistent routine.  I of course took this to an extreme level.  I found little things that helped me fall asleep but now my mind set is if I don’t do x, y, z then I absolutely wont sleep.  It is an all or nothing way of thinking.  By finding a consistent bedtime routine, I basically made myself a prisoner to it.  This is why traveling is so difficult.  I will be out of my element; I may not have access to what I think I need to sleep or I will be doing things much differently than I am used to and this can throw me into a panic.  I basically convince myself before I even arrive at my destination that I won’t be able to sleep during the trip.  I then get extremely frustrated with myself for having these thoughts and I throw myself into a vicious negative feedback loop.  What I have been working on in therapy to help with this is having more compassion for myself.  Instead of getting mad at myself for thinking I won’t sleep, I try and tell myself it is ok, I place my hand over my heart and I breathe.  I give myself some time in bed awake, calm time where I am not getting exacerbated at myself, and if an hour passes by I allow myself to take a sleep aid.  The little things I am doing to help me with needing control like the night time walks are also helping me with getting out of the mindset that I have to be home on my couch at 7pm with my bed time tea to be able to sleep. 

The food anxiety is something that used to be a lot worse than it is now but it is still something I struggle with.  I am a very healthy eater.  It used to be more out of restriction and because I thought I had to eat with restriction to look a certain way.  Now I eat that way because it is what makes my body feel the best.  I know certain foods make me feel tired or bloated or give me stomach issue and I typically avoid them.  When you are traveling, especially to other countries, it is hard to get food you are used to.  I used to get so anxious about this, constantly worrying about where I would eat, what I would be able to order out and what kind of things I could pack with me to bring.  I used to drive myself crazy with how much I would worry about it. Things have gotten better and I’m less anxious about it now.  I still always looks up restaurants I will be near and search menus for things I know I would want to eat.  I am less adventurous with eating out than I probably should be but honestly I don’t want to risk feeling like crap.  I still make sure to always bring bars or others snacks to have with me in case I need extra food.  I also always pack food for the plane.  Airports are notoriously bad with food choices so I like to always have a full meal and snacks packed. 

The last thing that really causes me anxiety around traveling is how I will be able to work out.  Again, I have gotten better at this.  In the past working out was more out of an obsession rather than just doing it because it made me feel good.  Since I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue I have been much better at taking a step back from exercises and I am much better with rest days.  I still can’t say I would ever take a full week off so I do get anxious about workouts when traveling.  When I am booking hotels I always make sure it has a gym.  I very rarely will book somewhere that doesn’t, but sometimes that is the only option.  I will also search for yoga studios or other workout classes in the nearby area to see if they will fit into my schedule.  Being a morning person is helpful because I know I can get myself up and get a workout in before it is time to adventure/explore for the day.  I always have to work out before I get on an airplane, even if I have to wake up extra early to do so.  There is still something about sitting on a plane for long hours without any physical activity that drives me crazy.  I am hoping to get better at this, to one day just pick a hotel just because I like it and not even worry about if it has a gym or not. 

Anxiety about traveling is very tough for me because I love to travel.  I want to see the world.  I want to explore new places and see how other people live.  Working on my general anxiety has definitely helped when it comes to travel.  Many of my issues cross over so working on them in one aspect of my life helps with the other.  When living with anxiety, every day is a new day and every day can be a step forward and sometimes it can be a step back.  I am never going to let my anxiety keep me from doing something that I love.  I am just finding ways to help make it less.  The less my anxiety is the more of my trips I know I will enjoy.  Even now there is still a little voice inside my head telling me I will have sleep issues or that I need to eat healthier or move more.  I am working towards quieting that voice and knowing that it does not have power over me.  I am not my thoughts and I deserve to have the compassion towards myself to work out these issues and I plan to do so!