Wednesday, 10 June 2015

On Travelling and Being Anxious

I will always say that travelling is one of my favourite things to do. I save my money for trips away rather than for important things (like a mortgage), I spend ages on Pinterest looking at stunning pictures of dream destinations, and I lose hours daydreaming about places I want to see and things I want to experience.

I'm not a week by the beach or a hotel resort kinda gal, I consider myself to be a traveller. I don't just want holidays, I'm looking for experiences and I want to live the culture of the country I'm in, even if only for a day or two. I love to walk the streets without a map, eat in local restaurants and try local cuisines, find sights that are hidden just off the beaten track, and browse local bookstores (of course).

No matter how much I love to travel, there's one thing that always seems to get in my way and threatens to ruin each and every trip. That one thing is my anxiety. All those worries and fears that I experience daily on my home turf are magnified tenfold when I leave the country. Usually I can keep it in check with my trusty calming techniques, but sometimes even they fail and my world becomes all higgledy piddledy and I am suddenly unable to do things. This doesn't happen to this extent often, I think the last time was when my sister and I went to Milan in 2012 so I'm doing well, but I would be lying if I said I'm not in an almost constant state of anxiety when I'm away.

On Friday my sister and I are starting out on our 16 day trip around a small part of Europe. We've arranged everything ourselves - we don't tend to use packages or anything similar - so it's all in the planning. I've done a lot of planning, but it still doesn't feel like enough. I know exactly where we are going to be when, including specific timings, and how to get from airports and train stations to our hotels. I've covered all eventualities and it would be easy to assume from my packing list that I'm going into the wilderness for an unknown period of time. Yet I still have that feeling, right in the pit of my stomach, and it doesn't seem to want to shift. I'm hoping that when I'm on that Eurostar to Belgium it'll all fade, but I know that if it doesn't go completely I have a few handy techniques I can call on.

I thought I would just share these 'in the moment' techniques - perhaps they could be of use to you in those anxious moments either at home or away:

Repeat a mantra For years my Mum has been telling me to 'feel the fear and do it anyway' courtesy of Susan Jeffers (you can read more about that here). This has become something I repeat to myself whenever I'm in a situation that makes me anxious. When that fails to have its usual impact I often turn, in true Dr Pepper style, to 'what's the worst that can happen?'. Either of these or even a combination of both can do wonders to calm my overanxious mind.

Have an object I used to be really interested in crystals and I had this beautiful piece of red jasper which had a handy little dent for my thumb. I used to press my thumb into this dent whenever I felt the worry rising and focus instead on the feel of the crystal in my hand. This was particularly handy on planes or when trying to sleep in a strange bed. I think any object could have a similar function as it can help focus your mind on something else. One of those squidgy stress balls would be perfect!

Curl your toes Okay stick with me here, I realise this sounds a little odd. Most of my techniques are based around finding distractions and things to focus my whole mind on, so whether that's slowly making fists or curling and uncurling my toes, I focus solely on that and make sure to breathe in time with the movement.

I've always been determined not to let anxiety get in the way of living the life I want, which means that these techniques are definitely tried and tested. They might not work every time, but they do give me something to do rather than letting the anxious thoughts take over. One day I'll pack a suitcase without my arms going to jelly, but for now I'm going to keep pushing myself to take a deep breath and explore.

I'll be posting updates here (wi-fi depending) and sharing my adventures on twitter and instagram if you wanted to come along.

Do you experience anything like this when you leave the country? Do you have any tips or tricks for keeping it at bay? Can you recommend any calming reads?

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