Traveling Can Be Anxiety-Producing, But There Are Endless Resources For Techniques That Can Help
While travel can often be exciting, we know, in our NYC therapy practice, that it can also be stressful and anxiety-producing, particularly during this time of year with weather-related delays, cancellations and extra long lines at TSA. Recently, Jetsetter spoke with Tribeca Therapy to get some tips on how to deal with travel stress.
There are endless resources for using mindfulness and/or techniques derived from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), including thought exercises and activities, that can help with anxiety, especially related to travel. For many, many people, including skeptics, these techniques can really work. As our director Matt explains in the article, some techniques focus on replacing irrational thoughts with rational ones (for instance, connecting with the actual versus perceived risk of flying), while others focus on cognitive repetition, such as repeating a “mantra” composed to reinforce a sense of safety. There are also relaxation techniques familiar to those who have studied mindfulness or explored yoga–breathing and thought exercises designed to create a type of healthy dissociation from anxiety related to travel.
Specific Phobias, Like Fear Of Flying, May Be Proxies For Other Anxieties
While not specifically mentioned in the piece, what psychologists call specific phobias, meaning anxiety that is attached to an object such as the fear of flying, are often proxies for other kinds of anxieties and fears. With flying and travel, there may be anxiety related to seeing family, work challenges, or being away from family. There may also be feelings related to control that become attached to the absence of control in flying.
This is what often gets explored in therapy. However in the moment when traveling, asking these sorts of questions as a process of self-reflection and looking deeper at what the anxiety may be about can be a way to mitigate the intensity of the anxiety.
If Something Actually Does Go Wrong? Focus On What You Can Control
Of course, when traveling, things go wrong. Flights are canceled, trains are missed, and people are cranky. These moments are all about acceptance, focusing on what you can control and what you can’t. If there are no flights out, for example, make peace with that reality and focus, instead, on getting a safe place to stay.
The emotional task in these instances is to tell the difference between what you can control (and what you can’t) and then, work to accept that which you can’t. The cognitive intervention here might be to say, “I’m going to miss my connection, and that stinks. I can’t do anything about it. I need to accept that and make new plans.” Sometimes it can be helpful for adults to think about what they might say in that moment to a frightened or distressed child and then, say that to themselves.