• Kay Johnston

Travel Anxiety

Soon the six-week summer holidays begin and people in their droves will pack up and take a well-earned and, in many cases, a much-needed holiday. But for some people holidays are a source of stress and a dreaded event.

Travel anxiety is common and going on holiday can be the cause of anxiety and stress for lots of people. Travel activities such as travelling to your destination - fear of flying, driving on the opposite side of the road, taking a ferry, catching public transport can result in people dreading their holiday before they have even packed a bag. People worry about their accommodation, the food on holiday, the heat/the cold, being amongst other people, being away from home, work and loved ones, having enough money for their holiday.

In the stress and anxiety workshops I facilitate (Retrain Your Brain – Anxiety Management Workshops), I ask people at the beginning of each session to write down what it is that they are worrying about and a worry topic which appears frequently is holidays.

What people worry about …

Below are some examples of peoples worries i.e. what they are saying to themselves over and over in their heads and the stuff which wakes them up at 3am:

“How will the weekend away go with my friends, will I have an anxiety attack?”

“How will I'll cope on my week off work?”

“I need to get organised for my holidays, I have so much to do.”

“Who’s going to do my work whilst I am away?”

“What if I have a panic attack on the plane and need to get out?”

“Can I really afford to go away on holiday? What if I run out of money?”

“I am dreading the flight with the kids; I wish I hadn’t booked a long-haul holiday.”

“As soon as I get there, I know that I will want to come home, but I don’t want to ruin the holiday for my partner.”

Retrain Your Brain Workshops start again in September 2019. Visit website for details of course dates and how to book a place.

It seems that for many people holidays are a source of stress and anxiety even before they have started. I recently spoke to a guy who experienced a panic attack on his first ever lads’ holiday and paid to come home after only two days. He had saved up for this holiday, bought himself a new wardrobe and had planned lots of great things to do whilst he was there. However as soon as he arrived into the resort, he felt uncomfortable and uneasy, and didn’t really know why.

Unfortunately, he experienced a panic attack on the first night of his holiday and retreated to his room where he stayed until he left for the airport to get the first flight back home the following day.

He has since gone on other holidays but always has the same feeling of dread when he is there and cannot wait to get home. He feels that he is obliged to go on holiday as he now has a family but dreads the experience from the moment the holiday planning starts and doesn’t feel settled until he is back home and unpacked from another anxious adventure.

Another client spoke about how she loves the process of finding a holiday, researching what there is to do, what there is to see but as soon as she arrives immediately, she wants to get back home. This drives her partner potty as she is restless and constantly talks about wanting to get home.

What are the symptoms of travel anxiety?

· Poor sleep before you travel – not to be confused with feeling excited about your holiday

· Racing heart

· Sweating

· Having unhelpful thoughts –i .e. catastrophising, predicting the future

· Headaches/Migraine

· Feeling sick

· Wanting to go to the toilet frequently

· Performing rituals (OCD)

· Breathing quicker and feeling short of breath

· Being irritable, excessive angry

· Drinking to excess

It is well documented that people dislike flying and you can take courses to enable nervous flyers to conquer their fears. These are often run by many of the well-known airlines. People also self-medicate before flights with alcohol or even sedatives.

It is estimated that over 21 million people in the UK have a fear of flying (31% of the population). According to government statistics in 2018 the risk of a fatality whilst flying is one fatal accident for every three million flights.

“A Harvard University study found that the odds that your airplane will crash are one in 1.2 million, and the odds of dying from a crash are one in 11 million. Your chances of dying in a car accident, meanwhile, are one in 5,000”.

Professor Robert Bor, a British clinical psychologist and qualified pilot says, “this fear of flying is illogical. There’s always some kind of risk, but nowadays you have a greater chance of being kicked to death by a donkey than anything happening to you in an air crash.”


What can you do to help yourself and become a happier traveller?

1) Tell someone how you are feeling. Don’t worry alone, speak to someone and tell them how you are feeling. Ideally someone you are travelling with so that they can offer you support should you need it. Let them know how they can help you, tell them what you do to calm yourself down and how they can support you, i.e. helping you to focus on deep restful breathing.

2) Practice calming down techniques. Deep breathing is proven to help control stress, anger and anxiety. Simple breathing in through your nose into your belly and out through your mouth. This process tells your brain and body to switch off the fight, flight responses and it enables you to start thinking more logically and in control.

3) Find distractions. Download a film, podcast, take a good book to read, do puzzles, knitting etc. Find something which you can focus on to take your mind off the panic. Train your brain to focus on something else and allow it to relax.

4) Try to relax. Practice at home before you go using apps to help you relax, i.e. Headspace. A simple full body scan, tensing and relaxing each part of your body from your toes to the top of your head can really help to remind you what it feels like to be relaxed and calm.

5) Plan ahead. Take the time to understand your itinerary – where you need to be and when and how you are getting there. Organise your documents, money etc so that you have everything to hand and you know what you are doing.

6) Be kind to yourself. Remember you are human, and it is perfectly normal to feel anxious at times, after all its our inbuilt personal safety system. If you have a panicky moment, say to yourself “Stop”, take a few deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth and say to yourself, “I am ok”.

7) Ground yourself. When we are anxious, we are often living in a “What If World – the future according to our heads”. Its important to bring yourself back into the present. To do this quickly, you simply ask yourself – what can I see, what can I hear and what can I feel. Try to come up with at least five things for each sense. Focusing on the here and now again can distract our anxious, anger or stress minds and will bring your awareness back to the present.

8) Get professional help. Never be afraid of seeking professional advice. Speak to your GP tell them how you are feeling and how this fear is affecting your enjoyment of everyday life. Coaching and counselling can be useful to work through your challenges and can help you to understand what needs to be resolved or changed going forward.

If you feel like you would benefit from one to one counselling or coaching, book at session with Kay @Karmaminds. Call on 07512 477046 or email to arrange an appointment.

For details of more events please follow us on Facebook @KarmaMindsTraining

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