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How to Travel When You Suffer From Social Anxiety

by Sian Ferguson Dec 24, 2015

It doesn’t matter if I’m traveling from my home to school, or flying across the continent; the idea of moving in public spaces has always scared me. As someone who suffers from anxiety, as much as I enjoy traveling, I always feel my anxiety somewhat holding me back from enjoying it.

Fortunately, I’ve picked up on a few small tricks and tips that have helped me control my anxiety while traveling. Here are a few:

1. Budget your energy wisely.

It’s tempting to want to do everything fun when you’re in a new place, especially because you want to make the most of your trip. But anxiety can tire you out — mentally, emotionally, and even physically.

So it’s important to recognize that while traveling, you may not have the same energy as other travelers you run into. Don’t walk as fast. Get plenty of sleep. Eat three meals. Take days off of sightseeing to sleep and relax. Sometimes, you need a day of lazing around in your hotel room.

And, prioritize activities you really want to do so that you have plenty of time to unwind before and after the activity.

2. Planning makes the unknown less scary.

Like most people with social anxiety, the unknown that comes with travel can be terrifying. But planning in advance helps me put my mind at ease.

So I make lists: of things I need to do, things I’m worried I’ll forget, flight times, emergency numbers, appointments and meetings, the name of the hostel.

Of course, in travel, things don’t always go according to plan! But it’s a lot easier to improvise when you have some idea of what issues, times and schedules you need to work around.

3. Find distractions.

One main aspect of anxiety is that it consumes your brain so that you can’t think about anything else. Often, it builds up like a snowball rolling down a hill. Distracting yourself, especially with repetitive things, gives your brain a break and gives you time to reassure yourself.

Whenever I’m feeling anxious while traveling, I sing to myself in my head, rub a coin or jingle my keys in a repetitive way. On time off, I knit, do puzzles, color, recite poetry in my head head, or read about something light and completely removed from traveling.

4. Give yourself plenty of loving affirmations.

Anxiety likes to trick us into thinking we can’t do certain things — things we are fully capable of doing. It can make us feel worthless, insecure and incapable. While taking such a huge risk as travel, this kind of thinking can change your whole trip.

So to counter these negative thoughts, give yourself positive ones. Write them down or say them to yourself while staring in a mirror. Things like:

    • “If you survived the last trip, you can survive this!”


    • “You’re smart and you’re streetwise. You can do this.”


    “Nothing bad will happen to you. Your brain is just trying to trick you.”

It’s hard to believe those affirmations at first, but the more you repeat them, the more they’ll sink in.

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