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Jenza Talk / Worldwide

10 tried and tested tips for travelling with anxiety

Real talk from the team on the stuff they don’t tell you about travelling. (We love an overshare).

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Trigger warning: Talk of panic attacks and health anxiety

Lemme take you back to the month of May 2021, destination: Melbourne.

I’d not been in a lockdown since November, I’d had a summer of revelry – festivals, garden parties, al fresco dinners, beach days and road trips along the coast – had quit my job and was finally getting ready to head back to the UK to see my family and friends after three years of not being able to see them (or most importantly hug them). With emotional airport scenes filling up my daydreams (hey, is that a lyric or what?) and counting down the hours until I flew back – I had my first panic attack.

I won’t go into the details of what panic attacks feel like or what caused them (me and the therapist are figuring that one out), but going on a 24+ hour journey, cooped up in a plane was about the absolute last thing I felt like doing. But that is exactly what I DID end up doing. And look, the flight and the next few months were hard, but for me, being surrounded by friends and family as well as taking three months out to explore Europe and focus on myself was what got me back to my happier place. You may be thinking “Yeah, but you were going home – what's scary about that?”. Logical me – yes. Anxious me – feeling lost not being in my safe space (Melbourne) and wanting to call into ED every night with hectic anxiety symptoms – not so much.

Everyone’s story with anxiety goes a little differently, but if you’re a fellow anxious soul who is worried about how to handle it when you’re out of your comfort zone overseas – here are a few tried and tested ways to help it feel less overwhelming.

Practice intentional breathing

This felt like my get-out-of-jail-free card when it came to dampening the panic attack sensations I was feeling on a daily basis. You can do it anywhere and simply breathing in for four counts, holding and then breathing out for five counts for a couple of rounds helps to calm the nervous system. Keep this in your back pocket for if you’re starting to feel angsty. I guarantee it works.

Confide in someone

Starting out in a new city or country can be so exciting, but overwhelming at the same time. If you’re doing it solo, have someone from home that you can confide in if you’re having a hard time and need a friendly voice. If you’re with a mate or making new friends, if you feel comfortable, let them know how you’re feeling and why you might be acting differently. Don’t bottle it all up – if you need to chat with a professional there are lots of psychologists that offer online appointments or try BetterHelp, a fully online mental health service. Or if you need urgent guidance try the 24/7 WebChat of your local mental health organisations like Beyond Blue or Mind.

Get outdoors into nature

The quiet serenity of nature has an extremely calming effect on us humans. And can also make what feels like a big deal, feel very small when it’s paired next to a bloody great mountain. Hypersensitivity to noise, light and overstimulation can be common effects of anxiety too, so being in a wide-open space with less hectic busy energy might help to make you feel less hectic.

Try the 3 3 3 rule

If your mind feels like it’s working in overdrive, try and switch it back to the present by acknowledging three sounds you can hear, three objects you can see and then moving three body parts.

Write a gratitude list

Some like to journal, or for others, maybe it’s writing notes on your phone to go back to when you’re feeling low. **Writing all the good things we love about ourselves, our life, and where we are can quieten the noise going on in our head telling us otherwise.

Make a plan

For a lot of us anxious folks, the fear of the ‘what if’ is what can drive the rumination. And while you can’t control everything, writing a daily to-do list, doing thorough research or chatting to one of our JENZA Support Squad before you make the move overseas will help put your mind at ease.

All our customer-facing team (and most of the behind-the-scenes team too) are mental health aware trained. We’re not professionals, but we are humans who care about your wellbeing and your experience. We're also travellers (the pinnacle of human-ness), which means we’ve been there. So don’t be afraid to be honest and talk to us about how you’re feeling before you book. Guaranteed, we’ve felt that same nervousness or homesickness at some point on our adventures.

Then don’t make a plan

Travelling and moving abroad forces you to get out of your comfort zone, and accept that not everything is going to go to plan BUT you were still ok. If you feel up to it, allow yourself days where you have no plans at all and you choose to just go with the flow and watch how the day unfolds.

Tiger balm is your friend

If you get awful tension headaches like me, let me introduce you to this handy little pot of gold (well, it’s white in colour). It’s super cheap and you can keep it in your bag/pocket for when the sign of a crunchy headache rolls in. Just rub it on your forehead and temples and let it loosen up the tight muscles and nuke the headache without the need for painkillers.

Be kind to yourself

Probably the most important one on the list, except maybe the breath magic. Treat yourself how you would a friend in a similar situation – with kindness, empathy and patience. If you’re feeling an anxiety wave come in, give yourself a hug, hum a tune, stroke your hair, try to breathe slowly, chat to a mate which actually helps you regulate your breathing FYI (whatever helps you out personally) and remind yourself it will pass like it has before and you’ll be ok.

Pack some noise-cancelling headphones

Wear with caution in a big city, but sometimes drowning out the noise or playing our favourite music can help us re-calibrate if the hustle and bustle of our surroundings is feeling a bit too much.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Georgie Birch

JENZA Staff | Melbourne, Australia

Originally from Oxford, our favourite UK import got the Australia bug and never left. Her happy place is the ocean and chasing waterfalls on hikes. Can also be found in Melbourne sipping on (extra) spicy margs with mates.

“Treat yourself how you would a friend in a similar situation – with kindness, empathy and patience."

DISCLAIMER | We’re not saying a new city/life/country is going to rid you of any mental health struggles you may be having. It’s best to tackle it at the source and figure out what’s causing it with a professional.

BUT I hope this short and sweet guide helps you realise that you absolutely don’t have to miss out on an epic adventure overseas if you DO struggle with anxiety. It may feel scary, but when you come out the other side as a proud traveller with a whole lot of new experiences under your belt – we reckon you’ll be starting to feel pretty good.

If you’re reading this and have some tips of your own or you’d like to write for us on a topic that affects you when you travel, we’d love to hear them. Slide into our Instagram DM’s or send us an email and let us know.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Georgie Birch

JENZA Staff | Melbourne, Australia

Originally from Oxford, our favourite UK import got the Australia bug and never left. Her happy place is the ocean and chasing waterfalls on hikes. Can also be found in Melbourne sipping on (extra) spicy margs with mates.

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