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Travel anxiety is real. So real, in fact, that it keeps many people from seeing the world — even when they really want to. Sometimes, that means skipping that trip to Egypt they’ve always dreamed about (like my grandmother). Yes, it’s unfortunate when fear keeps us from doing things, but there are worse things in life. It’s a personal battle and everyone does the best they can.

That being said, sometimes travel is unavoidable — especially this time of year. Travel aside, you might even be feeling a little pre holiday anxiety in general. Booking a flight when you’d rather stay in the security of your own home for the sake of family togetherness? We feel your pain. Here are some tips for how to deal with holiday travel anxiety when you’d rather stay home and sip eggnog. 

Manage Stress

If you live with travel anxiety, this might seem like a tall order but it’s definitely worth trying. When we let stress get out of control, it can take over our lives. It can also impair our immune systems which is the last thing we need when we’re traveling during cold and flu season. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

It’s amazing how a little pre-planning can really do so much to keep travel anxiety from spiraling out of control. Not having to take my shoes off at the security checkpoint before my flight has been great, and then we diffuse essential oils in our hotel room overnight to shake off the travel nerves. It’s been a game-changer!

Skip the Family Drama

Traveling to visit relatives? That could be anxiety-inducing in itself. I know that we don’t travel often for the holidays for this exact reason. Until my grandmother passed away last year, I made some sort of effort, but I’m not sure it’s worth it anymore. Josh and I both have our reasons for not going “home” for the holidays, so if you’re in a similar situation, here are some things to think about:

  • Try to address any family squabbles before you book your flight. 
  • Communicate through email and put thought into your words before you send your message. 
  • Give the other person and opportunity to respond and take time to think about what they’ve had to say. 
  • Set boundaries and explain the consequences if people try to push you past your limits. 
  • Stay home if you think things will be volatile, abusive, or excessively negative. 

We all want those fairytale holiday moments that we see in the movies, but that’s just not a reality for some of us. Don’t feel guilty about protecting your mental and emotional health by choosing to avoid something that you know is toxic or unhealthy. Send a great gift, offer to Skype or Facetime with your family, and then spend your money on a trip you’ll actually enjoy.

Get Enough Sleep

Most of the time, I’m so mentally and physically drained from being in an airplane that I pass out the second my head hits the pillow (after disinfecting my hotel room, of course!). When I’m traveling during this busy time of year, I’ve found it a lot more difficult. That holiday travel anxiety is on a different level! 

Instead of tossing and turning all night, we try natural remedies such as deep breathing and melatonin. It also helps to have a diffuser filling the air with lavender essential oil. After long-haul flights we also take our favorite supplement for jet lag (it sounds unbelievable, but it works!). 

There’s a certain excitement and buzz during the holidays, so it can be hard to wind down for the night. We make sure to turn off our devices about an hour before bed to help our brains drift off to sleep. It’s definitely one of our tips for how to deal with holiday travel anxiety!

Don’t Give Into Pressure

We all want our holidays to be perfect, but so often, they’re not. Before things even get going, we’re stressing over finding the right gift, the right flight, and everything in between. This year, do yourself a favor and don’t give into the pressure to be perfect. 

Rather than worry about the fact that you forgot someone’s gift at home (you can mail it later!) or your flight is delayed and you won’t make it to dinner in time, focus on gratitude. There are so many people suffering and alone during this time of year. If you’ve got air in your lungs, a roof over your head, and people who love you, then that’s all that matters! 

Deal With Your Triggers

Well, I’ve probably save the best tip for how to deal with holiday travel anxiety for last. If you live with anxiety and phobias (like us!), then you know you have triggers. For me, as someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), it’s all about avoiding germs and illness. Here are some of my coping strategies:

On the other side of things, Josh really cannot handle disorganization, long lines, and extreme turbulence (it’s especially hard on his stomach). It’s so great to work together to make sure we both feel supported in our holiday travel anxiety. Here’s what works well for Josh:

  • We beat the lines at the security checkpoint with TSA Precheck. We both love this, but the efficiency always makes Josh giddy!
  • He’s less vocal, so we make a point to check in with each other as we travel. We want to make sure we both feel supported.
  • We use natural products for managing motion sickness.  

Nothing works 100% of the time, but we’ve found that these strategies make holiday travel anxiety so much better.  One of my biggest triggers is traveling during cold and flu season, so we’ve come up with ways to deal with that too!

Be Yourself

For years, I spent so much time trying to hide my anxiety. Josh and I regularly talk about how much shame is attached to it. There are still times when we are embarrassed to admit we’re feeling anxious even to each other! The only thing that has made things easier over the years is being honestly, unapologetically ourselves. This is definitely one of the best tips for how to deal with holiday travel anxiety!

Fuzzy material on a pillow at IKEA making me want to scream? We discuss it. Menu left on the table (after we ordered) frustrating Josh? We discuss it. Sometimes, we’re surprised by what’s agitating ourselves and each other, but we keep it from ruining the moment by addressing it. 

There’s no shame in having holiday travel anxiety or any type of anxiety at all. Yes, you will deal with a few ignorant people who tell you to “get over it,” but that’s how you find your tribe. If people aren’t willing to respect and learn about you, then maybe they shouldn’t be in your life. 

Sometimes, severing relationships can be very difficult but preserving your sanity is worth that. As those Negative Nellies leave your life, it opens up room for those who will truly love and support you. We all deserve that.