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Are You an Anxious Traveler?

By Christy Matta, MA

Do you grip the arm rest during take off and landing when flying, break into a cold sweat at the thought of a long car ride or avoid trips and vacations that involve any sort of travel?

I am an anxious flyer. I don’t avoid trips, but I think twice before booking one. I have all sorts of techniques to take my mind off the flight, particularly during take off and landing, which always feel like the most vulnerable parts of the flight.

I wasn’t always frightened of flying. As a child, flying was an adventure. Sudden dips that made my stomach flip were fun. But in my teens, the physics of flying simply seemed impossible. Then, as a young adult, I got a VW bug. The car was older than me, cute, fun to drive and constantly breaking down. When I learned that many of the planes in use at the time were the same age as my car, my anxiety increased. If my 20 year old car constantly broke down, why wouldn’t a plane of the same age, I wondered. Add in a flight with real mechanical difficulties that were quite scary and my anxiety stuck. For me, flying has come to represent a complete lack of control and during times of stress I have nightmares about plane crashes.

Logic, reciting to myself that “flying is safer than driving,” distraction and deep breathing all help me get on a plane. But once on, I am always anxious.

All of this is why I have looked forward to the release of Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind. In his book, Dr. Goldstein offers simple and practical mindfulness exercises specifically targeting anxiety while traveling. It includes 3 video-led mindfulness exercises to practice with in relationship to anxiety around traveling.

At this time, I have not had the opportunity to fly while using these techniques. However, I plan to practice them now and put them to use on my next trip.

To date, my top methods of dealing with the anxiety of traveling include:

Are you an anxious traveler? How do you keep your anxiety from limiting your life? What techniques or strategies do you use to get you through a flight, long car ride or other type of travel?