Last weekend I had a job down in Dallas, and even though I was so excited to see my friend down there and looking forward to getting away, I found myself a nervous wreck about facing travel anxiety. Now I know that SO many of us struggle with airport anxiety- after all they’re kind of high stress environments! I always thought it was just because I can be a little type-A and yet the system of moving through an airport almost makes even the most prepared travelers feel set up for failure with intense fast moving lines, ever changing procedures and technicalities (even varying between airports), and all with a time component on top of it all. It’s a lot!

So what can be done to combat and overcome airport anxiety? (And for more on coping with panic, here’s a post on real tools you can use now)

Accept Your Anxiety

Here’s the thing…. we often look for solutions that will take our anxiety away completely! It’s like we’re looking for the epidural- what’s going to make us numb and make the uncomfortable anxious feelings go away?!

Well for most of us…. that’s just not going to happen. There’s going to be anxiety and discomfort in your body as you get through it. One thing I have to remind myself, “Anxiety is uncomfortable, not dangerous.”

The other thing important to note is that excitement and anxiety feel a heck of a lot alike in our bodies, so even if you’re excited about your trip sometimes we can confuse that with anxious feelings and get a little scared.

Remember that the butterflies are okay. Remember you’re in a high stress, faced paced environment so you might feel your heart rate up a little bit, have sweaty hands, or feel a little overwhelmed. It’s okay! Even with all of that- you are still courageous, and can still have a great travel experience.

Lower Your Sensory Burden

This one is important especially for those of us who have become used to navigating the world with a phone in their hand, and multiple things going on at once. Scrolling on your phone might distract you in the moment, but it’s also going to be very stimulating which is not something you need in an already stimulating environment.

On your way to the airport aim to sit in silence, or listen to calming music, and have low-stakes conversations. Keep it breezy. When you get to the airport, work on being mindful and present by staying off your phone while you navigate your way to the gate. This includes moments in lines when you may normally pull out that phone and scroll!

Practice mindfulness by being observant of your environment. Notice the people standing near you, listen for new or familiar noises trying to identify what you sense. This practice will go hand in hand with the following strategy and they’ll build off each other

Give Yourself Permission To Go Slow

This another tricky one because the energy of the airport is usually “hurry up”. If you’ve allowed enough time to navigate through the airport before your flight leaves, you should be able to give yourself extra permission to slow down.

Does this mean you have to walk slowly up to the ticket counter? Not necessarily! When you’re interacting in lines with others of course you have permission to move at a normal pace- but you don’t have to RUSH yourself into discomfort. You have just as much of a right as anyone else to gather your bags, put on your shoes, or anything else you may need to do.

Places I do think it’s nice to go slow: on the walkways, at the trains or terminal changes, on the escalators. Don’t feel like you have to beat everyone to the escalator or elevator. Look around for paths less travelled. Allow yourself to go slow.

The act of going slower will help you not put extra stress on your nervous system, and will help you stay grounded even amidst all the swirling activity that may be happening around you.

There are many other techniques out there that will help you, but for me these three simple strategies made a HUGE difference in the way I felt anxiety showing up in body. Before leaving for the airport I was almost sick with stress and anxiety, but by the time I got on my feet at the airport I started to feel more prepared and more grounded.

I share a little more about the story of my trip, how the travel experience was, and share more context on my own experience trying to navigate some of this relatively new airport anxiety in my life during this week’s episode of my podcast: The A Bit From Within Podcast. Each week I share a bit on my mind/heart, knowing that when we hear those peeks into the soul of another it helps us not feel so alone in this world. I also think of myself as a constant self-care cheerleader reminding you to be gentle with yourself, and prioritize your wellbeing. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts!



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