Going on holiday is one of the most common triggers of a panic attack for people with anxiety. Here's how you can try to help yourself.
For most people, a holiday is the chance to relax, spend time with their loved ones, see some sights, and make some memories. But it’s not like that for everyone.
New statistics from a survey carried out by Booking.com indicate that just over one in three people (36%) worry about things going wrong on the first day of their holiday. And for anyone who suffers from anxiety, the concept of travelling far away – especially if it involves a flight – is a common trigger for a panic attack.
A holiday can become an area of internal contention for someone suffering from anxiety; they desperately want to go away and relax, but this desire is countered by the panic that can set in about everything that goes along with being in an unknown place. In order to try to help counter these anxious feelings, we asked life coach Sloan Sheridan Williams, a highly qualified clinical hypnotherapist and wellbeing consultant, to share some physical and mental techniques to help calm yourself down in the following scenarios:
1. If you feel a panic attack coming on before the holiday…
“A panic attack is more than just feeling overwhelmed,” says Sloan, who notes that in addition to acute anxiety, other symptoms common at the beginning of a panic attack include an increased heart rate, shortness of breath, trembling and sweating.
“To avoid feeling anxious and ensure you have a relaxing transition to holiday mode, be prepared to do something you would not normally do at home. Play a random song and dance like no one is watching, or go to a bar and order a drink you have never tried before,” she suggests. “Rather than focusing on the panic attack, switch to your logical brain and start planning your playlist, find new haunts to frequent or check out the local cuisines you could order. If it all seems overwhelming, flood your system with positivity.”
2. If you’ve got a fear of flying…
“If you start to feel anxious at the start of your flight or during turbulence, focus on slowing your breathing with this simple exercise. Close your eyes and focus on breathing more slowly, inhaling deeply and exhaling fully as you count slowly from one to three then four then five with each new breath.
“Once you have slowed your breathing to the count of five for a couple of minutes, open your eyes and disrupt any negative thinking by singing a silly song in your head and visualising a ridiculously funny image of something that makes you smile. The more you focus on the silly music and funny images the less room you will have to feel fearful.”
3. If you’re worried about not adjusting to the culture or the food…
“If you are travelling to an unfamiliar location that has new and different foods and customs, focus on that which you can control and let go of that which you cannot control. For example, when ordering food in a restaurant, you can always ask for the chef to make a milder version if you do not like spicy food, or ask to have a dish without an ingredient you dislike or order it on the side.
“When it comes to cultural differences, take time to learn about the country’s customs ahead of the holiday so you feel more comfortable in your new surroundings but accept that things will be different to the way you may want them to be.”
4. If you’re scared of being far away from home in case anything goes wrong…
“Focusing on things that are yet to happen and things that may never happen will severely challenge your ability to enjoy your holiday and live in the moment. However, there are things you can do to help reassure yourself and overcome any concerns you may have about being away from home. Make sure you have adequate travel insurance and see your doctor for a check-up early on to ensure you are in top form before you go away. Get their advice about the country you are visiting in case you need to take any medications like anti-malaria tablets for some time before your date of departure.
“For the holiday itself, check that the accommodation you are staying in has free Wi-Fi or find out the location of the nearest internet café so you can stay connected to news back home. Also consider booking properties which look comfortable for your needs with all the facilities and amenities you would want, so that it feels like a home away from home once you are there – whether that’s a villa, apartment, B&B or hotel.”
5. If you’re worried about about getting lost and not speaking the language…
“In our connected world, there are dozens of apps and GPS services which will help you avoid getting lost in unfamiliar territory. It also never hurts to grab one of the many free maps of the local area available from airports, tourist centres or staff at your accommodation so you have something offline to refer to just in case you lose reception or your phone battery dies.
“It is also important to accept personal responsibility and not just rely on others to get you out of a fix so make time before your holiday to embrace something that will help you grow and experience new things by learning some basic words and phrases in that country’s native language. The locals will appreciate you making the effort and it will also reduce your stress levels if you do encounter people who don’t speak your language.”
6. If you’re worried about generally being outside your comfort zone…
“Remember that spontaneity adds a little more fun to everyday life, and means you can live the holiday for you and ensure you are not just doing what others think you should do. Spending part of your holiday walking in someone else’s shoes is a great way to leave your old patterns behind and explore the boundaries of your comfort zone. Immerse yourself in the local culture, try local delicacies or experiences, chat to the locals and find out where to go that’s off the beaten track.”
From Cosmo UK
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