I’m writing this post to distract myself from the fact that I just paid $9.65 for breakfast. It was from Starbucks…in an airport. My bottle of water alone was $2.99. I’m telling myself that it was flown in directly from Antarctica—and the ice berg melted along the way.
Now, for those of you who know me (Sidney in particular), spending money this way is VERY unlike me. I pack my lunch every day for work to avoid eating out and try to cook dinner most nights. And even a year ago, in this type of situation, I would just not eat—or I would choose something cheaper (like a $5.00 Big Mac!)
But as I’ve been traveling a lot recently, I’ve begun making notes of lessons that can make traveling less stressful for me. Everything about a short weekend “get away” is bad news for someone with bipolar or other mental illness. It gets you off routine, you don’t get to sleep in your own bed (if you sleep at all!), you’re likely rushed around a crowded airport, and you are guaranteed to be sitting by the sickest person on the plane. Mostly likely squished right in the middle of two of them.
I hate traveling. I love seeing my friends or getting my hubby to myself for the weekend, but I will be first in line if a mad scientist ever needs a volunteer to test out human wings or transporting.
Here’s a few things that I’ve learned to help me stay sane while traveling. Now, there’s more—significant—advice that I could give you (or you could find on another blog). Such as don’t come home on the last flight of the night and get in at 12:06AM. But that’s not realistic. If I’m going to pay for the plane ticket I’m going to see as much of the friend as possible! So maybe that’s why I called this list “Tips for mitigating the anxiety of dumb travel decisions”
- Suck it up and pay for the good healthy food. When I go on vacation I tend to eat like calories don’t exist. While probably not a great idea for anyone, it makes my brain go haywire. Making good food choices the whole trip can go a long way.
- Get an aisle seat. I’ve “sweet talked” (or maybe flirted…sorry Sidney) my way to an aisle seat when I couldn’t choose one during the initial ticketing process. It makes such a difference in anxiety levels that Sidney can’t hold the means against me.
- Bring a comfort item: A bracelet, necklace, stuffed animal—something that you can hold or see to be your sense of stability in the middle of the change. Keep this item the same throughout all traveling trips if possible. (See photo for mine—that’s right, cute stuffed animals my hubby gave me! They even got to see the Liberty Bell)
- Keep bags to a minimum. This one is impossibly hard for me. I want to pack everything! Pick a small bag and only take what fits into it. And for me, I have to wear a fanny pack so I don’t lose my purse….just kidding. Though if I could find a fuzzy one I might reconsider. And if you can get your boarding pass on your phone, do it. The less you have to keep track of the less anxious you will be.
- Buy a book. Or other non-electronic item you can absorb yourself in to block out chaos around you. If traveling in the car, an audio book can be great.
- Meditate. I put guided meditations and visualizations on my Ipod so I can listen to them when I get stressed out. It’s a good idea for me to start all days during the vacation with them as well!
And lastly, I do admit to taking anti-anxiety meds when I travel. This is a touchy subject for many readers because of the high risk of dependence. However, taking a low dose of my medication BEFORE I begin the trip will help ensure I have as smooth of a trip as possible and arrive at my destination ready to P-A-R-T-Y….not cry! If I wait to take them until I desperately NEED them (a mistake I’ve made plenty of times) it’s often too late and I’ve wasted a significant part of what is already a short trip.
So what other ideas do you have?! What are ways you’ve found to lower the stress on your brain while traveling?!