In days gone by, the night before a trip – in this case a long weekend in the north of Ireland – was a source of great stress and anxiety. My OCD was at its height and my mind was racing with all the scenarios of what could go wrong; delays; weather; traffic and other catastrophic situations that could prevent us getting to our destination or enjoying our trip. I was packing a day or two before departure – even for a day trip/overnight trip – and boarding passes and passports were checked and double checked. I know now – after working hard on my wellbeing and working closely with a therapist – that the secret to managing or avoiding this stress and anxiety is to notice it and accept it. Just for the record, I didn’t seek professional help over my travelling worries – although not unsurprisingly what I leaned about my general wellbeing and anxiety I can apply to every aspect of my life.
My noticing means that I see what is happening or about to happen and I can intervene and remind myself rationally and calmly that the world is not going to end and that life is too short to worry about every possible aspect of the trip or the unlikely scenarios that could befall us. The accepting means, that I spent much less time worrying and stressing and more time just shrugging my shoulders. I am ok stressing a little but not too much – this helps me not get into a spiral of worry and anxiety that starts to induce other symptoms – nausea, heart palpitations and sweating being three of the most intrusive. Accepting is a big step to reducing its importance and hence its impact on me. Simple when typing; less simple when in the moment. But for me, my increased level of undemanding of what is happening and what I am feeling and why, helps me to manage it.
Don’t get me wrong my best coping mechanism for travelling stress is still to be organised and to plan ahead – just like most others areas of my life. That works well for me but my increased awareness of how this – if I’m not vigilant – can turn into obsession has helped me so much. I am much more strong and stable – to borrow an expression – and much less prone now to let negative thoughts get on top of me. It also helps when you travel with someone who is so excited about the trip that she has been talking about it for days and has her pink sit-on case is already packed in the hall!