Traveling Abroad with Anxiety
For the most part, one hears “anxiety” and they relate it to more moderate to extreme cases concerning mental health. Yet we all possess some level of anxiety throughout day to day whether at home or abroad.
Anxiety stems from a panic, worry, fear that arises from exposure to stressors. Stressors take form in various ways for everyone. However, stressors are just any change in homeostasis. For some it may be hearing a strange noise while on an elevator, writing a note then suddenly the pen drops and rolls away, or even the moment of realization that a train stop was missed. All of these stressors happen as a disruption to the normal flow of an event or perhaps even a perceived disruption from the norm. Anxiety arises once our mind realizes the normal flow, or the flow that we’d prefer, has been disrupted.
Even though our mind realizes disruption from the norm and consequently sends alarms to the rest of our body our mind doesn’t take awareness to the physical change in the body in response to anxiety. Perhaps the shoulders tense, or the teeth clench, the back begins to ache, maybe a migraine forms, hands lock tight holding onto something, the heart begins to pound, or hands sweat, etc.
Everyone experiences stressors and anxiety although the causes and responses will vary. The more moderate to extreme cases of anxiety might consist of an ongoing feeling of panic that lasts for days or weeks, an obsessive response to a stressor that may only exist in one’s mental perception, or maybe even a heightened sense of worry following a traumatic event, etc. These cases give examples of anxiety that go pass what is typically experienced in short bursts throughout day-to-day life to the extent that is becomes unhealthy.
Just like we have to take our toes, organs, and both right and left arm with us everywhere we go we must also take our minds and the state of our mental health with us too.
I am happy to bring my hands as they’re very useful attributes. I am not so happy to bring along the strange responses I have to various stressors felt through the day. Yet I realize these very experiences are the source of my growth. With that I am grateful.
Before seeking therapy and then told I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Depression I hadn’t fully realized the sensations that happen in my mind and body due to this. I still do not always fully realize it in fact. I think learning about yourself becomes a life-long class.
While abroad I had noticed anxiety creep up in a few forms.
Being in such a new environment with so many different sights, sounds, things, and trying to soak it all in while trying to keep up with a travel group felt like a rush. Not just a literal rush as we sped walked through the streets and subway systems. It was also a bit of a mental rush. Tons of stimuli flooding into all five senses as the mind sought to process it all in an instant so that it can take in the next batch as you race through a new city. It was a physiological rush. Next thing I know my back is tense and I am clenching my train ticket in my pocket as we wait to board.
After toughing out an overnight flight, spending the entire day on my feet and then continuing the lack of sleep and on my feet pattern it felt that my mind began to slow down. I had taken notice of my irritability at times and how tense my body would be. It became clear that I had not been doing my best at balancing out self-care and getting the most out of a new city. Instead of sleeping I went out for fun after an already long day and long night previously. It dawned on me that although a new city is meant to be explored and enjoyed – it is impossible to do so without proper rest and care for oneself. Otherwise, there is just one human filled with anxiety and lack of sleep.
A nice surprise was that although worries were present they were limited while on travel. When back at home, I am left to think about all the assignments that are soon to be due or task needing completion. While on travel, even for study abroad, it feels to be a bit of a vacation.
There had been times to unwind, enjoy, and rest. These became vital for relaxing in between busy non-stop days.
Visiting the baths in Budapest brought me completely back to center.
Here I was able to receive spa like comfort in a fascinating environment I would not had been able to expose myself to back in the States. More importantly I was able to unwind and enjoy a moment of not having to rush anywhere or not having to worry about anything. I simply soaked up the atmosphere while reveling in several different heated pools. We tried out a couple of saunas as well. The lavender aroma therapy and relaxing in baths in good company was my saving grace.
When there were no spas to run to in days jam packed with tours and lunches being mindful was vital. Creating a way to bring myself back to center without having to run to a sauna room to detox is key. To do this I simply do body scans. I pinpoint any area of unrest and bring it to calm. I release any area of tension. I ask myself why I am so tense and what there is to worry about. I allow myself to loosen up and relax. In this way a little bit of mindfulness has become a way of life and nearly a cure to my anxious tendencies.
Through therapy, reading, and mindfulness I have been able to better understand the anxiety I feel and its causes. With this foundation I have been able to live a healthier and more fruitful life.
I am not licensed in therapy or in any field in wellness and health. Text surrounding these topics are based on personal research and experience. For professional guidance please consider consulting a licensed professional. For more immediate assistance, consider using one of the below hotlines.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
- National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) – 1-800-656-4673
- SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) – 1-800-662-4357
- Veterans Crisis Line – 1-800-273-8255