Anxiety and Pre-Travel: How to Manage the Madness

So, I am no stranger to relocating and traveling. In fact, I love meeting new people, learning different culture and customs, and adapting to new ways of life. As well, I am no stranger to managing anxiety. My life path number is four and my soul surge number is two—so anxiety is in my charts (Hey, we can discuss numerology later).

Guess what? I am not alone in dealing with anxiety. According to the National Institutes of Health (2013), nearly 40 million (18.1%) people in the United States are affected by an anxiety-related disorders annually. Anxiety is an emotional response characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical response (e.g. such as elevated heart rate, poor concertation, or sweaty palms).

Anxiety can be triggered by major life events, such as relocating and/or traveling because there is a level stress associated with planning. Take me for example, I am setting out to travel the world and live abroad in various countries for the next few years.  Yikes!  I meant to say, Yay!!  There is quite a bit of planning (i.e. decision to sell all possessions, working abroad, communication, etc.)  to deal with such major life event as this.  Of course, there are countless “What if..” situations I pondered.  None, of which I can control the outcome.  So, why not travel?

Selling The Bedroom Furniture
“Let Go” buyer coming to haul bedroom furniture away. #NoTurningBack

Here’s the thing…..you can cancel your trip and/or plans and it could minimize your anxiety.  But, who wants to live with such constraints?  Who desires to be controlled by fear?  Not me, and I am sure, not you.

How to Journey Boundlessly with Anxiety: Pre-Travel Tips
adult book business cactus
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Here’s a few tips on how to calm your mind, so that you can get yourself out into world!

Take It Back To Your Roots

Anxious thinking can sometimes distort the picture of what you once desired. It is important to remind yourself why you wanted to set out on this journey. This is the root of making your dreams a reality. Imagination isn’t just for kids; it works wonders for all of us. Visualize yourself on your trip visiting and doing all the things that you imagined when you first booked your trip. For example, I imagine myself on cobblestone road wearing harem pants and dancing freely to beats of live music.  This visualization does it for me–instant happiness and reignites the desire to travel.

A Conversation with Your Future Self

Take a moment to imagine your life six months to a year, or ten years from now. If you cancelled your trip, what would you say to yourself?  Would you say, “Why didn’t I just do it?” Living with regret of missed opportunities can have a lasting imprint.  Last year, I felt so stifled because I had not taken the opportunity to live abroad like I dreamed of as young girl. After a major health scare earlier this year, it was the fear of not living my fullest potential that forced me to give my anxiety a swift kick and plan my trip.

Practice Good Mental Wellness: A Safety Plan

I’m not just a mental health practitioner, but a real person who deals with the challenges of anxiety. It is important that we take steps to ensure mental proper mental hygiene. This not only prepares us for travel but it also protects us as we travel away from our “safe haven”.  Here are few ways to manage pre-travel anxiety (good for travel, too):

Monitor Your Thoughts

There are times when we are unaware what’s making us stressed or anxious. Jotting down your thoughts can help you figure out what the root of the problem. Once you’ve done that, you can work on challenging and changing your negative thoughts. I recommend to my clients to keep a journal or tablet to keep record of thoughts.

Challenge Your Thoughts

With anxiety, most times, your head is full of self-defeating, negative thoughts. Though these thoughts might feel true, remember that anxious thoughts distorts the reality of our experience in that moment. After you monitor your thoughts (by jotting down what you are thinking), it is time to challenge those thoughts by jotting down facts that support or refute each thought. You will likely be surprised by how many of your thoughts are dramatized, or irrational.  Simply, substitute that negative or refuted thought for something that minimizes your anxiety.

Breathe

As simple as that sounds, taking time to breathe has great benefits. When we become anxious, it shallows our breathing.  Shallow breaths trigger the mind to feel like it’s in danger; it’s part of the fight-or-flight instinct of all living beings. So, breathing exercises are a way of telling our brains to chill out so that it can communicate with the rest of the body. Here’s an example of how to breathe properly to distress: Inhale for a count of “and-1, and-2, and-3”, then exhale for a count of “and-1, and-2, and-3”. Repeat until you feel calmer and have a little fun by adding relaxation music (YouTube has great videos of relaxation music) or visualizing something relaxing while you breathe.

Talk to a Professional

There are times that you may need support from a professional. A mental health practitioner (psychologist, professional counselor, or clinical social worker) can provide you with the tools you need to manage your anxiety more efficiently. Don’t have time to go into an office? No problem, there are professional counseling and therapy services that offer support online or by phone. Ask your therapist if they offer tele-therapy services, the flexibility is priceless. If you need a therapist on-the-go, I offer flexible  packages to meet your needs (e.g. HIPPA-compliant therapeutic text message and video session packages.) Learn more here.

Take Control of Your Plan

Anxiety can increase when you feel things are out of your control such as “what if this happens?” thoughts. You can’t predict the details of future events, however, you can prepare as best as possible with developing a detailed plan.

Invest In Travel Insurance

Life happens. You eat great street food or indulge in home cooked meals in a Casa Particulares (AirBnB-like stays in Cuba) and now you have the worst case of travelers’ diarrhea or you are dancing down a cobblestone road and stomp your toe. Travel’s insurance can protect you from life’s expectancies. It can be used to protect for lost luggage as well. I use World Nomads for my travel needs. If you desire a piece of mind, then protect yourself.

Map It

Don’t want to carry a paper map? MAPS.ME is a phone app for android, Blackberry, and IOS users that provide you with maps across the world. It can be used offline (e.g. should you lose cell service) by downloaded the maps while you still have service.

 “Thank you, driver”

I suggests researching transportation to areas in which you plan to travel. This can be done using a simple google search (e.g. “transportation in Guatemala”), which should bring you websites for companies. However, I encourage you to review a few blogs from travelers who have traveled to your destination, they will likely have a few helpful tips. This can also help your budget!

Pack Your Bags

Attempting to pack your bags the night before, is a recipe for a panic attack. Make a packing list several days before departure, so you can add anything missing. Bring along items that can be used, if start to feel a anxious (e.g. a book, playlist, mandala, fidget spinner, or anything small that is comforting to you). Search YouTube for ideas of how to pack according to the length of your trip (i.e. weekend trips, 7-days trips, 1-year abroad, etc.).

 

Bon Voyage!

Resting Warrior Face

Well, you have probably heard of the expression, “Resting B*tch Face”.  No?! Well, it is a phrase that describes a facial expression to warn others to stay clear of one’s path.  So, maybe that’s not you, or not even,  a person that you know.  But, what about that person who maintains a face of calmness, or happiness when things are falling apart.  I am not speaking of losing a favorite jacket at the movies or having a flat tire during rush hour in 100° weather; but rather, serious life events that can have a significant impact on a person’s emotional well-being.  Usually, these people are praised for their strength and resiliency.  Sometimes they are highly regarded in their social circles for their perceived strength.  These people maintain what I call , “Resting Warrior Face”.  It is their armor.

Armor, or armour [ahr-mer] is a protective covering that is used to prevent damage from being inflicted to an individual, usually during combat, or any covering worn as a defense against weapons.

 

Armor is not bad because, after all,  it is the mediating factor in maintaining our safety.  But, think of a person who has been shot while wearing a bulletproof vest.  We know from research and testimonials that these individuals survive, but they still sustain bruising and sometimes, minor injuries.   People utilizing Resting Warrior Face sustain emotional injury, but the armor that is observed by others is usually more than a barrier to harm; it is a mask.  This mask hides our vulnerabilities.  As mentioned in my earlier posts discussing thinking errors, sometimes these vulnerabilities are reinforced by irrational thoughts.  For example, “People will not respect me if they see me cry”, “I am weak if I say that I feel sad”, “I will look weak if I say that I feel lost”, etc.  When we adopt wearing masks, we hid our authenticity and place ourselves at greater risk for poor mental health.

Resting Warrior Face Pitfalls

Imagine the person who was shot wearing the bulletproof vest; they sustained bruises and injuries which they are attempting to conceal, so they smile through the pain. Maybe they conceal the injury because they do not want others to “worry”. The truth is, there could be countless reasons in which they have rationalized wearing the mask, usually, due to thinking errors.  Even with the hardest of smiling, it cannot stop the pain without caring for the wounds.  As the pain intensifies, the stress leads to mental health issues which they may seek unhealthy ways to manage the pain. The same can be said about individuals with Resting Warrior Face(mask), the wounds must be tended to for proper healing.  The following are risks of adopting a Resting Warrior face without tending to the impact of the emotional injury:

  • Prolonged Stress  can seriously comprise our health leading to digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain,  memory and concentration impairment.
  • Mental Health Issues can be distressing. There is a higher risk of developing depression including the risk of suicide or homicide, anxiety, and substance use.
Avoiding Pitfalls of the Resting Warrior Face

It can be challenging to be vulnerable.  Societal pressure makes it extremely difficult for people to admit they need help. This can be true for men, women, and even, children.  For men, this notion tends to place value on being in control, tough, and independent.  As for women, this notion tends to place value on being excellent at balancing parenthood and marriage and taking responsibility for  victimization.  For children, there are gender roles that can cause a disruption in their emotional growth when they feel that they have not ascribed to them successfully. So, you want to look as cool as a cucumber or as tough as a warrior?  Here are a few tips for you and loved ones:

The Warrior

Warrior Lady 3

 

Indeed, you are a warrior! But, when you are wounded  you must take time to:

  • Recognize that your feelings are part of the impact of the occurrence and vulnerability.  Feelings of depression, anxiety, shame, guilt, or fear does not reflect the reality of your situation.
  • Understand that what you have experienced is not a sign of weakness.
  • By all means, don’t be afraid to cry.  It is okay to remove the mask, and say to the people around you, “I am deeply hurting right now”.  It is a healing process.
  • Talk about the situation with someone you trust.
  • Avoid the temptation to keep your mask on and isolate yourself from the people you love and who love you.
  • Seek help from a mental health professional,  employee assistance program (EAP) at work, or a counselor at your school.
  • If you feel like hurting yourself and/or hurting someone at any time and no one is around to help you, call 9-1-1 or the 24-hour national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

The Warrior Tribe

tribe

Let it be known that we are all connected, and this is, especially, true for those with whom we hold a close relationship with. As warriors, we count on our tribe (family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc.) to help guide us when we are immobile due to injury. Here’s how:

  • Acknowledge that you are aware of the warrior’s situation (e.g. “Tammy, I imagine this is a tough time for you.  I’m sorry that this has happened).  Offer to listen when they need someone to talk to (e.g. “If you want to vent, I am here to listen”).  Make sure that you listen and not add too much of your emotional commentary.
  • Remind them to eat well, go to sleep at regular hours, and get out of the house for some exercise.
  • Offer to go for a walk, go to a movie, or just to stop by and spend some time with them.
  • Acknowledge that you aware of situation and how difficult a situation may be to deal with.  If the warrior has a history or currently using  alcohol and/or drugs, offer to assist them in getting professional help or offer to go to a support group with them.
  • If the warrior has a history of depression and/or suicidal behavior, ask if them if they are having suicidal thoughts.  This is likely the hardest conversation to have because,  often people feel that mention of suicide will prompt a person to act. But, it can actually save the person’s life because you may be the one person who has shown interest in their distress.  Remember, we all want to know that somebody cares for us. If having this conversation is too distressful for you, advice the warrior to call 9-1-1 or the 24-hour national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Warriors are on a journey, and along the way may be wounded. Treat the wound and keep traveling. Let your Resting Warrior Face be reflective of your strength, resiliency, and perseverance to heal your wounds.

 

Navigating past the roadblocks along your journey can be quite challenging and sometimes, you might need professional support. If you desire help to navigate past a road block on your journey, schedule a personal session with me today.

 

With this ring…

Life is a journey.

Along this journey, we may meet the person that we dare not to travel this life without. To  live without this person, would be like trying to breathe without air.  Okay, maybe that’s extreme.  You must admit it; it is joyous to meet the person that you feel you could spend your life waking up to.

Photo Courtesy of PracticeWedding.Com

Lori Fradkin and Amy Odell (2015), described the 20 Signs You’re with a Man You Should Marry (Hey, if it’s a woman you love, then this still applies):  

1. He always brags about you. 
2. He makes sacrifices for you — and you’re happy to do the same for him. 
3. He shares the same values as you. 
4. Even after years together he still does little chivalrous things for you. 
5. He doesn’t try to change you. 
6. When you think about marrying him, the best part isn’t the wedding, it’s the idea of spending your lives together. 
7. You survived a long-distance relationship. 
8. “I miss you” isn’t just a sweet thing you say. It’s a reality. 
9. You don’t like having a roommate and love having your own space, but you’d still prefer to live with him. 
10. He’s your go-to person whenever you have a story to share, about work, about friends, about anything.
11. You feel comfortable planning things six months — or a year — into the future. 
12. You can cry in front of him without feeling embarrassed. 
13. When your friends complain about their significant others or the guys they’ve gone out with, you get kind of quiet because you don’t have much to contribute. 
14. He’s close with your family, and he’s made sure you’ve gotten to know his. 
15. He cares about your friends. 
16. He lets you vent. 
17. He tells you, out of the blue, that you look hot. 
18. You can do things like travel together without fighting all the time. 
19. He plans activities that he knows you’ll enjoy. 
20. He works hard at his job, but you’re his priority. 

It makes your heart flutter with the possibility of meeting your soul mate.  So, you hold out through the dating process to anticipate that spark.  Not a perfect person, but that spark! And then…..you come across Time Magazine’s online article “Math Says This Is the Perfect Age to Get Married”.  You read with anticipation that your 35+ your-old self falls within this range.  You read on to discover that the researcher has concluded, the best time to marry is between the ages of 28 and 32,  if you “don’t want to get divorced, at least in the first five years”.  So, you might be asking yourself, “What is the relevance of mentioning this article?” 

Marriage Anxiety

Chasing The Groom

Well…if you are an unmarried woman over the age of 32 and desire to have children and/or marriage, “Perfect Age” articles or discussions might evoke tons of anxiety that lead to rushing into marriage.  When anxiety increases, those thoughts says, “Forget the dating and signs; I’m ready right now!”  Of course, those sentiments are not shared by every unmarried women over the age of 32, but it occurs.  Believe me, I am not exempt. Over the past 10 years, I have witnessed a few of my girlfriends and even, a few clients, rush into marriage for the sake of feeling like time was running out (or like the journey was ending soon).

The rush to marriage can be described as an anxiety.  To fully understand the anxiety, we must exam the thinking errors or anxious thoughts associated with the anxiety.  Thinking errors, or also known as cognitive distortions are ways irrational ways that we interpret situations. Irrational thinking patterns have been linked to depression and anxiety.   In most cases involving the urgency of marriage, some common thinking errors are:

Catastrophizing

This is a common distortion when it comes to anxiety. This is a type of thinking error that evolves worry that snowballs into an awful situation in your own mind. For example, “If I don’t get married now, I will never be able to have children, I will grow old alone and then die.” 

Jumping to Conclusions

This type of thinking error involves assuming others are judging you. You become your own worst critic and do not take into account that you don’t actually know what others are thinking about you.  For example, you attend a gathering with your married friends and began to say to yourself, “They are looking at me and wondering why I am not married and have children by now”.  

“Should” Statements

This is another common thinking error associated with anxiety and depression.  This is a distortion by which you hold yourself to standards that you “should” have accomplished by an arbitrary deadline.  For example, “I should have been married by now” or  “I should have become a mother by now”.

These thinking errors are distressing and can lead to shame, uncertainty and sadness, which can send a false signal that you are in race against time–rushing into marriage.  

Slow Down and Enjoy the Journey

Smelling the Roses

If you find yourself feeling “the rush”, here are a couple things you can practice to minimize your anxiety:

Adopt positive affirmations, or  personal mantras that really resonate with you. Try writing them in personal journal, vision board, pinning on Pinterest, or repeating them during a relaxing activity.  These affirmations are healthy reminders that nothing in life is permanent, including your anxiety regarding marriage.  Here are some examples:

  • I open my heart to love and I trust that true love will follow.
  • I am lovable and worthy of receiving love.
  • All is well. I am loved. There is NO rush.
  • I have nothing that I “should” do, except enjoy the journey of life as it unfolds.
  • I am so much more than my anxiety and I have control over it.
  • I am in the right place at the right time to meet who has been designed for me.

Challenge your thinking errors, or negative thoughts.  Would you not challenge a person who tries to belittle you? Well, negative thoughts are just that! It belittles you, so challenge it.  Stop your cycle of negative thinking by working through these steps:

  • Describe a triggering event: (Ex: Attending a friend’s wedding)
  • Imagine you are faced with the anxiety-provoking situation (triggering event).
    • Worst Outcome: (Ex: Someone asks when am I getting married and I burst into tears.)
    • Best Outcome: (Ex: Friend’s enjoy my company and no one makes this about me.)
    • Likely Outcome: (Ex: I have good time, maybe someone I hadn’t seen for a while asks about marriage plans.)
  • Okay, the worst outcome come true! Ask yourself, if it still matters:
    • 1 week from now: (Ex: Slightly, it might be still fresh for me.)
    • 1 month from now: (Ex: Unlikely, I will probably forget and them, too.)
    • 1 year from now: (No, it’s doubtful that someone will remember that moment from such celebration).
  • Here’s the thing…negative thoughts usually focus on the worst possible outcomes, without the rationale for the best possible outcome.
  • Reframe that negative thought to a rational counter-thought. For example, reframe  Someone might ask me about my marriage plans, but it’s okay for me to say ,”I’m waiting for the right one”, and everyone will go on enjoying their time and will be topic of the past”.
  • I know you like giving advice to your girlfriend (or if you’re younger, BFF). So, why not practice being your on girlfriend/BFF?
    • What might you tell your  girlfriend/BFF if they were in this situation? It’s likely that you would comfort and support them with words of encouragement (and your award-winning advice). Hey, turn that love and support inward! You deserve that support, girlfriend!

Body Scans help you become aware of what is happening inside your body, rather than your mind.  Our bodies tells us when it is time to chill out.  Practice feeling the sensations throughout your body at any moment.  Ask yourself, “How are my shoulders felling?”, “Is my heart beating fast?”, etc.  Scanning your body keeps you in tune with the best times for a little relaxation.

Add breathing exercises in your daily routine. This helps increase oxygen flow and slow your heart rate down naturally, creating a calmness. 

Take a walk.  Take time to get outdoors and breathe in some fresh air.  Practice being in the present moment rather allowing your mind run down the aisle. Be mindful of in the sights, sounds, and smells. Stop and look at the beauty of a pond, listen to the birds chirp, or  smell the roses.  Mindfulness teaches us to live and accept the beauty of life as it is here-and-now.

Join a women’s support group for single women.  These groups can be through single’s ministry or facilitated by licensed professional.  Navigating through singlehood can feel isolated.  Speaking with other women can help minimize the marriage anxiety and help you learn healthy, encouraging ways to practice patience.

Practice managing (marriage) anxiety, so that you can enjoy life and when the time is right you will hear….”With this ring… “

Life is a journey, so keep traveling until you arrive.

 

Dealing with singlehood when you desire more can be quite challenging and sometimes, you might need professional support.  If you desire a safe space to help you navigate this part of your life,  schedule a personal session with me today.

Manifestation

Hello, beautiful people!

I am gracious for your digital companionship as I travel and live abroad.

My journey started long before I decided to dispose of (sell and/or donate) everything. Yes! Everything, which includes my car, apartment home, and therapy office. My journey began the moment I sat aside time to create my vision board in 2012 while living in Maryland. I did not know the timing in which these manifestations would come into fruition, but I knew the desires of my heart.

Following the creation of my vision board, I began to be influenced by the fears of others. I was told not to travel and/or live abroad solo because of danger and the inability to have family or friends nearby. I had never lived my life in fear and had always craved the adventure of traveling. Moreover, my travels had afforded me to opportunity to build healthy, refreshing relationships that made my travels worthwhile. These are relationships that maintain, miles away, today. Ironically, when I received advice to be cautious about traveling solo, I had lived in five different cites before settling in New York…Brooklyn, to be exact. I enjoyed the opportunity of the adventure that living in different cities within the United States; however, my heart always desired to live abroad. The fear that had once paralyzed my dreams of travel, suddenly dissipated, earlier this year.

In February 2018, I survived a traumatic event that could have led to my demise. My sense of self and place in this world had become clearer. I knew that “NOW” was the time for me live the life as I had dreamed…..to travel, learn, evolve, and love. I began to refocus on the aspirations I wanted to manifest and let go of fearful thoughts (e.g. focusing on things I did not desire). I’ve definitely learned that focusing on what you LEAST desire can be manifested as well (But, we will discuss that later). Before any doubt could shatter my manifestations, things started to align in a way that opened the sky for me to travel!

Welcome to my journey!

 

VIA AZUL
Bus ride to Vinales, Cuba

A journey begins in your mind, so dream until your feet follows. ~Dr. T. M. Peavy, PsyD

Liberation

 

lib·er·a·tion ˌlibəˈrāSH(ə)n/

Liberation is defined as the act of setting someone free from imprisonment, slavery, or oppression; release  or the freedom from limits on thought or behavior.

Happy Juneteenth!  What better time than to discuss liberation?  Today, I want to explore the oppression of thought that keeps us in bondage. This bondage prevents us from exiting unhealthy relationships, engaging in risky behavior, and even, traveling.  In clinical practice, this is referred to as maladaptive thought patterns such as engaging in self-talk that instills self-doubt, sadness, and restlessness (e.g. “I’m a failure”, I’ll never be good at that”, “Nobody else will want me”, I’m not good enough”, etc.).

It can be quite difficult to change the core of oppressed thought, but there are a few things you can practice to liberate your thought.

  1. Power of Positive Words.  If you constantly tell yourself, “I can’t”, you will likely convince yourself that it’s truth. Replace these negative words and phrases with positive ones.  Try telling yourself, “I will do my best” or “I will try harder next time”.
  2. Power of  Positive Affirmation.  Probably, one of the most widely used positive thinking exercises is positive affirmation. It’s quite simple. Just repeat a positive phrase to yourself daily, such as like “I deserve happiness” or “I am worthy of love”. There are power in words. Thus, believing that your affirmation is true helps you cultivate a more positive outlook on life.
  3. Power of Visualization. I use this technique with my clients who are managing anxiety and depression.  Visualization is a useful technique and you can use it to transition yourself from an unpleasant to a more pleasant state of mind. Simply, close your eyes and imagine whatever makes you feel best.  Personally, I like to imagine lying in an hammock on the beach as the wind blows gently across my face.
  4. Power of Thought Tracking.  This works well with my clients who are managing anxiety and depression. In cognitive behavioral therapy, we refer to this as thought logs. When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, try writing them down (preferably, in a journal).  As you review your journal, you may find a pattern that reveals how you are seeing yourself.  TIP: For each negative thought that you track, write down an alternative positive thought. Now, you have created new positive thoughts!

Changing negative thoughts can be quite challenging without the help of a professional.  If you desire professional assistance to help you feel your best, schedule a personal session with me today or visit my private practice website.

positive-affirmation