We all have some amount of “travel anxiety”. There’s no official “travel anxiety” diagnosis, but there are a bundle of fears and phobias that often limit us from getting out and experiencing our world. In this cluster of fears you’ll find: social anxiety, fear of flying, fear of the unknown, illness anxiety, stranger anxiety, fear of heights and language anxiety… just to name a few.
At BAnxietyFree, we help you recognize the self-imposed limitations that prevent you from living a full and free life. BAnxietyFree describes practical techniques to increase your exposure to the real world, to its people, its places and its cultures in an enriching and safe manner.
Here are some fun, informative and exciting articles for taking the road less traveled:
- Wandering through Sicily
- The Mountains of the Camino del Norte
- Walking 500 miles on the Camino Frances
- Exploring War-torn Croatia
- Danger on the Streets of Panama
People don’t normally recognize their fear of travel as a limitation. They just want to be comfortable. Many choose to stay home. Some are a bit braver and will travel, but only with a set itinerary, using tour groups, cruise ships, 5-star rated hotels, and English speaking guides. There is nothing inherently wrong with these forms of travel… unless you are using them as a way to avoid new experiences.
Did you know that the most successful treatments for anxiety involve exposure to the things you fear? Why is that? There are many theories about why exposure reduces anxiety. We know that if you’re afraid of crowds, staying home won’t move you past the fear. Most people with a fear of crowds can’t even push their way into a Super Walmart on a Saturday afternoon, let alone travel to a foreign country.
What about people who are anxious about traveling and don’t know it? Do you always know exactly where you’re staying each night before leaving on vacation? Do you buy travel insurance for a weekend getaway? These might be subtle clues that something is amiss.
BAnxietyFree has taken years of research and experience with clinical strategies and applied them to real-life experiences. And, no matter how you go about it, exposure is the key. So, why is exposure so effective for treating anxiety? Here are some theories:
Habituation Theory: Repeated experiences with an anxiety-provoking stimulus, let’s your mind get “used” to it. Think about the times you’ve gotten into a cold pool. You might start with your feet, letting them get used to the cold. When you eventually submerge your legs, your feet don’t feel so cold anymore. The more time your body spends in the water, the less “shocking” it feels. The idea here is that the same thing can happen with fear, the more you let yourself experience the things that frighten you, the less shocking the sensation.
Extinction Theory: The more something frightens you, the more likely you are to stay away from it. The more you stay away, the less chance you have of discovering it won’t hurt you. Say you’re afraid of heights. When you expose yourself to the feared stimulus, say, driving along a winding, mountain road, you discover that you’re just as secure as driving down a busy highway. Each time, you expose yourself to the mountain road, you are breaking the cycle of avoidance. With this approach, your mind begins to make new connections, “Hey, I didn’t die” or “That road didn’t hurt me.” Now, when you see the next mountain, your mind no longer associates it with dying or being hurt… the association is said to be extinguished.
Emotional Processing Theory: The theory presumes that your fear is based on the meaning you ascribe to the stimulus. If every time you think of getting on an airplane, you picture yourself crashing, then you’ll notice your heart racing and you’ll avoid airplanes. Exposing yourself to flying can allow you to realize that other people, such as the captain and flight attendants, fly every day without crashing. You fly and you don’t crash. Now a new meaning for the event of flying is developed. Even if you’re still nervous when you board, you can remind yourself, “I can fly and not crash.”
The Self-Efficacy Theory: The focus here is that exposing yourself to the things you’re afraid of gives you mastery over it. It’s the old “practice makes perfect” effect. Take the fear of speaking to strangers as an example. The more you avoid speaking, the more likely you are to believe you are no good at it. Conversely, the more you speak to someone new, the better you become at it, and the better you feel about your skills doing it. The better you feel about it, the more likely you are to do it again—and to feel better about your skills.
These theories about why exposure is so powerful all have a kernel of truth to them. They are all involved in anxiety reduction.
BAnxietyFree uses real-life examples of “self-guided exposure” to manage anxiety, mostly Elaine’s. Throughout her career, she’s treated thousands of patients with anxiety… but never her own. Testing our strategies in real-life situations has opened a window into the challenges people face when they walk out of the their homes and into the world. Because it is so different, we consider it the Third Option.
- Option One: Psychotherapy is one approach where a therapist can guide you in treatment in a one-on-one experience that is tailored to your specific needs. Psychotherapy alone can be limited though. Sometimes, there just isn’t enough real-life, hands-on guidance for people to break the cycle of avoidance.
- Option Two: Medications are a second option for anxiety management. But, there are so many risks and inconveniences with taking a drug every day that it can make this option too burdensome as a long-term strategy.
- Option Three: Self-Guided Exposure is as much an internal state of mind as it is a physical exercise. Just like taking your time to adjust to cold water, you can take your time with our approach. A coach can guide you slowly and this is the best approach. A common fear-based response to self-guided exposure techniques is “I can’t do that!” We’re here to assure you that anything is possible if you break it down into small steps. There are many ways to expose your self to the “journey”. You don’t have to cross the globe or even the country to put this practice into motion. Self-guided exposure is about entering a new environment instead of observing it as an outsider, or avoiding it all together. It’s the difference between being a tourist and being a part of the family. You’ll be surprised how much more independent, and proud you’ll feel as you make the transition.