While most vacationers may thrive in new, uncharted environments, there are some of us who don’t quite know what to do with ourselves when put in similar situations. If the thought of travelling all by yourself unnerves you, if you have a slight fear of public spaces or if you dread meeting new people, then there’s a high possibility that you are socially anxious. Social anxiety is a chronic mental health condition where social interactions or even the mere thought of them can make the individual tremendously uneasy. In general, these people are viewed as ‘awkward’ or ‘weird’, which is harsh judgement considering the condition can be accompanied by very real symptoms such as a rapid heart rate, sweating, nausea and panic attacks.
Living with social anxiety isn’t easy and travelling with it can be absolutely dreadful, but there are a few things you can do to ensure that you have a good time nonetheless.
Plan your trip
It’s important that you plan your journey before setting out. For social anxiety sufferers, mental preparedness along with real planning is important before any trip. Most people take vacations to experience new things, meet new people and discover new cultures. While it’s the unknown that makes trips to far-flung destinations exciting for these people, it’s the fear of it that makes anxious people tick. Chart out an itinerary that you think you’ll be able to tackle before you head out for your holiday. Things will be easier for you if you know what’s coming. The socially anxious tend to thrive in quiet, contemplative environments such as museums, libraries or art galleries. Make sure you have everything that you could possibly need for the trip (medicines, a few extra pairs of socks, maybe even a compass!) and keep emergency numbers handy, even if you’re not travelling very far. It’s the thought of being prepared for anything that will keep your mind at ease.
Travel with friends
It is erroneous to assume that people suffering from social anxiety cannot make friends. Yes, it is true that they have difficulty approaching people at first, but once a socially anxious person is comfortable around you, rest assured that you have a friend for life. If you have anxiety, travelling by your lonesome can be incredibly unnerving. However, taking a friend along who is sensitive to your needs might just be the tonic the doctor ordered! With a companion by your side, new situations will not seem so uncomfortable and you won’t have to worry about making new friends on the trip. However, it is of the utmost importance that you choose your travel partner wisely. For instance, if you’re travelling with an extrovert, they might want to take part in group activities because they flourish in such environments. So, before heading out, decide the boundaries of your comfort zone, how far you’re willing to step out of them and discuss this with your travel buddy.
If you’re going solo, keep in touch
It’s so great that you’re stepping out of your shell and planning to travel by yourself! However, remember that a solo vacation can take a real toll on you. Little things such as eating at a restaurant alone or asking someone for directions will require you to extend beyond your bubble and tackle your anxiety head on, which can be incredibly taxing. Once you’re done with the itinerary for the day, it’ll help if you call your friends or family and talk to them about your experience. Speaking to them will give you the reassurance that though you’re experiencing something new and scary, you aren’t all alone and that you have the love and support of people back home. Sometimes self-affirmation isn’t enough, and that’s okay.
When someone is suffering from social anxiety, they feel that they will be negatively evaluated or rejected in social situations. In effect, they start believing that people around them are constantly looking at them and judging them, even if logically they know that isn’t true. For times like these, when your head is getting in the way of you having fun, it’s best if you give your mind something to do. Occupy yourself — whether it’s with music, crossword puzzles, knitting, journaling, reading, you are free to choose your poison. Another thing you can do is keep your hands busy — fidget spinners might seem like the new hipster trend of the year, but they can actually be really helpful in unfamiliar situations to help keep that pesky old anxiety at bay.
Take a day off after your vacation
If you suffer from severe anxiety, you will understand the need to ‘recharge your batteries’ once you are out of a social situation. Navigating new environments and being out of one’s comfort zone takes a heavy toll on such individuals. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and tired after a vacation, especially if you’ve put yourself out there and done things that you wouldn’t normally. It might not be easy for you to jump back into work mode once your holiday is over. Plan in such a way that you have a day off to unpack and de-stress in the comfort of your own home.
These are just some things you can do to ease your mind and enjoy your vacation. Social anxiety is a heavy burden to bear. However, remember that it shouldn’t stop you from living life and having fun. The old adage that you can only conquer your fears once you face them may be a clichÃ©, but that doesn’t make it any less true. While you may not be able to experience new things in the same effortless way that some people seem to, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have your own novel, exciting and meaningful adventures.