The pandemic changed vacations for me. I love nature, I love new cities and I love exploring, but this time, it was accompanied by anxiety in every aspect. It might have been about socialising, packing, prepping, it might have been about COVID itself, or our health, or maybe, it might also just have been about being clean.
I could feel my heartbeat rising with every cough in the flight; every time I had to take my mask off or I saw someone without one; or every dirty washroom I had to use. And that’s just the start of it, right? Apart from the travel, it’s also about the people you meet, the places you eat, and all the socialising you have to get yourself to do. I know a lot of people will say “Hey, don’t spoil your vacation overthinking like that,” but well, that’s hard (to say the least)!
It’s understandable that it’s difficult to overcome something like this after how the past two years have seemed. So, rather than thinking of ways to overcome this fear, here’s how we can adapt to it instead. Health and travel anxiety in today’s age are very valid, and might also be necessary to some extent. After all, precaution is always better than cure!
Here’s a quick guide to how I overcame my vacation anxiety:
Take precautions: If you are worried about contracting the virus, be prepared with what can help reduce the stress (and the germs!). Pack a few extra masks and sanitiser in different bags. Take the medicines you might need. It makes sense to be worried about the virus, and it’s absolutely okay to be doubly prepared for the worst case scenario. This will also give you something to do instead of worrying, and that knowledge that you’re equipped might ease your mind during travel!
Have conversation starters in place. If you know a few people who are going to be there, and are worried about what kind of conversations to have with them, note down some topics that are common. Social anxiety (after a few years of online networking only) makes sense. Not everyone loves being extroverted, right? It’s okay if you are quiet too. Take the time (and space) to socialise as and when you want to. Remember that it’s a vacation for you to relax and recharge your batteries, and not to drain them out further!
Take breaks and set boundaries: If you’re used to having your own space, keep some time apart for boundaries. Set them from day one. Yes, we all love spending time with our loved ones but spending time with yourself is important too! Whether that’s telling them some white lies, letting them know about your boundaries, watching a movie, or carrying a book with you - do what suits (and relaxes) you the most!
Know your schedule: If the anxiety is about all the ‘hows’ and the ‘what ifs’, know what you are going to be upto. Make an itinerary, look up your destination and list down all the places you’d like to go to. This will help you feel more in control of everything happening around you.
Have a toolkit in place: If you feel like the anxiety gets too hard to handle, make sure you have a toolkit. It could be a playlist, a few contacts you can reach out to, a conversation with a person on the vacation who you feel comfortable with, a book, a workout, or anything at all. (If you are having difficulty putting this toolkit together, think of 3 things that help you calm down, that right there is your toolkit!)
If your vacay partner has vacation anxiety: Be open to their fears, listen to them instead of shrugging it off, and let them know you are there to help. Most of the time, having some support will help them feel better. Don’t try to patronise, downplay or give them quick fixes. Make the itinerary with (or for) them. Think of ways you can help if they panic on the trip and reassure them that you are around if anything happens.
What we went through during the pandemic has changed us a lot and it’s okay if they feel a lot more overwhelmed in these situations. Remember that they have not not “changed” as much as they have become very aware of everything that can go wrong, because in the last few years, a lot of things have.