If there is one thing I never imagined I’d be able to do, it was travel to another country. Thoughts of having to get a passport, fly for hours, acclimate to another culture, figure out where to go and how to get there, among other things, created a heightened anxiety like none other. Yet, I wanted to travel. I wanted to experience something new and be able to tell my anxiety to screw off!
It was summer 2016 and I was working in a treatment center with some wonderful colleagues who were planning a trip to Europe to attend a Cincinnati Bengals game in the fall. While heating up lunch in the small staff kitchen one afternoon, one of the RDs going on the trip asked me to go with them. “Uh, I mean yeah, totally I’ll go if they approve the time off for all of us.” Anxiety. Set. In.
I texted my boss and then spoke with her in person. I later learned that yes, it would be possible for me to go to Europe with three of my favorite people. I purchased the plane ticket and took a deep breath as I started the process of getting my passport. And just like everything else I’ve felt anxiety about, getting my passport was not as difficult as my mind made it out to be. A few simple steps and now I have the travel book I never thought I would.
The months before the trip seemed to drag on and I purchased more travel items than I actually needed. I had moved from anxious to excited…until the week of the trip! Anxiety settled back in and I packed, unpacked, packed again. I made lists, checked them off, made new lists. I lost sleep and lost my ability to concentrate. And then THE day arrived.
We spent a majority of our trip in London, with one day/night in Paris. Fortunately, one of my travel companions had previously lived in Europe so she knew how to navigate the tube system and was more organized than my anxiety would have allowed me to be. I considered her to be the leader of the trip and it helped me to be able to enjoy my experiences that much more. Our London hotel was next to the London Eye so obviously we had to take a ride up! We visited many additional sites including Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Harrod’s, and of course Wembley Stadium. In Paris, our main goals were to go up into the Eiffel Tower, eat crepes and get breakfast at a pastry shop. We did all of those things!
Fast forward several years and I’m so thankful for this trip and my ability to power through feelings of anxiety and do something I never thought I’d do. Unfortunately, anxiety’s best friend is avoidance and oftentimes we stop ourselves from doing anything that creates this emotion. By not doing, we relieve the anxiety and are back in a comfortable state. Whew!
Had I allowed my anxiety to keep from going to Europe, I would have missed out on one of the most memorable trips of my life thus far. I wouldn’t have grown closer to my colleagues, tested some of my personal limits, or had wonderful photos to look back on.
So, the next time your anxiety wells up, how will you respond?