Anxiety finds me at 37,000 ft. (11, 300m) above the Pacific Ocean, somewhere between Tokyo and Los Angeles. My thoughts begin to swirl up around me like dirt kicked up in the wind. My chest tightens as though an invisible hand has clenched my heart in its fist. My breathing becomes shallow as the panic begins to rise.
I’m surprised to find anxiety here. I imagine my anxiety as some sort of trench-coat clad debt collector, pulling its beige collar up around his face, smugly taking a seat next to me and robbing me of any confidence I might have had five minutes ago. I wonder if he has been lurking behind corners this entire time, trailing me from Thailand and Vietnam to Japan, waiting for the moment to present himself at my most vulnerable.
There is no rhyme or reason to this anxiety, just a certain irony to the juxtaposition of being a travel editor who faces this adversary when straying too far from my comfort zone. Anxiety is new to me, a weed in the garden of my life that has wrapped its vines around me in the past five years. According to Melissa Horowitz, PsyD, Director of Clinical Training at the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, “anxiety is a common emotional experience that people tend to have in response to a perceived threat or being in a perceived dangerous scenario.”
Speaking to Horowitz about calming anxiety while abroad, she recommends creating a plan when traveling. “People will sometimes over-schedule or under-schedule their travels, and this could lead to stress. If that happens it’s important to take a pause and adjust the schedule accordingly.” In other words, if you’ve tasked yourself with seeing all of Paris in a mere 24 hours, this jam-packed schedule can create unnecessary stress. It’s important to remain flexible.