We recently took a mini-vacation out of state to meet my new niece. While we had a great time, however, traveling with four kids when you suffer from anxiety is NOT an easy task. In fact, even just preparing for a trip is enough to generally send me into a panic attack.
This time, however, was the first time in seven years of marriage that I have not curled up into a ball and declared that I was not going! So for today, I want to share with you some things that I did that I believe made this trip the best one yet.
Okay, so this is going to sound crazy and was really difficult for me, but I’ve been watching my husband lately and I decided to try things his way. Unlike me, he doesn’t really plan much. He tends to go with the flow and expect it will “all work out okay.”
That is not my style. Generally, if we are planning a trip somewhere, I start making lists weeks in advance of what we need. I start packing at least four day before the trip. And I tend to obsessively ruminate on what needs to be done for weeks ahead of time.
I decided to change my way of thinking for this trip, however. So I made a decision to not create a single list. I refused to allow myself to even think about details until the week we were supposed to leave. And even then, I was sure to have enough things to pre-occupy myself that I could not obsess. I didn’t even begin packing until the night before.
Talk To Yourself
I sort of developed a mantra with this trip. “If I forget something, we can go to Walmart.” As silly as this sounds, it was truly a life-saver for me because it gave me permission to not pack perfectly. The world wouldn’t end if I forgot someone’s toothbrush. Walmart is not too far away so it’s not a big deal. That one little sentence helped me relax so much more.
Take Care of Physical Needs
While I did not focus on the trip, I did focus on getting caught up on housework. Why? Because I knew one of my big triggers is when I have to hunt for things. So I made sure everything was in its place (okay, who am I kidding? I have four kids… let’s say a lot of things were in their place). I especially focused on making sure I was caught up with laundry and that it was completely put away and that all of the kids shoes were where they belonged as well.
In addition, I took my vitamins and made sure to drink enough water to stay hydrated. Probably most importantly of all, I refused to allow myself to miss sleep because of the trip. If it was bedtime, I went to bed. Period. Why? Because if I don’t get enough sleep, I turn into an ogre.
This one can be really hard for me, but I was very purposeful with this trip to let others know what I needed. Rather than sitting hiding my emotions and pretending everything was okay, I allowed myself to say, “I’m feeling kind of overwhelmed right now. I am going to go sit in the car for a little while.”
Perhaps a very pivotal moment was when it was going on 7:00 and we still hadn’t eaten yet. We were heading to a family members house where we would eat but I was feeling really hungry and the kids were as well. Rather than panic about how the day was going, I decided to tell my husband what was needed.
I explained to him that it was really late and we were all too hungry to wait until we got to our destination and then dish out food and possibly hear the kids complain that they weren’t happy with what was served. I knew my emotions couldn’t handle it on an empty stomach. So I asked if we could make a quick stop to Taco Bell for some soft tacos to eat on the way, just in case.
Ask For Help
So this one kind of goes with the above, but I wanted to include it too. For a very long time when we would visit family, I felt bad asking anyone for help because I was too proud. I wanted to show everyone that I could handle things on my own. But guess what? I can’t handle everything on my own.
So this time, when we went to Wendy’s for some frosties with my in-laws, I did something that was really hard for me to do. I asked my husband’s step father if he would handle feeding the baby her ice cream so I could eat my own without her getting impatient (since he wasn’t partaking in such a delicious dessert).
He was thrilled and truly enjoyed all of her “yum” sounds as she devoured the frosty and I got to actually enjoy my frosty as well whether than trying to rush to keep her from screaming as I tried to take a bite.
So this one was really unlike me, but I had decided before the trip that I was going to find enjoyment in the moment, no matter what. So when we saw two horses with their owner in a field next to that Walmart I mentioned earlier (because I did forget a few things), I had to act.
“Do you think we can pet them?!” I asked Daniel, who looked at me like I had lost my mind. He wasn’t too impressed but told me I could ask if I wanted. The thought made me pause and I had one of those internal dialogues between anxiety, depression and me. It went something like this:
Me: The kids would love to get to see them.
Anxiety: But if we do that, family who is waiting on us is going to get impatient.
Depression: The owner probably won’t let you anyways.
Anxiety: What if she thinks I’m weird for asking?
Depression: Then you’re going to feel like a complete idiot, and the kids are going to be upset.
Ultimately, though, I said, “The worst she can say is no. But what if she says yes?” So I unbuckled the three older girls and we walked over to the field where they were eating.
Would you believe that lady was completely thrilled to tell us all about Serenity and her mom Lady? We got to pet them and talk with them for several minutes. While getting out of my comfort zone and taking the chance was not easy, it was worth it when I saw the smiles on my kids faces.
To make it all even better though, as we were getting ready to leave, a single lady walked over on her own and sheepishly asked if she could pet the horses as well. I have no doubt that because I took a chance, she decided she could as well!
How Do You Handle Trips?
Is travelling difficult for you because of anxiety? What are some ways that you cope?