Mental Health While Traveling – Airport Anxiety

A woman is laying on her side on a ledge looking out a window at an airplane being prepped in an airport.

Travel often seems glamorous and easy when looking at it through the lens of social media but the reality is that for many of us who travel full time for work as digital nomads, it just isn’t always unicorn farts, butterflies, and rainbows. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing about and photographing each new country, city, and town I visit but I wanted to address something I don’t see much of when I am looking for inspiration myself. Mental health while traveling. I suffer from Depression, Anxiety ( Airport Anxiety especially ) and PTSD among some other colourful things that like to swim around in my head and I also love to travel so where does that leave me?

Where Does it Leave Me?
Courtney sitting on the floor of her kitchen/living room after a complete PTSD breakdown with tears in her eyes.
Sitting on the floor, post PTSD panic attack, trying to recover.

Well, that leaves me dab smack in the middle of a shit storm at times or often if I’m being really honest here. Traveling gets so hard and stressful and in turn, it can trigger severe anxiety, panic attacks, and even my downward spirals into a depression that can last for days. Everyone has triggers and NO, I am not talking about how everyone and their mother seem to use that word for every little thing that upsets them these days. I am talking about Real-life, actual triggers.

The psychological definition of a “Trigger” is a sight, sound, or smell that triggers feelings of trauma.

Mental Health While Traveling & Social Media

So let’s say I am traveling through an airport and suddenly I get triggered by something, I am standing in the security line cue that airport anxiety. I can feel my heart racing faster and I can tell I am about to go into full-blown meltdown mode… This is the shit you just don’t see on Instagram.

You won’t see it on Social media very often for many reasons, let me name a few?

  1. Yes, People like to put their best foot forward.
  2. People still struggle to show their vulnerable side & sometimes it feels like it might be misinterpreted as an attention-grab.
  3. THIS IS THE LAST THING ON OUR MINDS WHEN WE ARE LOSING OUR SHIT IN AN AIRPORT! (I did take a photo when I had a PTSD breakdown where I was staying – see above)

Do you identify with any of the options above? If you’re anything like me you probably identify with all three at some point in your life or another and guess what? That is completely okay and totally normal.

I digress…

So back to the security line and my panic attack that is rising through my body, coursing through my veins, and making my eyes go fuzzy as I try desperately to control my breathing. What was once a normal stressful airport that millions of people deal with daily suddenly becomes my prison.

There is nowhere to go but forward through the queue and try as best as possible to keep it at bay till I can at least get through security and find a quiet corner, a bathroom stall, a lounge or just a bench to collapse onto so I can let it work its way through me. This is one of the many reasons why I am always at the airport crazy early because that is one way to avoid the added stress that could compile into a downward spiral plus if something does happen, I have given myself the cushion time to work through it.

Managing My Mental Health While Traveling

I have traveled a lot in my life and I have been traveling full-time for about 1.5 years, a good portion of that I have done alone, you can read more about my story here. Sometimes it absolutely sucks to be traveling alone when I am struggling with the basics of trying to figure out where I am going at the same time trying to fend off a panic attack. It has been easier when I was traveling with a buddy and they can figure out logistics while I manage my brain betrayal. Unfortunately, that is not a realistic situation for me to have all the time so I have had to learn some coping mechanisms to help me through moments like this on my own.

Specifically for Airport Anxiety, here are my top recommendations I’ve put together with some help from my therapist about things we can do to help us deal with, not just the stress but the really deep level of anxiety and panic attacks that airports can bring on.

Give Yourself Time

If you listen to Oprah’s Supersoul Sunday podcast her mantra that she states before each episode is now something I live by. She says, “I believe one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself is time, taking time to be more fully present…” I have listened to her podcast so much that, I can hear her saying this often and let me tell you, she is not wrong, lol. If I were to just try to break this down into everyday life application to help manage my anxiety and panic attacks, I would give myself time.

Rushing places or rushing to pack or rushing to get through security is one of the biggest airport anxiety triggers for me. Even just talking about it or typing about it gets my heart racing. Give yourself time to get to the airport in case there is traffic, time to get through check-in or security in case the airport is packed, and time to breathe through these moments in case you do end up having a panic attack and need to find a quiet corner to recover.

Try Not to Book Flights too Early
View of the airplane wing at sunrise from the inside of the plane.
Sunrise flight

I am a chronic cheap-flight booker. When I say this I mean that if a flight is $10-$30 cheaper to fly at 5am versus 9am I will book it despite the fact that I know very well this is a mistake. I normally don’t sleep well before a flight especially if it’s super early because then I worry. I’m worried I’m gonna miss my alarm, even though I never have. I worry at some point in the night I didn’t set my alarm, which I always do sometimes 3 or 4 of them smh, and I just tend to have more stress dreams when I book earlier flights. If I book something just a little later in the morning or day, I automatically start my day with more rest and less stress.

Don’t Skip Breakfast

I feel like many people don’t really eat or like having breakfast but so many scientific studies have linked proper nutrition to mental health and the benefits of eating good, regular meals. That being said, don’t skip breakfast. Eat SOMETHING, ANYTHING. Have a cup of tea and some toast or an egg, just do yourself this favor.

Lay Off the Hard Stuff
double shot latte in a small glass in front of a red brick wall
Oh Delicious Coffee, you devil…

You have no idea how difficult this is for me to add this into my list but I say this to myself as much as I say it to the internet void. Try to avoid the coffee. ::CRYING INTERNALLY:: This is a biggie for me especially if I do the dumb thing and book my flight too early, see Number 2 above. The coffee while it may help me get moving in the wee hours of the morning, it is a nightmare on my nerves and heart rate which then makes it easier for the big bad anxiety monster to take hold and drag me away into the depths of my mind, which nobody should have to go to at that time of the morning, including me.

Music is Healing

I’m sure you’ve heard that term before but let me reiterate it for you. Music can literally calm my soul and quiet my mind, aka my demons. It’s easy to fall into the social media rabbit hole while waiting for your flight to board and while yes, I still do this because I am human and a weak one at that.

I have found that the more I stay off of it especially in airports and listen to music and read instead, the better my overall mood and mental well being are. I can match my breathing to the music, allow myself to release the stress that I have accumulated on my journey to & through the airport. Not to mention the stress I picked up from others along the way, (especially important if you are an empath like me). Music is powerful and can help you find your center again in an eternally buzzing airport.

Courtney sitting in the terminal while working on her laptop with her headphones in. Trying to catch up on work but more importantly, listening to my calming music and trying to distract myself from all the people in the airport.
Trying to catch up on work but more importantly, listening to my calming music and trying to distract myself from all the people at the airport.

Managing my mental health while traveling isn’t easy but it is possible. This is just one part of a much bigger battle that many of us face every day and while I hope you find value through these tips, not everyone is the same and everyone will need to do the work to find what coping mechanisms and routines work best for them.

For those interested, I use Betterhelp (click the link to receive a free 1-week trial) while traveling and I have also attached a link to a Spotify Playlist I listen to alllll the time to help with my airport anxiety. I have also shared a couple of videos on my Youtube Channel that addresses the darker side and lighter side of traveling with Mental Health Issues.

How do you manage your airport anxiety while traveling? Leave your comment below to help others looking for tips or advice.

Coco Betty Travels About Me

Hi Friends!

My full name is Courtney Elizabeth and growing up some of my nicknames were Coco & Betty, thus the name Coco Betty. Feel free to call me Coco, I still answer to it. I empower women to love themselves through travel, one trip at a time.


  1. Alexandra Booze on November 30, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    I struggle with intense anxiety as a travel writer! Airports, airplanes, the whole of it! I’ve adopted a lot of your tips to help me cope. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kiana on November 30, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    Thank you for this list of helpful tips! Great post 🙂

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Coco Betty Travels About Me

Hi Friends!

My full name is Courtney Elizabeth and growing up some of my nicknames were Coco & Betty, thus the name Coco Betty. Feel free to call me Coco, I still answer to it. I empower women to love themselves through travel, one trip at a time.

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