It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s true. Having a sense of wanderlust can help cure your anxiety. The trick is you have to act on those feelings of adventure and exploration despite any fear you may have. It isn’t easy initially, but I promise it’s worth it. Pushing through your own mental battle to go out and see the world will help you realize that maybe the world isn’t quite as scary as you think, or maybe you will realize the joy in new experiences.
I’m going to tap into that second thought for just a moment – realizing joy in new experiences. I’ve always loved traveling and exploring, but rewind to 2011-ish and I barely left my house unless it was to go to my part-time job. My anxiety and panic attacks were so bad that I was essentially paralyzed from them. I was depressed, I had no life, and I felt like a loser. Skip ahead to September of 2012, one of my best friends was in New York City for work and she had extra miles that she wanted to use to fly me out for a long weekend with her. I had never been to New York, or anywhere on the East Coast for that matter. For whatever reason, maybe fate, I agreed to go despite my ability to live at that moment because of my mental health. I will never forget the feeling of landing in the city and feeling a complete sense of calm come over me. It didn’t make sense. I was standing in the center of an overpopulated city with constant honking, people bumping into each other, zero sense of direction – yet for the first time in over a year, I felt completely at peace and home. To this day I’m still perplexed at this reaction I had because I hate cities. I live right outside of San Francisco, I’ve been to Los Angeles, Portland, and Chicago to name a few, and I’m not a fan of any of them, to be honest with you. Had I said no to wanderlust and exploring, I never would have found the place where I feel best.
So here’s my advice to you. Push through the fear. I know having to battle your mind every day is exhausting and frustrating and it is easier to just let it win some days instead of making yourself do the thing that makes you uncomfortable. But the problem is, doing what’s easier oftentimes isn’t going to benefit you in any way. Sure, it might make you feel better momentarily, but you can’t let the demons win. I promise by doing the hard thing and getting out there to see the world you will be much happier and you will be able to achieve a sense of a fulfilled life.
I want to clarify that I understand how debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, and any other mental health issue can be. I’ve been there and I’ve struggled more than I can put onto paper. I know how you are feeling and please believe me when I say if I can work through my anxiety, so can you. It’s a constant work in progress, I’ll tell you that. But living your life and having anxiety at the same time is possible – you just have to give in to that little voice in your head that is saying I want to explore.
If it seems like too much and there is just no way you could ever go outside of your comfort zone, start small. Take that trip to the grocery store that you’ve been putting off and as a reward for pushing yourself, buy a little chocolate or something at the checkout stand. Then start looking at places you could explore locally – parks, museums, anywhere that is close but outside of your comfort zone. Keep pushing yourself because there will be bad days, and that’s ok. But I want you to be able to get to a point where you feel brave enough to book that ticket out of state. Bravery comes in all forms. It could be consciously purchasing a plane ticket even though you’re terrified, or it could be hushing your anxiety and booking a ticket without thinking about it at all. Don’t think about what could go wrong or where you could get lost, book the ticket and figure it out on the way. Just do anything to get out of that comfort zone. You will find that not only do you gain irreplaceable experiences, but also that you are capable of so much more than you think. When I look back at all the places I’ve gone or things I’ve overcome, I can’t help but be proud of myself (which is something I don’t feel often). Most times I still don’t know how I did it because those feelings of anxiety come rushing back, but it doesn’t matter. Because I did it. And so can you. So open up that Google app and start picking out your next journey. I promise it will be worth it. And who knows, you just might find your next place to call home!