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Taking photos of appliances to relieve travel anxiety.

It’s a very common compulsion to take photos before leaving the house. Not even when it’s a big trip, but just to the grocery store or off to school. There are phone photo archives around the globe filled with still life images of sockets, faucets and stove knobs. Will it relieve travel anxiety? BIG NO on this one. Let’s explore why…

Taking photos of appliances and locks (and valuable and taps and the gas and everything else we can worry about) is just choosing to make mental health worse. It’s a compulsion to chase reassurance and certainty. It’s no different than somebody washing a few extra times just to be sure. There could be some temporary relief, as with any compulsion. They always start out seeming useful, like they’re solving a problem. But not only will it create more anxiety in your life, it’ll make you feel increasingly disconnected from reality. Eventually you won’t be able to believe the photos on your phone. What if they’re from a previous trip? Or what if you accidentally knocked the stove on when you took the photo? What if the phone was hacked and the photo photoshopped to appear like your door was closed or your tap was off?!

Why do we want to check photos for reassurance?

When I struggled with my mental health, I was constantly checking everything. I always had very rational reasons why something terrible would happen if I didn’t check (a few times). 
What I didn’t realize was that it was like any addiction. So the more I checked, the more I was teaching my brain to worry and throw up uncertainties because i needed to fix those to get the certainty and reassurance I craved. 
It eventually got me to a point where I would do my checking rituals around the stove and then just stand there and watch it.
Thankfully, I don’t do any of those compulsions anymore and I don’t struggle with all of that anxiety and uncertainty and disaster scenarios constantly playing in my head. Let’s talk about how to get there…

It looks off and it looks locked and it looks like those appliances are unplugged, but are they?

So what does help with anxiety when leaving the house?

Trying to get rid of anxiety is the problem, not the solution. It’s like asking what’s the best way to exercise so you don’t sweat. If avoiding sweat is your fitness goal, you’ll end up very out-of-shape. The same is true with mental fitness. Trying to avoid and control anxiety is only going to encourage the brain to find more uncertainties to control. 

It’s natural that we experience a heightened sense of uncertainty if we’re about to go on a trip to someplace new or we’re going away for a longer period of time. New places are full of uncertainties. And travel is full of possibilities we don’t control. When our brains register that, it’s not surprising they look ways they can get a sense of control, like doing lots of checking and reassurance seeking. Doing that in the lead up and before the trip, however, can spill over into the trip.

Not doing compulsions when we leave can support us in having a better trip. It helped me to look at the preparation and departure for any trip as a way to teach my brain how we’ll do the rest of the trip. I’m going to identify values, and how to do the trip well, and I’m going to align my actions with that. It’s about proactively creating an amazing experience, and the actions that will help me do that. 

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  1. Pingback: Travel OCD: Compulsively checking your passport • The Mindful Field Guide

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