But, as we know, summer isn’t all ice creams and lie ins. Holidays can involve stepping away from our comfort zones and our familiar white thrones. As a Psychotherapist, I work with many types of anxiety. I support people with health anxiety, driving anxiety and even, yes, loo anxiety!
Anxiety around using the loo when you step out of your familiar places, routines and routes is something many people struggle with. Anxiety.uk estimate that 15-35% of the population experience some degree of loo anxiety. So you’re not alone if the thought of travelling somewhere new, away from home prompts feelings of anxiety.
What if you need the loo on the plane? What if you eat something that your gut disagrees with? What if the stress of finding a loo finds your stomach churning with anxiety? What if someone hears or sees you use the loo?
Loo anxiety finds us preoccupied with concern about gut issues and loo access. Before I give you my top five tips to ease loo anxiety, have a read of these symptoms that may resonate:
- You find it hard to look forward to a trip away from home because you’re concerned about the availability of or need for the loo.
- Your worry shapes your decisions, your plans, and your ability to enjoy your trip. It might dictate where or how long you travel to.
- When in a new place, you cannot relax until you locate the nearest loos should you need them.
- You find that anxiety fuels your gut issues, and it can feel like a vicious cycle.
- You worry about people seeing or hearing you using the loo.
- Avoiding using certain toilets (e.g. shared or public), or avoiding doing a poo so much so that you find yourself feeling uncomfortable.
5 ways to ensure that looxiety doesn’t steal your sunshine this holiday:
1. Know that everyone has experienced gastro issues
Maybe the person sat next to you on the plane or in the restaurant doesn’t have the same gut issues as you do, everyone has had diarrhoea, constipation and other gastro challenges along the way. So, when you find yourself leaning into the poo taboo and feeling embarrassment or shame, this little reminder can make a big difference.
2. Make a loo plan
Plans and familiarity ease anxiety. Make sure that you know where the loos are and learn any local language that will help you locate the nearest toilets. If you’re feeling unwell, come up against a queue, or need to use the loo urgently, you don’t need to plead or worry. A simple sentence like ‘please can I use the loo as I’m not feeling well’ will find you accessing the toilet as soon as possible. If someone were to say that to you, you wouldn’t judge, you’d step aside for them and hope they were okay! Carry a familiar loo roll in your bag should you need it.
3. Take plenty of the things that help
When you’re packing, make sure that you’ve got enough of the things that support you. Be it your trusty bottle of Symprove, your favourite loo roll, your go-to guided meditation or stand-by medication. Sometimes just knowing those familiar things are available for you should you need them, helps soften some anxiety.
4. Let those close to you know about your anxiety
If you feel able to, talk to someone about your loo anxiety. As you know, many people experience loo related anxiety, so even if they don’t have their own story to share, everyone has faced periods of anxiety, and gut issues, so they may surprise you with supportive words and a tip or two.
5. Find some new anxiety tools for your toolbox.
Anxiety is both a physical and mental experience. A thought or sensation triggers a stress response in the body, urging us to fight or flee the thing we’re worried about. You might experience rumination, or feel preoccupied with worst case scenarios, when in truth, you just want to be enjoying your holiday. Anxiety tools help calm your mind and body so that you can think more clearly and rationally, and feel more present. Extend your exhale, drop your shoulders, and count back from 100 in 3’s in order to halt rumination.
Enjoy your trip! Know that you’re not alone in your loo anxiety. Planning your break with these tips in mind will hopefully find you feeling less anxious and more rested this holiday. Don’t forget to read through all of the other brilliant travel blogs here, to find lots more tips and encouragement that will help you ease into and enjoy the break that you need and deserve.