The Anxious Adventurer

Hello, my name is Tessa Sayers. I am 35, mom to two adorable Havanese dogs and recently married to my husband Jeremy.

I am founder, owner and designer at my own company called Soul Curiosity.

I love learning new things, exploring different cultures and experiencing anything in life that makes me or someone else smile.

I feel deeply, I guess you can say I am sensitive, but I like to call it emphatic.

I have an innate desire to share the highs and lows of my life in the hopes of positively impacting others.

So why would I call myself an Anxious Adventurer?

Well, I have an anxiety disorder called agoraphobia, a shadow that likes to follow me wherever I go.

I also have two autoimmune diseases that make living with anxiety that much more exciting 🙂

I refuse to let either keep me from following my dreams and engaging with life in a way that I desire.

This anxious adventurer would like to take you on her honeymoon to Maui, Hawaii.

I want to specifically talk about the DARE Program by Barry McDonagh that helps anxiety sufferer’s’ work through panic attacks and fears.

This program has helped me tremendously and believe me, I have read every book out there!

They even have a Facebook support group that is fantastic.

If you struggle with anxiety, I hope this inspires you to step outside of your comfort zone.

If you have a loved-one who struggles with anxiety, perhaps this will help you cultivate more empathy and understanding, as they navigate uncomfortable situations.

Over the summer, my dad gave us the best wedding gift, money for a honeymoon! I was instantly excited, then anxiety kicked in.

This means I have to fly somewhere, huh? Oh no… this means I am going to be anxious.

We ended up choosing Maui for a variety of reasons, one being that it would be a warm destination for our honeymoon and two, it had a Whole Foods which would make eating for my autoimmune easier.

For anxiety sufferers, the anxiety develops way before any departure, they call it anticipatory anxiety and it’s the worst.

You get irrational thoughts and your mind creates all these scary movie like scenarios that honestly, 99% never happen.

The anxious person has their own mantra that is repeated on loop and it’s not something you would post on Instagram to inspire others.

It’s called the “what-ifs.” What if I get really sick?

What if I feel terrible the entire time I am there?

What if I have a meltdown on the airplane?

What if my plane plummets into the ocean?

What if I have a panic attack while snorkeling and drown?

What if I am hiking and can’t breathe?

What if Whole Foods doesn’t have any food I can eat (I mean really Tessa?).

The list goes on and on. The controlling part of you is checking off all possible scenarios so you feel best prepared when shit hits the fan.

The thing is… shit rarely hits the fan, yet you can’t stop yourself from obsessing over the details.

There was a time when I refused to fly anywhere. I was convinced for whatever reason I was going to die.

I would actually be up the night before in tears, just counting down the hours until I was convinced I would be dead.

Sounds super DRAMATIC, I know but it’s the truth. I would say no to vacations because I couldn’t get on an airplane.

My dad told me I had a higher chance of being hit in the super market with cheese then die on a plane. I knew the statistics but it didn’t help.

I started flying again with the help of a prescription drug called Xanax when I moved away for college in Utah.

If I wanted to see my family I knew I had to get on an airplane. Facetime and Skype weren’t invented yet 🙂

I’m not going to lie, flying on Xanax was amazing. The plane could have crashed and I wouldn’t have cared.

I am proud however, to be Xanax free since 2012. It had horrible side effects plus I really wanted to start dealing with my anxiety head-on.

Xanax helped get me to Kauai in 2009, so flying this go-around felt different, being completely drug-free.

I didn’t start to get nervous until an hour into the plane ride when I realized I had another 5 hours to go.

I was able to mentally calm my nerves down and the rest of the ride wasn’t too bad. Being on an island is a weird feeling.

For me, I initially get really claustrophobic, being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, not to mention knowing your only way off the island is getting back on an airplane.

It took me a day to fully relax, which was much quicker than the last time I visited the islands.

A lot of people on vacation like to completely relax. I do too, but I also love adventurous activities which unfortunately trigger my anxiety.

I didn’t want to let anxiety keep me from doing fun things so I forged on, anxiety in tow.

I did a 26-mile bike ride down a 6,000 foot volcano in the rain, zip lined, snorkeled and took two boat rides into the Pacific Ocean, one in the dark.

As mentioned earlier, the anticipatory anxiety kicked-in right before any anxiety-provoking event, followed by the good old mantra: “what if.”

What if I get sick on the bike ride?
What if I get too cold in the rain?
What if I can’t finish it?
What if I freak out on the zip line?
What if I get really thirsty on the three-hour tour and there isn’t any water?
What if our boat gets a hole and we sink into the ocean?

It’s exhausting reading those huh? The thing about anxiety, is that our bodies are actually trying to work with and for us.

Our mental worries trigger our flight or fight response and our brain is trying to help us resolve the anxious feelings.

We are thinking and creating non-existent worries so our bodies follow, leaving us feeling more anxious and overwhelmed.

I don’t want you to think my entire honeymoon was an anxious tizzy, because it wasn’t.

All the moments of pure contentment and peace reminded me why I wanted to go in the first place.

In those peaceful moments, I feel alive and sometimes I shed a few tears because of how wonderful I feel and how proud I am of myself.

Even with the anxious shadow that follows me, I find fun, act silly and sit with those good feelings when they are present.

That moment of alignment with yourself, is unparalleled to anything else, you feel free, you feel connected, and you feel at home in your own body.

Here are some tips for you anxious adventurers to help alleviate some anticipatory anxiety for your next exploration into the unknown.

I know you’re feeling overwhelmed, so take a deep breath. I am here for you!

Applying DARE

During my honeymoon I applied every DARE step. Here are a few insights into which one’s I used and how it helped alleviate or decrease my anxiety.


This is the most important step for me because if I successfully do this one, I don’t need the other steps.

I find success with defusing when I feel I always have some sort of out, even if it is tiny.

Here are a few of my “so what” statements while on vacation…

What if the plane crashes? Well these isn’t anything I can control, so I might as well appreciate having quiet alone time to read or get work done.

What if I get sick? They have a hospital on the island, just like here.

What if I have a panic attack? It won’t kill me, just sit down and try and relax into it.

The sooner you allow the feelings the sooner they will dissipate.

What if I freak out while my husband is gone for half a day and I don’t know anyone, he also has our rental car so I feel trapped?

There are always people around and you can call 911 if there is really a problem.

You can also catch an Uber to the hospital.


When I was zip lining my legs started to shake.

I tried to defuse but it wasn’t working as well as I wanted, so I sat on the bench waiting my turn and just felt the sensations in my body while telling myself I was safe.

The sensations then went away.

It is hard to let go and feel like you’re are succumbing to your sensations but they really do start to go away when you truly surrender.


While snorkeling I felt very unsafe in the water. I allowed my anxious mind to run crazy and my physical sensations were starting to peak.

I demanded more of the sensations and kept defusing, telling myself worst case I will start to panic and someone will come help me.

I said “fine, drown me, let me freak out in front of all these people.” After realizing I wasn’t truly alone in the water, I calmed down.


Engaging is the second most important step for me! I find if I diffuse, then immediately engage physically or mentally with something else it makes a huge difference in the anxiety subsiding.

Any activity that requires you to focus and use your hands is a good engagement activity.

Watching TV alone usually isn’t enough.

When I work on art projects or clean the house I am not only mentally focusing but moving my body as well.

When you are on an airplane, bring engagement activity one, two, three and four.

I usually have a book, art project (beadwork), computer, music and notebook (for making to do lists).

When something isn’t helping I move onto the next activity.

Additional Tips for the Anxious Adventurer

Obsess Once

Allow yourself to obsess or be anxious about something once, make a plan A, plan B and plan C… okay let’s be real, you have about 10 plans in your mind, so you can feel a bit more in control.

The key here is make the plans then let them go! Each time your mind tries to repeat that scenario, remind yourself you already have a strategy in place so there is no need to go over it again and again.

We all know it only invites the type of imagery seen on Dateline’s 20/20.

Say Yes

Only do things that you truly want to do. Just because we are scared to do something doesn’t mean you should force yourself to do it.

Have an honest conversation with yourself. Is this something I really want to do?

If I wasn’t worried about the outcome, would I do it? If the answer is yes, then this is a great opportunity to work through anxiety.

Baby Steps

So you want to snorkel but you are petrified to get in the water. Panic attacks change your relationship with water, it just does.

For me, I had a life jacket and I stayed close to the boat. I wasn’t swimming around carefree like everyone else, but I got in the water and I challenged myself.

Next time, I plan to venture further out!


It is important to enjoy your vacation, however, anxiety sufferers still need to take care of their physical body.

Late nights, excessive drinking and unhealthy foods will not do you any favors in the anxiety department.

Listen to your body and know when to cut back a bit.

Please enjoy your time away, just remember that anxiety loves to pop up when your body is a little run down.

Just ask my 23-year-old college self who went to work at a coffee stand, then proceeded to cure her hangover with two mochas and a muffin.

Cue in the panic attack that followed, the fire truck that showed up and confused passers-by, who thought I was strung out on drugs as I was semi-unconscious on the floor.

I don’t blame them, I would have walked right by myself too! Take it from me, what you put into your body counts!

Involve Others

Be honest and upfront about your anxiety with those close to you.

My husband doesn’t understand my anxiety completely, but our up-front communication regarding my fears, helps us become a team.

Your friends and family can be your biggest cheerleaders.

I told my husband the best thing he can do when I am anxious is to ask “what do you need from me right now?”

Sometimes I just need him to hold my hand or hug me while I breathe.

This takes a lot of pressure off others as well.

They want to help, but often have a hard time relating to what you’re experiencing and feeling.

My final thoughts: I know how debilitating anxiety is, I really do.

You are not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence anymore.

My plan going forward is to keep pushing myself: to keep living life, inviting anxiety along for the journey.

Each success builds confidence and I will never regret going on a vacation, ever! So, where am I off to next? Who knows?

But I’m off, whether anxiety has booked a seat beside me or not. 

And it’s okay to cry at any point on your journey. I cried a tad on my flight home.

Everyone on the plane thought I was sad to leave Maui right 🙂

You can do this, we can do this together!

With Love

21 replies on “The Anxious Adventurer

  • Tina Brooks

    Thank u so much for sharing this I am 48 been deal with this for so long and I hate it so much I let my fears and Anxiety get it the way of everything I can’t fly at all I give up so many trips and road tips being afraid stuck in traffic and so many things I need help so much I don’t know what to do I don’t take anything for it because I’m afraid of the side effects and everyone just hates going places with me because of my fears and anxiety
    I just gave up on a trip to Vegas and I’m only 40 minutes away from Vegas flying and I couldn’t even get on because of my anxiety so bad need help and what is a good medication to take? Thank you for sharing your story it really helps out a lot.
    I cry ll the time because of my bad anxiety not doing anything can’t go anywhere because I’m like what if this is going to happen what if I’m stuck in traffic and something happens what if I fly in the plane crashes my daughter doesn’t even like going anywhere with me because she knows all my fears and anxiety I deal with on so many little things

  • Karen

    Thank you for such a beautiful and inspiring message…well done my friend..I am smiling for you …and maybe myself one day..;)

  • Helena

    Congratulation on your newly married life and this hudge!!!!!! Win over the awful sickness, we too try to fight.
    I am much older and been with anxiety for over 14 years. Medication is there but it is not the answer. The withdrawal
    is probably the worse. Hope to get to the root cause of it.

    Keep up the good job and thank you for Your encouraging words.

  • Daniel Mitchell

    To all who read this blog: Give thanks to Barry for making us his career. He is doing a world of good and hopefully making a living too. It takes courage to share anxiety, because it is really mental silliness allowed to run physically wild. In one way or another, in one form or another, I personally have mentally and physically engaged with this behavior for over 75 years or there about. Reading about others who are learning to laugh at this silliness in them and also in us is comforting. Thanks also to all.

  • Diane

    What a warrior you are! I so admire your courage to forge ahead and not be limited by the fears. I’ve recently been offered an opportunity of a lifetime… a 6-night stay at a most gorgeous villa in Greece! Complete with meals and excursions paid for. All I have to do is pay for my flight, and actually GET ON A PLANE! I haven’t flown in over 30 years, and I just don’t know that I can do it!?! I’m terrified, but really want to do this!

  • Vicki

    Your story is remarkable. I was just diagnosed with Lyme disease finding out this has been the culprit of panic and anxiety. When I was in my 20s I was fearless then finding out that I have Lyme as an infection started in October 2017 I found out that it affects the brain, kills brain cells, etc. So since this time I’ve had a huge fear of sleeping at night because I think I will die. I was so sick this past year. I’ve been working on the dare method and I know I have to continue to keep working through the fear not around it. I keep telling myself I’m in control not this bacteria in my body. Some days are easier than others. I used to love traveling and then I had a bad experience on a plane with panic and it made it nearly impossible to fly again. I’ve given up trips and I wonder why. I’m 36 young and ill but I can’t let that define me forever. I’ve wanted to travel to Greece and Italy. This story gives me hope I will one day get on a plane and travel to Europe and finish my tour of the 50 states I had on my bucket list. It’s not going to be easy but then again anything well worth it isn’t easy especially when you have illness.

  • dorothy furman

    thank you for sharing all the ways you practice. you are an example of what we can do if only we get out and invite the fear. thank you ?

  • Claire Page

    WOW amazing story and very wise words. Thank you very much for sharing and well done. You are an inspiration!!!! 🙂 <3

  • Daven

    This may be the best article I’ve read regarding dealing with anxiety. This is a definite keeper. It’s simple, to the point, and thorough.

    Anxiety sucks, but i don’t think it’s going away on it’s own. The strategies you illustrated appear to be easily applicable to almost any situation.

    Good on you.

  • joel

    I am 59, and have had panic attacks and anxiety ocd type stuff. obsessive scary thoughts for many years. The dare book has helped me.

  • joel

    I am also afraid to fly. Thank you for sharing your story. I plan to fly sometime, and I believe tour story will help me, thank you again

  • Jen

    Great article for me to read because I’m flying this week and have had the anticipation anxiety for days. It helps to see how someone else deals with it. I am going to try out some of these tips. I had to laugh at the story of two mochas and a muffin. I have so been there!! It has taken me time to learn my sensitivities and how to take care of myself. The anxiety sometimes feels crippling but it’s just like knowing I can’t have two mochas and a muffin. I also know I have to face and deal with a little (or much) anxiety sometimes, but it CAN be dealt with. It does not have to stop me from living. Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Sofia

    Thank you Tessa for sharing your story. It´s very inspiring and you have come so far. Flying without meds is a big achivement!
    All my best to you,

  • Junaid

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am 29 and suffering from panic attacks and anxiety from 6 yrs. I have the same symptoms like you. I almost feel same. Your story is inspiring to me

    Thanks a lot to Barry too. ?

  • Ana

    Thank you for sharing your post because it gave me hope. I developed generalized anxiety in adulthood. I miss the days I was able to travel by myself. I have not been able to travel on a plane without my husband or my dear friend. I missed my aunt’s funeral because of my fear of flying alone. I don’t want my fear to control my life anymore. I am in therapy and my therapist gave me DARE to read.

  • ashley

    i’m only 16 and i have the fear of getting sick and dyiny (mainly dying). there’s times where my anxiety takes over so much it feels like my throats actually closing. even tho it’s happened before if it happens again i still have trouble believing i won’t die. the feeling i get in my throat feels so real i refuse to believe myself.

  • Malena E Leet

    Thank you Tessa for sharing your story it was nice to read about someone else that deals with the same stuff I do I guess its just nice to know I am not alone. I am 32 yrs old and I have been dealing with anxiety pretty much all my life and its extremely hard to deal with and over the past 6 yrs or so its gotten worse like to the point I can barely leave my house not even to go grocery shopping really and when I do go my boyfriend has to go with me and manauver me through the less crowded part of the store, and I feel so bad for my kids cuz we can’t really go and do anything cuz I don’t feel like its safe and sometimes sitting at home I set myself into a panic and my chest hurts and its hard to breath and during these moments sometimes last 10 to 15 minute its hard to remember how to calm myself down all I think is I am going to die I really hate being like this for me and my family and I feel like no one understands what I am going through I mean I have been in counseling since I was a kid for PTSD, depression, anxiety, and bipolar I feel like a walking, talking mess, I mean my life ain’t all bad, I have been with a really amazing man for 11 yrs and I have two wonderful loving boys and I have everything I need I just wish I could be better for my family I wish I could go one week with out having a anxiety attack or panic over thing hell I would be happy with a couple of days so we could go out and do stuff like a family. I have lived in maine since I was 16 I moved here from Washington state to get a fresh start hoping my fears and stuff would go away but they didn’t in 2008 I forced myself to go visit my sisters in Washington and I took a plane and I panicked the whole way from before I left my house then at the airport I almost didn’t go but my boyfriend told me I would regret it if I didn’t and I had already paid for the ticket so I went still panicking the stewardess tried her best to keep me calm I haven’t went on a trip since and now i have a niece and nephew i have never met because I have to many fears and stuff I even have a hard time going camping even though its in the middle of nowhere. I just hope someday I will be able to get things under control and be able to do more stuff and I hope its while my kids are still young. anyways thanks again for sharing it was truly inspiring and I hope I can learn from your story

  • Rick Woodland

    I am 52 and have had anxiety with severe panic attacks since I was about 19 or 20. At times I’ve had it under control, but in the last year it has really ramped up due to some negative changes at my work.
    After getting some ineffective counselling and asking for advice and tests from several doctors, I found the DARE app and book.
    I find the mantra of “I’m excited by these feelings” can be an almost miraculous cure when I feel a wave of panic hitting.
    DARE is the first thing I’ve ever found that really helped, and I’ve found it is actually very effective.

  • diana

    What a wonderful success story. I love you say to choose the things to tackle, would I really want to do it, go there, if I had no fears is a great question. I’ll never want to cave dive and not doing it does not impact my life. Flying is different – I do want to go places so tackling that makes sense.

    Remember folks – you only actually die once!

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