Travel How ASMR Can Help With Travel Anxiety

02:20  13 november  2019
02:20  13 november  2019 Source:   cntraveler.com

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If you’ve ever turned to YouTube on a sleepless night, it’s possible that you’ve encountered the wide-eyed, soft-spoken work of Emma Smith. Better known as Emma WhispersRed, of WhispersRed ASMR, the 40-year-old Brit has been producing calm-inducing videos since early 2013, after a bad car accident left her searching for ways to soothe her PTSD.

Once considered an odd, even creepy, activity, ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is shorthand primarily for a tingling sensation in the scalp. It's activated by certain triggers like back scratching, hair brushing, fingernail tapping, and whispering, which ultimately leave the viewer feeling relaxed. Bob Ross's sedative painting tutorials are often considered one early, unintentional example of the form. Over the last few years, ASMR and its proponents have inched their way into the mainstream, with the help of franchises like W magazine's YouTube video series, in which different celebrities explore ASMR. (Cardi B’s rendition has more than 30 million views.)

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Smith, whose channel has more than 830,000 subscribers, continues to film videos, these days in a specially constructed soundproof “Tingle Shed” in her garden in south London. But the whispering virtuoso is still working to normalize ASMR, even pushing for its recognition as a complementary therapy. (As for its relationship to travel, she’s hoping to one day see ASMR videos offered on airplane seat backs, and incorporated into airline dopp kits, including items like a small head massager.)

“ASMR has gone through so many different stages,” says Smith. “I try and stay involved and talk about it as much as I can, and take away from the 'weird' aspect.” We checked in with Smith, whose book, Unwind Your Mind: The Life-Changing Power of ASMR hits shelves stateside November 12, to see how she keeps her cool when she’s in transit—and the answers might surprise you.

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a woman taking a selfie: Emma Smith, of WhispersRed ASMR© Courtesy Emma WhispersRed Emma Smith, of WhispersRed ASMR

Rethink the safety demonstration

Tuning into the pre-takeoff safety tutorial—which essentially acknowledges flying's worst-case scenario—might feel counterproductive to solving travel jitters, but Smith believes you can reframe the presentation as an exercise in mindfulness. “That can be quite an anxious moment, because you’re thinking about all these things that can happen," she says. "But concentrate on [the flight attendants’] movements, and what they’re doing, and the colors of everything—the colors on the card, and the colors on the life jacket, and what they’re wearing, and their facial expressions—and be more conscious of what’s happening in front of you, rather than focusing on what could happen.” Watch carefully, as you would in an ASMR video, how they put the life jacket on and smooth it down, or the way they make eye contact with you while they’re motioning forward; the demonstration can become hypnotic, rather than unnerving.

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Forget the fancy gadgets

Sure, you could throw a pair of pricey noise-canceling headphones in your Amazon cart—but you could also try a slightly less fussy, and definitely less expensive, alternative: earplugs. “I really like them because they kind of put me into a cocoon,” says Smith. “If anybody’s talking, the sound of their voice goes into the background, and all you hear is this low-frequency rumble. It’s a bit like being in the womb.” The white noise created by the small foam pieces lulls you to sleep, she says, or at the very least, into a high-level state of relaxation where you can’t hear anything specific. Smith also brings along a “very basic” neck pillow, made of material that's “really, really soft on my cheeks.” On the whole, though, Smith shies away from fancy extras, relying instead on her senses to engage in mindfulness practices that help her relax. “I just think we’re losing our natural ability to feel [ASMR],” she says. “It’s a natural skill that we all have. We need to learn it, just to be more present and to listen.” Trust your brain, in other words, and train it to better adapt to its surroundings.

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a close up of a logo: Emma Smith's Unwind Your Mind: The Life-Changing Power of ASMR© Condé Nast Traveler Emma Smith's Unwind Your Mind: The Life-Changing Power of ASMR

Grab hold of something

Smith isn’t necessarily saying you should invest in a fidget spinner before your next flight—but having something to occupy your hands can help ground you in your physical environment, especially when you’re anxious. “We give these little fidget toys to our children, and we don’t necessarily consider that we as adults might need something like that,” she says. “It’s not that you have to have some great gadget that costs a fortune—just a piece of crinkly paper, or anything that you like, whether it’s the texture of it or the sound it makes.” Having a token to fixate on, says Smith, diverts your attention from the negative, nervous feelings you're experiencing in that moment. You can also try taking a magazine out of the seat back, and smoothing down the pages with your hands. “It’s about feeling our environment a bit more, so that we feel more present where we are," she says.

How to deal with anxiety, beyond ASMR

“I avoid coffee before flying because that would just make me more anxious,” says Smith. She also drinks coconut water instead of regular water, but not because the former is trendy. “I used to get swollen legs on the airplane from dehydration,” she says. “I was drinking water, but I wasn’t getting properly hydrated, because I didn’t have enough electrolytes." There's the 4-7-8 breathing technique, too, which Smith describes in the book, and of which she's an advocate. (Breathe out, emptying your lungs completely; breathe in through the nose for four seconds; hold the breath for seven seconds; exhale through the mouth for eight seconds; and repeat, until the panic clears.) She's also on the Calm app, which, similarly to ASMR videos, aids listeners in guided meditation and falling asleep. (Several years ago, the platform asked her to record a sleep story.) “They have guided breathing techniques and stories on there—all kinds of different things.”

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