Navigating Mental Health While Travelling: Personal Insights and Tips

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 13, 2024 20:30 PMNews
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Man beside white frame window. Source: unsplash

Travel presents a unique set of challenges for those of us dealing with mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. The joy of exploring new places comes with its own stresses—from navigating unfamiliar environments to dealing with the unexpected. With Mental Health Awareness Week around the corner, here are some personal strategies I’ve developed over the years to manage mental health on the road.

Pre-Travel Preparations: A Key to Stability

One crucial lesson I’ve learned is the importance of maintaining a consistent medication routine. A significant change right before a trip, like discontinuing antidepressants I had used for years, led to a challenging experience in New Zealand marked by panic attacks and mood swings. To mitigate such issues, I now ensure any major changes to my medication are well-tested before I travel. It's also vital to know how to access medical facilities at your destination and understand the local laws concerning prescription medications.

Reducing Anxiety Through Thoughtful Planning

To lessen travel-related anxiety, I've refined my approach over the years:

  • Allow Ample Connection Time: I never book a layover shorter than 90 minutes to avoid the stress of rushing through an airport.
  • Prepare Entertainment: Downloading movies, books, or music helps make any waiting times or delays more bearable.
  • Choose the Right Travel Group: For solo trips, I opt for small group tours that provide a balance of structured activities and free time, which alleviates the stress of planning and ensures some company.

Post-Trip Strategies: Avoiding the Blues

The end of a trip can often bring a sense of loss or sadness. To combat this, I plan a small treat for myself like a day trip or a nice dinner upon return, and if possible, I take an extra day off work to ease back into my routine.

Finding Deeper Meaning in Travel

Travel can sometimes feel superficial in an age where every destination has been Instagrammed a thousand times. To counteract this, I try to engage more deeply with each location:

  • Set a Goal: This could be as simple as learning a few phrases in the local language or understanding a city's architectural style.
  • Digital Detox: Periodically disconnecting from electronic devices helps me engage more fully with my surroundings.

Managing Expectations

Inspired by Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel, I’ve learned to accept that travel isn’t always a series of perfect moments. The mundane aspects of travel are real, and things do not always go according to plan. Embracing this reality helps manage my expectations and reduces disappointment.

Physical Health is Mental Health

Finally, maintaining physical health is crucial. Simple things like staying hydrated, eating well, and keeping to a sleep schedule are vital. On one trip, dehydration exacerbated my anxiety until I took the time to properly rehydrate and rest.

Traveling with depression and anxiety isn’t always easy, but with the right preparations and mindset, it can still be incredibly rewarding. These personal strategies have helped me turn potential breakdowns into breakthroughs, making my travel experiences enriching and therapeutic.

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