It’s natural not to pay much attention to mental health concerns when you’re busy planning for a fun trip away, especially after being cooped up at home more over the past year or so due to the global pandemic.
However, some people find that their depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or other challenges flare up when they’re away or come on out of the blue, perhaps due to the stress and change involved with being in new places. As such, it’s a good idea to have some tools in your mental health tool kit to help you cope when you’re somewhere different.
Speak with An Online Therapist
Firstly, just because you may not be at home, this doesn’t mean you have to stop speaking with your therapist. If you typically chat with them once a fortnight, week, or more regularly, you may not want to miss any sessions while away. Find out if your current practitioner or another therapist offers online therapy sessions via Zoom, Skype, or another videoconferencing program.
You may have to contend with different time zones when making bookings if you’re going to be somewhere far away, but you should find at least some times when both you and your therapist can be free to talk. Keeping in touch this way will ensure you don’t lose momentum or regress while you travel.
Check-In with Family and Friends
Similarly, try to stay in touch regularly with your family and friends while you’re away. Their support and the sense of familiarity you get from chatting with them, even if only by text message or social media interactions, can help keep you grounded and feeling tethered to your ordinary life. It also reminds you that you’re loved and missed.
Take steps to ensure you can stay in touch with people while away. For example, select an appropriate phone plan so you can chat with them affordably or use a handy free tool such as WhatsApp to communicate. Sorting this out before you leave for your trip will help you avoid the anxiety that can come from worrying about your phone bill when you get the next statement.
Use Techniques to Calm Your System
You can use many techniques to calm your mind and body while away if you feel your mind deteriorating. You might already do some of these when you’re at home, but don’t forget to keep up the practice while on a trip, too.
For instance, spend time meditating or deep breathing, complete some yoga or other stretching, do some journaling to get your negative thoughts out of your head, or go for a long walk in the sunshine and, preferably, surrounded by nature.
Bring Reminders of Home with You
The unfamiliarity that comes with most travel can be a bit disorienting for all of us, but especially for those with mental health conditions. As such, it pays to find an item or two that remind you of home and bring you immediate comfort to put in your suitcase.
For example, you could bring your favorite hat or PJs, beauty products, pillow, novel, or the like. You might even want to bring a souvenir or special memento that reminds you of a precious time in your life, or a place, or person.
Don’t Forget Your Medication
Another tip is to ensure you take plenty of medication with you if you’re currently on a particular drug to help with your mental health challenges. Bring more medicine than you think you might need just in case your trip has to get extended.
Plus, pack some in a carry-on bag or backpack and some in your bigger suitcase, so if one stack gets lost or stolen, you still have some medication on hand. It’s also essential to take a prescription with you on your trip in case you have toget more medication urgently.
Eat Well and Get Enough Sleep
As is the case when you’re at home, when away, you need to eat well and get plenty of quality rest to feel your best self. Even though it can be tricky eating healthily when overseas or otherwise in a different location, find ways to locate better food options. Take some snack items with you and pick up nutritious ingredients from local stores or markets while away. When dining out, choose healthier options such as salads, meat and vegetables, curries, and the like.
As for sleep, stay in decent places where you can access a quality bed and take your regular pillow away with you if you find you get neck and shoulder or other discomfort issues when using accommodation-provided options. Choose hotels or other spots with blackout drapes to shut out light and places that aren’t too noisy, such as on a train line or above a bar.
Some other ways to boost your mental health self-care when away include leaving room in your itinerary for downtime, rather than making it continually action-packed, and setting realistic expectations for yourself.
Traveling is a fun and immersive experience that can change lives for the better. However, if you have mental health issues, you may need to be more proactive to set yourself up for a successful trip.