If you experience anxiety or depression while at home, it doesn’t just go away once you board a plane, as much as we all wish that were true. The key to controlling those feelings while you travel is to have a self-care plan. Caring for yourself while traveling is not complicated. The hard part is remembering to do it.
Here are some helpful tips for practicing self-care on the road, compiled by this month’s guest writer. He’ll help you determine what self-care looks like, figure out what items to pack for your trip, and suggest things to do to ease anxiety and depression while you travel.
Guest post by Dennis Caruthers
Caring for yourself while traveling sounds simple and straightforward but it can often be a challenge.
Traveling exposes you to all kinds of new experiences, but when you travel frequently it is all too easy to become distracted.
So, being mindful of what you need to do to care for yourself may move to the back burner. This article provides tips for practicing self-care and ways to address anxiety and depression on the road.
What is self-care?
Self-care has quite a few different meanings. But at its core, self-care is an action or set of actions that promote well-being. This means doing things you enjoy or taking actions to make yourself happy.
Simple examples of self-care include:
- Sleeping when you’re tired
- Building in extra time to get somewhere
- Finding a restroom when you need it instead of waiting to stop
Read More: How Travel Forces Me to Face My Fears
The importance of self-care while traveling
Traveling is supposed to be an enjoyable activity. For people that travel a few times a year for vacations and events, it’s a chance to get away from everyday life. When traveling is a regular part of life, for location independents or digital nomads, it’s difficult to get settled when things around you constantly change.
Luckily, there are small things that you can do to practice self-care such as:
Meditation – Many apps exist that focus on meditation. By taking a few minutes out of your day, meditation helps settle the mind, improve focus, and increase productivity. It can be done anywhere – even in an airport.
Coloring or journaling – These are also relaxing activities that free up the mind. They require concentration on a picture or recalling the events of the day. They provide similar benefits to meditation for those who prefer an activity with movement.
Create a morning routine – One featuring an activity from above, or others such as reading or yoga, help get the day off to a good start. The activity you choose for a morning routine is whatever makes you happy. By carving out time for yourself, particularly in the morning, you’ll be able to give and get more out of the rest of your day.
Have self-care tools at the ready
Figuring out what to bring on a trip, especially an extended one is tricky. Don’t forget to bring some self-care tools with you like:
- Magazines or books
- A favorite pillow
- Water bottle
- Snacks to carry on the go
- Basic medications and vitamins
- Favorite clothing items
These are things that you have at home already. By making sure to bring favorite items with you on the road, you’re taking a piece of home with you. You’ll be happier and healthier for it and able to enjoy the journey ahead more than without them.
Read More: Ultimate Healthy Travel Kit
Don’t forget your normal
Being in different places while traveling disrupts normal routines like going to the gym, taking a long bath, or getting help when you need it. It’s still important to follow your normal routine even if you have to modify them. They not only help ease the stress of travel but also keep you healthy.
At the beginning and end of each travel day, bathe and groom using your favorite products. It makes you feel good and will prevent things like rashes or other minor health issues you might pick up on the road when not paying attention.
Set aside time for exercise, too. If you normally go to a gym, try to find a facility close by, or if you’re a runner, don’t forget to pack your good running shoes. It can be the first thing you do in the morning or a good end to the day. Also, incorporate a lot of walking time in your sightseeing schedule and hit two birds with one stone.
All of us have things that we need help or assistance with at home, and the same goes for when we travel. Just because you aren’t at home doesn’t mean you need to do everything yourself. Budget some of your travel money for small conveniences like renting a decent vehicle, tipping someone for carrying your bags, or room service charges.
Anxiety and depression during travel
Anxiety and depression are two common conditions that people travel with. It might be a chronic condition or simply situational. No matter what type it is, dealing with it away from home might seem impossible.
This notion actually keeps a lot of people from traveling in the first place, but anxiety and depression are not necessarily deal breakers for hopeful travelers. You will need an honest assessment of the condition of your mental health before you plan any trips, though.
Each person’s situation is unique, so talk to your doctor or therapist about any plans to travel. They may have suggestions about your medication (if you use any), how to seek therapy while abroad, or certain activities to do/avoid while you travel.
While we are all unique, some things remain the same across the board. In addition to practicing the types of self-care described throughout the article if you exercise, eat well, and stick to a routine during the day you’ll start off great.
Here are more ideas for self-care on the road
Keep partying to a minimum – Alcohol is a depressant in and of itself. Drinking more than usual, as we are wont to do when we travel and experience new things and make new friends, can contribute to feelings of depression. The same goes for drugs. If frequent partying happens at your accommodation, consider moving to another place or find another group of friends.
Don’t spend all your time online – Technology is a great wonder but no one needs to know what their family and friends are up to every minute of the day. Socialize with the actual people around you. Even if it’s a low-key conversation or two, face to face time helps alleviate anxiety and depression.
Be kind to yourself – Give yourself a break at regular intervals. Traveling is exhausting at times. There’s nothing wrong with sleeping when you’re tired and eating dinner in your room while watching a movie after a long day. Take care of yourself and don’t ever feel like you need to apologize for doing so.
Bring your medication – If you take medication for mental health, bring enough for the duration of the trip. Avoid a hospital visit, and check for interactions with over the counter medications you might need during your trip, and the effects of alcohol. If your trip is longer, make sure you know how to refill your medications away from home, especially if you’re going out of the country. This will require a talk with your doctor like mentioned above.
Be honest – Tell those around you how you’re feeling so that frustrations don’t fester between people.
Write out your feelings – Journaling is relaxing and it can also help you cope with depression or anxiety. Expressing your feelings through writing may help you sort through the feelings on your own time and in your own way.
Send postcards home – Even if you’re just sending postcards home to family and friends, it can help relieve depression or anxiety. It will help you to focus on the positive aspects of your trip and the different sights and sounds around you. It will feel good to get out of your own head and do something nice for someone else.
Play with animals – Interactions with dogs and cats (and other animals) is shown to help depression and anxiety. Taking the time to play for a little while might help you feel much better if these things come calling.
Caring for yourself while traveling is not complicated. The hard part is remembering to do it. The little things like eating well, sleeping, and packing the essentials can go a long way to having a successful trip.
Knowing your limits and stressors is also important towards managing depression or anxiety as they arise. Enjoy your travels as you take them but don’t be afraid to care for yourself as you need to.
About the author
D. Scott Carruthers is a travel enthusiast and photographer. He is passionate about his travels and offers useful information about the different beaches and places he has been to on his website, Dennis Scott Carruthers Travels.
Become a guest writer
If you’re a traveler with stories related to mental health & wellness and you want to share them here, take a look at my Guest Post Guidelines. Or join the growing Transformed Thru Travel Community on Facebook. It’s an encouraging and kind community for anyone who struggles with mental health issues but desperately wants to travel, and those who travel despite mental health issues. Let’s help each other travel more, with a purpose – to be transformed thru travel.
From other guest writers
- How I Overcame Panic Attacks to Travel the World
- How Travel Helped Me Recover From an Eating Disorder
- Overcoming Depression and Traveling Despite the Odds
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