Fear of flying in airplanes? Anxiety about trying new things or seeing new places? Becoming overly obsessed with sticking to the itinerary? Not feeling able to leave family?
These are all common things people think of before departing on a new trip. These struggles can even prevent people from booking a ticket at all. My personal aim and passion is to encourage people to travel and experience the world in the best way possible for them. Thankfully, with a Master’s in Clinical Psychology, I am on my way to fulfilling this life long goal. I love to help people through difficult times in their life in pursuit of a bigger purpose and their overall happiness. I think travel can help with that.
Traveling itself can have various psychological benefits, such as an increase in positive mood and a decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression. But, of course, this does not mean hopping on the flight to the next city will ameliorate all personal problems or struggles with mental health.
So, how does one maintain their mental health when on the go?
• Think ahead and prepare…but not too much.
When you arrive at your destination, whether it is for business or pleasure, it can be beneficial to have an idea of what you would like to do and the time frame for those events. It is also important to note not to be overly obsessed with sticking to the itinerary. Traveling comes with surprises, and it will be valuable to prepare for deviations from the plan. I am an itinerary crazed person; I have been making daily schedules ever since I can remember. Naturally, when I have a trip planned I make a detailed list of what I would like to accomplish on the trip. I am continuously reminding myself that it is okay to take time to explore the city away from an itinerary. Some of my best trips and memories have been unplanned!
• Create ways to manage mental health issues before you embark on your trip.
If you know you have symptoms of anxiety, depression, or panic, think about creating a list of ways to relieve these symptoms while away from home. This will be helpful when any symptoms begin to arise. This list may include things such as, listening to calming music before you fall asleep, completing a mindfulness exercise, talking a walk, writing down your thoughts in a diary or journal, or calling someone from home for support
• Take care of yourself.
Traveling may translate into a loss of sleep and an imbalanced workout regimen for some. This does not have to be the case. Recognize how many hours of sleep per night allow you to feel the most rested and comfortable. If you work out regularly, traveling does not have to mean abandonment from your exercise routine. Take time in your schedule to attend to your physical health as you would at home. Maintaining your physical health lends itself to many psychological benefits. Taking a brisk 30 minute walk or continuing your regular exercise routine can improve sleep quality, mood, and boost energy. This may be easier to accomplish in some types of trips compared to others. It is far simpler to exercise while walking many miles in the streets of New York City rather than relaxing on the beaches of Malibu.
• Meet other travelers.
Connecting with others is an amazing way to maintain your mental health. Traveling has the possibility to be a lonely experience. Strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you on the plane. Take the time to learn something new about the culture and people of the place you are traveling. Forming these connections with others can help decrease symptoms of anxiety or depression, and help improve your overall well-being.
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• Be mindful and stay grateful!
This is perhaps the most important tip to maintain your mental health on the go. Be mindful of the sounds and sights around you. Take the time each day to breathe deeply and attentively to ground you in the experience of traveling. Traveling is one of the most beautiful and gratifying experiences a person can have. Mindfulness of the “here and now” can help you to enjoy the experience of traveling and avoid worrying about the future, and focus on the present. I love the moments when I can stop and close my eyes in the middle of a busy city square and enjoy the sounds of the different languages and laughter around me.
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