Traveling is a thrilling and exciting experience. But long hours cramped on a plane, being constantly exposed to strange people and environments, and unpredictable schedules can be incredibly draining on an individual’s physical and mental health.
It almost seems paradoxical—traveling is meant to help you relax and unwind, but it can also negatively impact your mental health if precautions aren’t taken. The downsides of travel can be especially heightened for those living with mental health challenges like depression or anxiety; traveling can exacerbate symptoms and make them harder to manage.
With the right knowledge and tools, you can have an amazing travel experience by being mindful of how you travel. Here are 5 practical ways to look after your mental health while traveling:
- Stay active. Even though you may be on holiday, it doesn’t mean that you should completely forgo exercise. On the contrary, staying active is crucial to maintaining good mental health, but particularly if you are eating more than usual on your travels. This can be as simple as waking up an extra half an hour in the morning to go for a walk, making use of the hotel pool, practicing online yoga or pilates exercises in the comfort of your room, or opting to include more physical activities on your holidays like kayaking, hiking, or swimming.
- Know your limits. It can be enticing to try to cram every waking minute with sightseeing and must-sees on your itinerary. But remember, you don’t have to do everything on your checklist; it’s okay to miss out every now and then, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t making the most of your travels. Be gentle on yourself and recognize when you need some time alone. Also, set limits on partying—too much alcohol and late nights can result in fatigue, moodiness, and an overall lack of energy. Don’t feel guilty for having a few nights where you stay in to watch a movie or get a massage instead of hitting the town.
- Eat a balanced diet. As tempting as it is to try as many local and street foods as possible, you don’t have to do this for every meal. It’s important to nourish your body with as much fruit, vegetables, and water now and again to keep your body and mind operating at its optimum. An easy way to do this is by packing nuts and fruits in your bag to snack throughout the day or occasionally choosing the vegan or vegetarian meal options. Studies have shown how important gut health is for your mental health, and if your diet is not balanced, your mind won’t be either.
- Develop good sleeping habits. Time zones, jet lag, and noisy roommates all wreak havoc on healthy sleeping patterns. Missing more than one night of sleep has been associated with poor decision-making skills and an increased risk of illness and disease. Getting quality sleep may mean using a neck pillow and listening to a meditation app when you are on a red-eye flight. While you’re at it, prepare your body for your next destination by adjusting your watch to the local time. It may also mean avoiding caffeine in the form of coffee and green tea before you doze off and consuming a relaxing drink like chamomile instead.
- Keep connected with your support network back home. It’s great to meet a new group of friends on your travels, but it’s just as crucial to stay connected with those who love and know you well, particularly in times you feel lonely or homesick. Talking to someone you love, even if it’s via webcam, can meet the needs for familiarity, connection, and comfort and give you much that much-needed boost of encouragement. Professional help is never far away either; online therapy platforms like betterhelp.com means that you can connect with an affordable licensed mental health professional wherever you are in the world.
As wonderful as travel is for your confidence and self-esteem, it can be even better when your mental health is at its optimum. With balance, boundary-setting and loving support, you can travel like a pro and fully experience the richness the world has to offer.
Marie Miguel Biography
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.