As far as I can remember, I have always loved to travel. But as far as I can remember, I have also always had to deal with mental health issues. And, just as my need to travel grows with time, so mental disorders tend to grow with it. Let’s say that both of them don’t go well together!
It’s a real challenge because they affect deeply my ability to travel while living with bipolar and general anxiety disorders is hard, traveling with them even is even harder. A lot of mental disorders come with mental instability. or me, this means that I can never really know how I am going to feel the next day, or even the next afternoon.
Am I going to be able to sleep, to eat? Am I going to wake up depressed or okay? Am I going to be able to socialize or even just to get out of bed? On top of that, add a huge spoonful of anxiety and you have an amazing mixture of insecurities, depression, intense stress, mood swings, and insomnia, to name a few symptoms.
The possibilities of the uncertainty never end, and traveling is the land of the unknown.
Stability in your life is key to good mental health. And, having a stable environment is a must to attain stability. However, when traveling, everything changes all the time--places, weather, where and when you sleep, people you hang out with, and even what you eat.
Each time you move, you lose all your landmarks and you have to do it all over again.
All those changes can be unsettling and discouraging. Being far away from everything that you know, your cocoon where you feel safe, your habits that secure your day, your support system that makes you feel loved… Yeah, it’s hard!
Even if you’re on a beautiful beach in Bali, sipping on a daiquiri on a sunny day, you can still feel terrible. And, the fact that you are not able to enjoy being on that beautiful beach in Bali--this makes you feel even more ungrateful and bad about yourself. Yes, this is how I was feeling on a daily basis for a while, and it wasn’t fun.
Fortunately, with time, I’m starting to get much better at managing my depression and anxiety while traveling! I have developed a few tricks and habits that help me deal with bipolar depression and anxiety while traveling. Here are a few that might also do the trick for you:
Create your own stability.
Because your environment is unstable, you have to create stability for yourself. That means having a routine and being consistent no matter where you are. If possible, try to eat and sleep approximately at the same time
For me, one thing that is really important is having a bedtime routine and a morning routine. At night, I like to take a warm shower, stretch, listen to a meditation podcast and read a little before turning the lights off. It can take only thirty minutes, so I can fit this in pretty much every night, everywhere.
In the morning, I try to eat as soon as I wake up and go for a little walk, even if it’s just five minutes, because it directly cuts all the negative thoughts and anxiety. The repetition of these actions creates a familiarity that is reassuring and gives an impression of being in control.
Stay connected with your support system.
This can be easily done in the digital era we live in! If you have good enough Wi Fi, even at the other end of the world with a sixteen hours time difference, you can communicate with anyone at anytime. Knowing that you can have support when needed is calming.
Practice healthy habits.
Good sleep, healthy eating, and reasonable alcohol intake will all support your mental well being. There is no secret for good physical and mental health! Take care of your body and you will also take care of your mind. If you are not physically strong enough, your moods will be all over the place and you won’t be able to control your anxiety and depression at all.
Don’t overdo it.
You don’t have to visit every possible place You don’t have to go out every night just because you are on a vacation. You don’t have to drink just because everyone is partying. You don’t have to do all the activities possible just because you have time to. You do you; it’s your trip!
Don’t force it.
Accept the fact that you can’t enjoy every moment of your trip.
If you are reading this and you have a mental disorder, you already know that it’s hard to enjoy life in general.
So, give yourself a break. Your depression or anxiety won’t magically go away just because you are “supposed to” have a good time on vacation. Go with the flow. If it feels good, it’s great. If it feels bad, so be it. The moment will always pass eventually, whether good or bad.
These are the basis of my self-created stability. After sticking to them for awhile, it started to have an real positive impact on how I was feeling. I hope this will also have a positive impact on you, and I wish you safe travels! You can do it!
So, where are you traveling to next?