Taking Care of Your Mental Health During Travel (5 Tips)
As expats, we know all about travel! We’ve done it for work or for love or to seek a better life… We’ve done it for holidays, home visits and reunions, or to repatriate. And although travel can bring fun, novelty and adventure to our lives, the stresses associated with it are often underestimated. Alexandra Bardot shares some practical tips to care for yourself during your travels.
Travel has incredible benefits for our mental health. It’s stimulating, offers a new perspective on our lives, and feeds our creativity. We get to try new things and meet new people; disconnect from the routine of daily life; and enjoy a well-deserved rest.
But even seasoned travellers may find themselves struggling with their mental health while travelling. This is partly because it can be more difficult to find familiarity or set up a routine, especially as you navigate time zone changes, long journeys and new places. And even though we appear to be coming out of the worst of it, the pandemic has made travel feel more uncertain as we try to keep up with the ever-changing travel requirements, try not to get sick, and keep in mind a plan B (just in case…).
Some of us also experience fear around travelling to a place where we don’t speak the language, and have to get around and fend for ourselves. And for others, it’s the actual travel that causes anxiety to flare up: fear of flying is common and some suffer from a clinical phobia of flying (aviophobia).
Fortunately there are plenty of tips and techniques that you can practice and take with you on your journeys. The key is to focus on skills that you can use anywhere, and on simple tools that don’t require fancy equipment or additional luggage.
5 Practical Tips to Support Your Mental Health While Travelling
1. Do some advance preparation
Travel brings change, and there are steps we can take to feel more ready for change, like accepting that it brings a complexity of feelings – which is perfectly normal. We can also approach this change with curiosity and the right attitude, remembering that expanding our comfort zone can be fun and help us to grow. You may also want to consider learning a few phrases of the local language before you leave and checking out online support groups, especially expat groups, if you’re staying for an extended period.
2. Ask for help
Remember: you are not alone! There are many travellers like you, and help can always be found. Don’t be shy to ask locals or other travellers for assistance if you’re feeling lost or unsure. If you’re dealing with a fear of flying, it can help to talk it through with a therapist, or attend a course with an airline that is focused on helping you tackle this.
3. Set boundaries
When you’re surrounded by new people, exciting opportunities and plenty to see, it can be hard to say no – and easy to feel FOMO! Unfortunately, saying yes to everything can leave you feeling tired and overwhelmed. If you’re on a home visit, it’s especially important to set clear boundaries so that you have time to replenish. Decide what you can manage, realistically, and stick to that. Let people know kindly that this is what you need to feel rested and to connect more deeply with them – this will help to manage their expectations.
4. Ground yourself
The five senses grounding technique is a simple and effective way to turn your attention away from your worries and return to the present moment. It doesn’t take long, can be practised anywhere and is easy to weave into your day. Simply bring your awareness to the room or space around you and identify one thing for each of the five senses – something you can see, something you can smell, something you can touch, something you can hear and something you can taste.
Deep breathing can help slow your pulse and help you regain a sense of control. Breathe in through your nose for five seconds, hold the breath for five seconds, and then let out a sigh from your mouth for seven seconds.
Making time to take care of yourself during your travels will help you to feel safer and more empowered – and to really enjoy your travels and make the most of the new experiences on offer. We wish you safe and happy travels! May you enjoy them to the fullest!
Which aspects of expat travel do you most enjoy? What do you find stressful? We’d also love to hear your tips!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alexandra Bardot is a media consultant who has written for a number of publications on travel, health and lifestyle issues. She has also travelled extensively in her quest to expand her views and experience different cultures.