How to look after your mental health when travelling
Digital team's blog
Travelling abroad is something that many people with anxiety find difficult. Sian has taken her first solo trip abroad with great success, and is now sharing her tips on how to travel with anxiety!
The thought of going on a trip can be incredibly daunting, particularly if you are travelling alone, or if you suffer from a form of anxiety. That being said, there are a number of ways to make travelling with mental illness manageable.
In the middle of May 2017 I embarked on my first ever solo trip, and spent a week visiting various locations in Arizona, California and Nevada. I found that by employing a variety of techniques before and during my travels, my worries greatly subsided.
My tips are as follows…
Prepare as much as you can
If you are like me, you may procrastinate when it comes to preparing for events that cause you some anxiety. In the run up to my trip, I was surprised to find a decrease in my anxiety levels by taking small steps to prepare. Through completing one task a day, such as purchasing a train ticket online or changing money into another currency, I felt as though I was steadily moving forward and on top of everything. This also decreased any feelings of being overwhelmed and thoughts that I was just watching the days pass.
Get to know the route
When travelling, it is not unusual to be visiting unfamiliar locations. Even the route to a station or airport may be unknown to you. Whether you are travelling via bus, train, tube or car, it can feel reassuring to know the route your mode of transport will take. Recognising the stops before my own, and knowing the length of time it will take to get to my destination, stopped me from frantically battling with a bad phone signal to scope out where I needed to go next. This meant I reached the airport without feeling flustered or pushed for time.
Give yourself enough time
Speaking of time, give yourself as much of it as you possibly can. When I am rushing I easily become stressed, and this causes the subsequent amount of anxiety I may experience to increase tenfold. Additional time acts as a buffer, allowing you to take delays or other unforeseen circumstances into account, without pressure or constraint.
Use grounding techniques
Being surrounded by new sights, sounds, and smells can be a bit of a sensory overload. This can be channelled into manageable chunks though, by breaking the experience down into five groups of five. Identifying five new things you can smell, see, hear, taste and touch, brings you back into the present moment and out of your mind. Viewing everything one by one, rather than all together at once, feels more like taking it step by step, rather than jumping in at the deep end.
Keep in touch
You are never alone; and this is no different when it comes to travelling - even if you are travelling solo. There will always be a way to secure a phone signal or connect to the internet to talk to a loved one and someone you trust. Not only does updating someone grant you both peace of mind and increase your safety, but a near constant dialogue is perfect for voicing concerns and gaining reassurance. They say a problem shared is a problem halved, and being able to talk something through, no matter how big or small, is so beneficial.
Good luck and safe travels!
If you would like to hear more from Sian you can follow her blog, Twitter and Instagram!