How To Practice Self Care When Suffering Travel Related Depression And Stress
Last updated on : May 07 2022
People travel for various reasons, such as work, to educate themselves and expand their cultural knowledge, for pleasure and relaxation, and even to become digital nomads.
However, it is not uncommon for travel-related depression and stress to set in no matter the reason. Even if you are traveling for fun or relaxing, it is still possible to start experiencing vacation depression.
It's prevalent for people who travel alone and frequently or for long periods to experience a sort of emptiness while traveling. While this is a common occurrence, and you should not make yourself feel bad about it, there are ways to combat travel depression or prevent it from happening in the first place.
This article will help travelers understand and recognize signs of travel-related stress and depression and give tips and insight on how to overcome their vacation blues.
We'll even look at post-vacation depression and healthy ways you can get back to your routine and find joy in your everyday life.
Understanding Travel-Related Depression
Even if you generally have a happy disposition, you can still experience travel depression. One minute you could be having fun and enjoying your trip, and the next, you feel down and empty — like something is missing.
Travel-related depression is common, especially for those who are frequent travelers. Don't be too hard on yourself if this is something you have ever experienced. And even if you don't travel often, you could still find yourself experiencing the mid-trip blues.
For some, this is lacking a sense of purpose and belonging while traveling among strangers. For others, it is a matter of doing too much and overwhelming themselves or doing too little and not making the most of their trip.
No matter what triggers it, travel depression is natural, but there are ways to prevent and overcome it.
The first step to battling vacation stress and depression is understanding why it's happening and what is triggering these low feelings. The causes can be different for everyone, so there is no one right way to do this, but one good practice is to look at yourself and listen to your wants and needs.
If your trip does not match your "vacation personality," it might be draining you instead of recharging you.
While it's good to push yourself out of your comfort zone when you are traveling, you should also listen to what your mind and body need and do what ultimately makes you happy.
Don't do something simply because you think you should — do it because you want to. Overcoming stress and depression requires doing what you love to feel more positive about your life.
It's also helpful to identify signs and symptoms of stress and depression while traveling. The sooner you recognize that you are falling into a slump, the sooner you can make changes to avoid severe depressive episodes or anxiety from stress.
Some common symptoms of stress and depression while traveling include:
- Low energy
- Body aches and chest pain
- Frequent illness
- Upset stomach
- Constant worrying and focusing on the negatives
- Lack of focus
- Mood swings
- Feeling lonely or isolated
- Feeling a lack of self-worth
- Missing home and loved ones
- Lack of motivation
- Feelings of detachment
Self-Care Tips To Battle Stress And Depression While Traveling
If you start to experience any of the symptoms above while traveling, you may be experiencing the infamous vacation depression and stress.
If these feelings become severe and too overwhelming, do not hesitate to reach out to someone for help. Depression is not something to be ashamed of, and avoiding getting help when needed will often make it worse.
However, there are many ways to pull yourself out of a vacation slump before depression or stress. It's all about paying attention to what your mind and body need and going easy on yourself when necessary.
The tips listed below are great to start if you aren't sure what to do. Everyone is different, as what triggers vacation depression can vary from one person to another. So if one thing doesn't work, move on and try something else.
1. Meditation And Downtime
For some, the stress of a trip starts before they even arrive. Because traveling itself, such as being on a plane or a bus, can be chaotic and stressful.
To mitigate stress and avoid symptoms getting worse later, try meditating while in the airport, on the plane, or even on a bus or a train. If you can start your trip off with a relaxed and open mind from the start, it can help you remain more positive and happy throughout the rest of your vacation.
You can also meditate daily throughout your travels and make time for yourself to be and relax. It's good to plan fun activities and outings for your trip, but you should also make sure you have enough downtime so as not to overwhelm yourself with too much.
2. Find A Sense Of Purpose
If you are someone who lives your daily life with purpose and intention, you may find that traveling can cause you to become depressed if you lose that sense of purpose.
Many people seek to travel and go on vacation to escape and not have to think about anything, but if you are too aimless on your trip, it can feel like your trip is meaningless.
To avoid these feelings, try traveling or starting every day on your trip with intention.
Giving yourself a sense of purpose while traveling can help you find more meaning in what you are experiencing, which can help make the trip more fulfilling.
3. Make Connections
Concerning seeking a sense of purpose, some people also feel happier when they have a sense of belonging.
Traveling solo can sometimes feel very lonely and isolating. So it's essential to make connections when you travel to help give you the feeling that you are part of something and belong, instead of feeling like a stranger in a foreign land.
Many travel groups help connect solo travelers with other travelers or even with the locals. So don't hesitate to strike up a conversation with someone wherever you go, as this could lead to exciting new connections and adventures.
4. Eat Good Foods
One of the best things about traveling is getting to experience new cultural cuisines.
However, eating healthy, nutritious foods while traveling is essential to avoid becoming sick and irritable. If you constantly eat heavy, unhealthy foods while traveling, it can mess with your hormones and digestive system. And eating poorly overall can make you more susceptible to illness and negative moods.
So, don't be afraid to treat yourself and enjoy the local cuisine, but be mindful of your gut and supplement nutritious meals.
Poor eating directly correlates to anxiety and depression, so eating healthy while traveling to avoid vacation depression is essential.
5. Exert Yourself
While many people go on vacation to relax and do nothing but lay in the sun, too much inactivity can lead to symptoms of depression.
Exercise and physical activity also play a role in our hormones and how we feel in our bodies overall. When you lay around too much, your system can become sluggish, leading to negative feelings, fatigue, and an overall feeling of being unwell or down.
So, when traveling, it's essential to balance days or moments of relaxation with days of physical exertion and activity. Getting good exercise on vacation will also help you sleep better at night, which will help you feel more refreshed and in a better mood the next day.
6. Stay In Touch With Loved Ones Back Home
In many cases, travel-related depression can be triggered by feelings of loneliness and missing loved ones back home.
Even if you go on vacation to give yourself a break from certain people, it's okay to find that you miss them. Ignoring these feelings and not admitting that you are lonely and miss your loved ones can make the depression and sadness worse.
If you start to miss someone while traveling, don't hesitate to reach out and connect with them, especially if you are on a long trip.
If it's too expensive to call them long-distance or if you don't have access to internet or cell service, postcards are a fun and great way to connect with people back home.
How To Manage Post Traveling Blues
It is also possible for travelers to experience depressive symptoms after returning from their trip.
Post-travel depression symptoms are widespread, especially for people who are not entirely satisfied with their daily life. Even if you love your life, it's still possible to get the post-vacation blues.
Traveling is very exciting, and it does offer us a sort of escape from our everyday life, and even if that life is a good one, we can still feel sad once we return and are no longer having those fun vacation experiences.
Below are some valuable tips to help you when you are feeling a bit down after returning from a trip:
- Return to a clean space. Returning to a messy home can be stressful, so try to clean as much as you can before leaving for your trip.
- Allow an extra day or two before getting back to work. Forcing yourself to jump right back in can also be stressful. It's helpful to give yourself a bit of breathing room when you return to get settled in.
- Ease into your routine or try shaking things up. Try slowly getting back into your daily routine to help you adjust, or if you are not looking forward to your usual way, try shaking things up and try something new to make your daily life more exciting.
- Focus on the positives. Just as you seek to have fun on your vacation, try to find the fun and good things you enjoy about your daily home life. If you see the vacation as an escape from a bad life, you will struggle to feel happy once you return.
- Look back on your trip with fond memories. If you need a serotonin boost, don't be afraid to look back and reflect on the good times you had. It's okay to acknowledge that your trip was fantastic and that you'd rather be there while also finding ways to enjoy your everyday life.
- Start planning your next trip. Immediately planning your next trip can keep you happy and motivated in your home and work life by giving you something to look forward to and work towards.
Though it is common for people to experience depression on vacation or even once they return, it does not mean you have to continue putting up with these negative feelings.
Vacation-related depression is usually a sign that something isn't lining up, and you need to pay closer attention to what your mind and body want and need.
Traveling is a form of self-care in and of itself, but it's still important to take extra steps to take care of yourself to ensure you are having a good time.
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Editor: Charles Fitzgerald