How to Maintain Mental Health While Traveling

by Oscar Collins
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mental health while traveling

A consistent routine is vital to maintaining your mental health. So, how do you keep yourself in good condition when you’re away from home, far from the people and items that comfort you? Few travelers take their therapists along on holiday, after all. And with that in mind, we want you to stay happy and healthy while globetrotting. Here are our tips to maintain your mental health while traveling.

Angor Wat

(Photo by Nancy Zaffaro)

1. Explore the Local Cuisine

One fact remains consistent no matter where in the world you find yourself — you have to eat. Part of the adventure of traveling entails savoring the local flavors. As such, make one of your first missions seeking out a farm-to-table establishment where you can enjoy the freshest authentic regional cuisine.

Food is excellent for your mental health in several ways. One, it makes you feel sated and nurtured, producing a mild euphoria that can help distract those struggling with addiction from thoughts of using.

Additionally, some foods have mental health perks, and most are plant-based in a win for vegans everywhere. For example, nuts have high magnesium and selenium levels, both critical for healthy neurotransmitter balance.

local food maintain mental health

(Photo by Nancy Zaffaro)

2. Go on an Active Adventure

Exercise is another excellent way to nurture your mental health while on the road. It helps in several ways. For one, those juicy endorphins that flow once you get moving produce a mild euphoria that makes you feel good. It even acts as a natural opioid to relieve mild chronic pain. Discomfort in such patients can cause considerable anxiety and depression when traveling — you worry if a flare will ruin your trip.

Another way exercise helps preserve your mental health is by balancing your hormones. For example, excess cortisol production from too much stress can disrupt the balance of your neurotransmitters, leading to depressive symptoms. Moderate exercise, such as going for a half-hour walk around a foreign city, helps to decrease this stress hormone’s levels, improving your mental state.

be active maintain mental health while traveling

(Photo by Nancy Zaffaro)

3. Choose Your Transportation Wisely

If you have anxiety, PTSD or both, getting lost can trigger severe symptoms. Renting a car might not be your best bet if the thought of merging into rush-hour traffic in a strange city makes you nervous.

Public transportation offers the security of knowing you will get to your destination — the subway won’t suddenly depart for a strange part of town. However, you might feel more comfortable walking or renting an e-bike if you shy away from crowds. It’s easier to retrace your steps and identify landmarks along the way so that you can find your way back to your hotel.

4. Bring Sobriety Reminders

Is your 1-year coin your most prized possession? If so, bring it with you on your trip.

Sobriety reminders, like chips, serve as a measure of your progress. Sometimes, the fear of undoing all the good you have done is enough to help you resist that, “just this once — you’re on holiday” temptation.

5. Stay in Contact With Your Support System

If the pandemic taught humans one thing, it’s that there’s more than one way to connect. You might not have your treatment team on the road with you — but can you reach them virtually if need be?

Talk to your therapist before you depart. Everyone has different rules and treatment guidelines, but yours may have no problem if you text them for support when need be. Additionally, some mental health apps offer real-time texting with qualified professionals.

You should always let folks at home know your travel plans. Why not establish routine check-ins with someone you trust? You’ll enhance your safety — they’ll notify authorities if you don’t appear on Facetime — and have a lifeline to your support system.

support systems mental health while traveling

(Photo by Nancy Zaffaro)

6. Check and Double-Check Your Plans

Here’s another pro-tip for anxiety patients. Check and double-check your plans to put your mind at ease.

Call the rental car company and ask if there are any contingencies — like needing proof of residence to use a debit card — that you should know about before arrival. Download an app to keep track of flight delays and cancellations. Give your travel belt where you stash your passport, ID and emergency cash a reassuring pat now and then to remind you everything you need is secure against your skin.

7. Consider Attending a Meeting

The beautiful part about support groups like AA is finding meetings in nearly every city in the US and many places worldwide. Why not check a directory of listings in your destination before you depart? You don’t have to go — but it’s stress-relieving to know you have that option.

Another possibility you have is attending online. If you choose this route and have privacy concerns, install a quality VPN on your device before leaving  to safeguard your data.

8. Reward Yourself for a Job Well Done

Finally, making it through a vacation without a meltdown or relapse is a big accomplishment. You’ve maintained your mental health while traveling. Pat yourself on the back.

Perhaps you can reward yourself with a special souvenir — maybe it’s your first sober trip as an adult. Alternatively, you might plan a quiet celebration with your most beloved support team members when you arrive home.

Our Tips to Maintain Mental Health While Traveling

Routine is vital to treatment progress, and vacation can shake things up. Follow the above tips to maintain your mental health when away from home.

flying mental healthy while traveling

(Photo by Nancy Zaffaro)

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