Traveling with Mental Illness: How to Overcome Your Condition and Explore the World

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Traveling, for most people, is an exciting new adventure. Albeit the journey to get there can be exhausting, the destination is worth it because it introduces a whole new perspective on life and the world.

However, for some, it is a source of stress. People who may be experiencing a mental health crisis might feel anxiety or nervousness with the thought of leaving home, albeit briefly, to explore another country. Sometimes, even when they are visiting loved ones, the long-haul commute can still lead to negative thoughts and emotions.

Unfortunately, mental health problems prevent sufferers from experiencing the life-changing benefits of traveling, further isolating them from their peers and preventing them from going out of their comfort zone.

Traveling with Eating Disorders

One of the reasons why people enjoy traveling is the opportunity to delight in different kinds of food that they would not get to try back home. It is a fun break from the daily routine.

However, to those who have an eating disorder, it can go two ways: the patient may lose control and overeat or they get a tighter grip on their eating and create further restrictions. Either way, it can destroy an ongoing recovery.

Before heading somewhere far, patients should talk to their therapist and dietician. Those who are under a treatment plan for anorexia nervosa might need dietary advice to ensure that their recovery can continue. People with other conditions should also ask for advice from their therapist and dietician to make sure that they do not go off the rails while traveling.

In addition, it is good to do some research prior to the trip to locate restaurants in the vicinity and what kind of foods are being served. If necessary, they can pack food from home to bring them comfort or stick to a healthy eating routine while away. Moreover, they should strive to eat at the same time every day. If their treatment plan requires them to eat small meals every three hours, patients should eat small meals every three hours on the journey and when they arrive at their destinations.

Traveling with Anxiety

traveling alone

Anxiety can prevent a person from doing anything, even if it is something that may be enjoyable or it is necessary for their well-being. Symptoms of anxiety include rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, nausea, restlessness, trouble concentrating, and insomnia. When faced with their triggers, they may also experience an intense panic attack.

Identifying triggers is the first step toward overcoming anxiety when it comes to traveling. Talk to a therapist about your worries and seek advice on how to reduce your negative thoughts or feelings.

A lot of anxiety may also stem from the “what ifs” or the bad things that may happen, no matter how implausible, when a person is out of their comfort zone. This may include an unexpected illness or getting lost. Planning for these scenarios may help ease one’s nerves before the journey. If they are afraid of getting lost, they can get and study a map of their destination. To avoid becoming sick, they can check if they can get vaccines for common illnesses wherever they may be heading. It would also help to find the location of the embassy, the police station, the hospital, and major public transportation hubs in case they need help.

Traveling with OCD

OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, can make a holiday out of the country enjoyable. To some, being in an unfamiliar place can aggravate their symptoms.

When people are on vacation, routines disappear. They tend to sleep and wake up later than usual. They do not get to eat on time. There is no work to do so the brain is idle.

These things, unfortunately, can trigger an episode.

Patients should not stop themselves from traveling even if it may exacerbate their OCD. There are ways to prevent symptoms from appearing. One way to remain calm when in an unfamiliar place is to maintain a daily routine. If the patient sleeps and wakes up at a certain time every day, allow them to continue doing so during the trip.

Boredom is also the enemy of a patient with OCD. They usually need a level of brain stimulation regularly. Although traveling is for relaxation, it is good to have an optimal level of stimulation in their lives such as knitting and crocheting or embroidery, reading, exercise, etc.

Traveling has tons of benefits to offer people who have mental health problems, but it can also cause distress. The best thing to do to approach it is by making plans that take an existing condition into account and speaking to a therapist about worries.

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