Travelling can be a stressful process, even for the most seasoned globetrotter. But when you suffer from anxiety and depression, there are bigger hurdles to face on a trip than getting all your liquids into one clear bag.
Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to manage anxiety and depression when leaving the comforts of your own home and regular schedule. Here are a few tips on how to make travelling not only manageable, but also enjoyable.
GET TRAVEL INSURANCE
If you’re planning on travelling outside of Canada, making sure you have the right travel insurance can bring piece of mind. Travel insurance is typically offered through your employer or credit card, but some countries and activities require extra insurance. You might also want to look into booking insurance with airlines in case you’re having a particularly difficult day and aren’t up to flying. Just be sure to read the airlines’ fine print before booking.
LEAVE SPACE IN YOUR ITINERARY
Knowing your schedule for each day of your trip can help lower anxiety and enable you to better plan for what to pack, but make sure you leave yourself some time each day to relax and decompress. Having flex time in your schedule can give you the freedom to check out one more museum or head back to your room for some alone time if necessary.
Packing the night before can often lead to more stress, especially when you realize that you still need to pick up a few things. You can avoid that last-minute stress by making a list of the essentials you need for your trip ahead of time and by packing in advanced.
BRING YOUR MEDICATION
Make sure you pack any medication for anxiety or depression in your carry on. If you’re anxious about flying, you may also want to speak with your doctor about flight-related anxiety medication or other helpful resources to turn to, including SOAR counselling, which specializes in helping people deal with their fear of flying.
PRACTICE SOOTHING TECHNIQUES WITH YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
If you normally see a healthcare provider for anxiety or depression, let them know that you’re going on a trip. They may have breathing or visualization techniques to help alleviate feelings of stress when travelling. They may also make themselves available via phone should you need an extra session while you’re away. Knowing you have the option to speak with someone you’re comfortable with can really help to alleviate stress.
DOWNLOAD RELAXATION MUSIC, PODCASTS AND MOVIES
Whether you want to prepare yourself mentally for your trip or distract yourself from your fear of flying, there are many ways to use technology to your advantage. Download a lighthearted and funny movie for the plane ride to pass the time. Or, try listening to relaxing music an podcasts while in the air, on a plane or anytime the trip starts to feel overwhelming. There are also many free apps available for download (like Headspace) that can walk you through various relaxation techniques.
Whether it’s your favourite snacks, your most comfortable sweater or a blanket you love to sleep with, bringing along some comfort from home can help a new place seem less intimidating.
TRAVEL DURING THE OFF-SEASON IF POSSIBLE
If you’re able to choose when you travel, aim for the off-season, when the crowds are lighter at the airport and en route to your destination.
MAKE COPIES OF YOUR IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
Take the fear out of losing or forgetting important travel documents like your passport, credit card and insurance information by making copies. Leave the copies at home with a trusted friend or family member who can get you your information if you forget something or if your belongings are stolen.
RESEARCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING
Ignorance may be bliss in some cases, but researching where you’re staying, including learning a few key phrases, finding restaurants and hotels with good reviews and having some knowledge of the transportation system will help put your mind at ease.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
Depression and anxiety can hit at any time, and that includes while you’re travelling. If you need to skip some sightseeing ventures because you’re having a particularly difficult day, cut yourself some slack. Because it’s important to be kind to yourself… even when you’re in a different country.