Taking care of yourself seems to be a superfluous luxury for most. Me-time? But only a few people do it. Because of my mental disorder, I simply have to find the time to come back to myself. Especially in times when it is difficult and even when I am traveling. Travel can be a huge stress factor (besides the fun of course), and that is why self-care is important. Traveling or not traveling: you can use these tips to take better care of yourself.
Don’t force yourself
Something that I often have to say to myself when I am traveling, is to not force myself too brightly. On the one hand, I think that a bit of pressure on travel is allowed (big shock!). Traveling obliges you a part to step out of your comfort zone, discover new things and talk with other, unknown people. On the other hand, you have to be able to find a balance and keep the pressure healthy. Do not force yourself to do things or activities that you really don’t like. Accept that even if it does not work this time, you can still plan other trips in the future. Take small steps and don’t force yourself.
A well-known but effective way to take care of yourself while traveling (and at home) is to practice your gratitude daily. Don’t know where to start? First answer questions such as: “what have I seen today that I absolutely didn’t want to miss?”, “Did something positive happen?”, “Have I done something that makes me proud of myself?”, etc. Practice gratitude is very important to keep yourself healthy or to make yourself healthy. It helps you, among other things, to extinguish the critic in your body and be a bit more kind to yourself. Be worthy of the person you are. This can certainly be useful when traveling.
Have you heard something like something avoiding is particularly bad? Think again, is what I want to tell you. Avoiding something, whether this is a situation or a person, doesn’t always have to be negative and unhealthy. Just think of avoiding triggers. Do you know, for example, that going out on a trip during the evening can cause a panic attack or that among the people you are particularly anxious? Then avoid these things. Agreed, you can not avoid everything and that is good too. But when you travel, you better take it for the uncertain.
Meditating and mindfulness are becoming incredibly popular in these times. Everyone wants to escape the daily pressure that life imposes on them and wants to try to live healthier. In my psychiatric ward I came in contact with meditation and mindfulness and even now, after my admission, I am still working on these relaxation techniques. When I travel, I find it somewhat more difficult to meditate because I simply want to use all the time to discover the unknown place. This doesn’t mean that it is not possible to meditate while traveling. Think of the journey before you can plan a me-time. Did you, for example, experience something while traveling, so that you have to bring down the stress? You can also schedule a meditation moment.
No guilty-feelings here!
What I have already learned with traveling with a mental disorder is that not everything will go as planned. It took a long time before I realized this well. It happened once in Vienna that I felt so bad that I did not come outside anymore. I couldn’t apply that gratitude exercise because I was greatly disappointed in myself (back then I thought I could only apply those exercises when I was happy and proud of myself). My meditation exercises also failed because I was in a crisis and I couldn’t avoid those triggers, since it was already too late.
I felt unsuccessful and had many feelings of guilt. But now that I think back, I did pretty well. I survived, I have not lost my passion for traveling and have seen the capital of Austria. So my number one advice is to leave the feelings of guilt for what they are and try to fully enjoy the journey.
Ask for help
When I am anxious, feel depressed or start to get paranoid thoughts again, I know it will go the wrong way. The trick is to notice these signs and prepare yourself for what comes. Especially on travel. And especially if you are traveling alone, as I was then. Fortunately, I had turned to help on time and had immediately calmed down. Getting help is extremely important. So before the trip, look for who you can call in case of an emergency and what the signs are that predict what it is going in the wrong direction.
Unplug social media
Social media can no longer be ignored in this time. Almost everyone has Facebook, follows someone on Instagram and reads tweets from famous people on Twitter. These channels have their own advantages, but as with everything, an advantage also has its disadvantage. For example, Instagram has often been on the news lately as a channel that can make people “unhappy”. Photos of people traveling, sunbathing on the beach, laughing with all their friends and so on. And that while you are wondering how you can get everything out of your own journey. Social media makes people happy, but also unhappy. For a certain period of time (when you are traveling for example) pull out the plug of social media. You will definitely feel more relaxed.
Reflect the photos you have taken
Images speak for themselves, and can often replace millions of words. Therefore, at the end of the day, reflect which photos you have taken that day. Don’t try to look at it too critically, because then this whole exercise can’t get a positive effect. Look at your photos with a mild look and if negative and critical thoughts arise in your head such as: what an ugly picture, then accept that thought, but then try to find at least one positive feature. This could for example also be that the lighting was good!
If you do this every time, you have already come a long way in the path of self-care. Good luck!
Sanne Grieten is the travel blogger of Mostly Abroad. Just like any travel blogger, she loves to travel and discover new places. In addition, she also fights every day with her mental health. To end the stigma, she also writes about this regularly.