In the UK, four out of ten adults plan to travel during the upcoming Christmas period. If you’re one of them, you must prioritize mental health while you’re away.
Personally, I know how difficult the holidays can be and don’t always want to go home during Christmas break. I usually spend most of the holiday making small talk with snobby dinner party guests and dodging questions from nosey relatives. It’s not exactly my idea of a good time, so I’ve developed a couple of different coping mechanisms to help see me through.
I’ve learned to implement these strategies before I even hit the road. That way, I feel safe, capable and confident when I step off the plane, train or bus and arrive back home.
Here are a few tips for managing your mental health while travelling. I hope you’ll find them just as useful as I have during these chaotic and unpredictable times.
Plan Where You’ll Park
If you’re travelling by plane, train or bus and driving yourself to the station, you must decide where to park your car before you get there. Otherwise, you might experience heightened stress levels before you even depart. Research available parking options, how much they cost and which payment types they accept. Choose a spot well in advance and start your trip off on the right foot — calm and even-keeled.
Sometimes, it’s helpful to bring a few items that remind you of your new home. Whether it be a favourite shawl or a sentimental knickknack that sits on your bedside table, the small reminder can be incredibly comforting when you’re in a different environment. Pack cosy items that you typically use at university, too, so you can infuse your explorations with a bit of normalcy. I don’t know about you, but a robe and slippers are always on my list of must-haves.
Start Saying No
Maybe you’re taking a winter vacation or going home for the holidays. Either way, it’s important to schedule alone time into your trip. Doing so will give you time to regulate your emotions, decompress and relax. Prioritizing alone time might require you to turn down family outings and your manager’s request that you work while you’re away. However, saying no is a must, especially when a yes would compromise your mental or emotional health.
Travelling isn’t a reason to neglect your physical health. What you eat and drink is just as important while you’re on the go. You should also prioritize exercise and personal hygiene. That means packing extra masks and hand sanitiser in your carry-on. Investing in your physical health is integral to managing mental health while travelling during COVID-19 because you’ll feel more confident in your health and safety.
Mindfulness is crucial as well. If your family is getting on your last nerve or your travel plans are stressing you out, make some time to meditate or take time to yourself. You can do this in a guest room, on a plane, in the bathroom or outdoors. Remember, taking care of your mental health is like building muscle — it requires practice, and the holidays are a better time than ever to work mindfulness into your day.
Maintain a Sleep Schedule
Uncomfortable plane rides, long layovers and noisy travel companions can make sleep difficult, especially if you travel unprepared. Maintain your schedule by packing an eye mask, earplugs, neck pillow and blanket in your carry-on bag or backpack. This way, you can get some shuteye and recharge before you reach your destination. Catch some Zs on the flight if you’re travelling across time zones to minimize jet lag and beat fatigue, a common symptom that can negatively affect your mental health.
Mental Health and Mindfulness
Using these mental health tips during holiday travel has helped me boost energy levels, lower anxiety and better regulate my emotions. It’s also made me more mindful of thoughts, behaviours and situations that trigger poor mental health episodes. I hope these tips will be just as useful for you on your path to self-discovery and your journey home.