Whilst sitting on the patio paving outside of the villa which I would call home during our fortnightly excursion, the thought to write this exact post, on this topic, came to mind.
It was almost like an epiphany (loosely I know, but still it was pretty exciting).Why shouldn’t I write a blog post about travelling with mental health conditions? No reason, I definitely should; as what’s better than using new coping mechanisms in a new environment? Writing about them (after using them, that’s definitely a priority).
So here we are, after a whirlwind of a fortnight, and quite an extensive break from the blog, I’m back to ferociously tapping at the laptop late in the evening; and I couldn’t be more thrilled about doing so.
This August, my parents and I vacated to the sunshine state to spend time in the heat, explore the surroundings (the weird and the wonderful), and re-charge our batteries (turns out my batteries aren’t having it but that’s a different matter).
This involved a 9-hour flight (albeit on a jumbo-jet, but hon’ it was next level uncomfortable for my tush after just 3 hours, so the pins and needles were there and ready to party).
However, not to be a Debbie downer, but good LORD the traffic from the airport doubled our drive time from 1-hour to 2. So after a lack of sleep, physical pain, hunger, nausea, and raging anxiety, I was NOT FEELING IT! Although, I knew from experience that the first night after a long flight isn’t great.
However, did this mean that my holiday was ruined because of the tumultuous journey and subsequent significant distress? Absolutely not! I had an amazing time, and my flight home was shit too, so that definitely proves that one bad day is just that, it doesn’t have to be ‘a bad day which is to lead to bad days‘, or one event doesn’t have to ruin your entire day.
Once I found my feet, as a family we discovered places to visit – which was definitely one of my favourite aspects of the trip. It’s oftentimes easy to feel like your world is enclosed around you when you have a mental health disorder.
It’s very easy to feel isolated inside your own mind, so to be able to see interesting, and abstract places which could easily have been overlooked by another tourist, we had the pleasure of experiencing.
Which is why I made a conscious decision to take great effort to absorb the scenery, to listen for different dialects, watch native wildlife, and interact with others with whom we crossed paths with. So, I was consciously connecting myself with reality. Which therefore, improved my perspectives by encouraging the act of being mindful and present
in the current moment, rather than disconnected; because that in itself can cause feelings of mental isolation and disassociation.
Remember why you’re here, embrace the feeling and allow yourself to be.
Distinguishing between anxiety and other emotions.
This may seem a tad peculiar but bear with, yeah? Good!
So, when I have the sense of unprovoked anxiety, I oftentimes overlook the actual reasoning behind it. Maybe it’s nervousness. Maybe it’s excitement, maybe it’s because I’m anticipating something.
All of these emotions cause an increase in the body’s levels of adrenaline, which reacts with the sympathetic nervous system. This causes physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate, changes in digestion, perspiration, and a dry mouth. Depending on the person, these symptoms vary depending upon your own internal chemistry, and individual factors.
‘First, find as quiet a place as possible, and after many slow, deep breaths, and long, slow exhales, visualise yourself walking into a setting which is calming to you. This can be a place which is totally imaginary, or very much real.
Imagine yourself sitting down, and sitting opposite a personified emotion, or figure which feels exactly how you do in this current moment.
Talk gently, and communicate with the emotion(s), rationalise how you feel, and think of a strategy which you could use to overcome the issue, if one’s present.’
serious thought about one’s character and actions.
During your personal mental health journey, it is easy to lose track of who you are, your intentions, and goals, if the emotions get too overwhelming, and crowd the mind.
However, it is important to note that you don’t change because of your mental health condition(s). Yes, it can influence your behaviour and your actions, but it’s vital to know that those emotions which you experience because of your illness, don’t define you, or reflect on you as an individual. Don’t look at yourself as a condition, or a bundle of interests, emotions, dreams, and experiences – because you’re more than that. Don’t de-humanise yourself, engage with your inner spirit. And yeah, it sounds like ‘stereotypical hippy-dippy- la la bullshit’, but it’s true. We aren’t just our conditions, we are HUMAN BEINGS GOD-DAMMIT (bit much?).
Therefore, self-reflection can help to encourage you to understand the reasoning behind your actions, and either physically, or mentally keep a record of your progress throughout certain areas of life which you want to observe the change in. Yet, it’s natural for our mental and physical health to fluctuate. This is all down to different factors and is sometimes unforeseen, thus un-preventable, so don’t be disheartened or think because you cannot recognise patterns in behaviour, or you’re seeing little improvement, that you’re failing yourself. You’re not, you’re benefiting yourself by wanting to help yourself, and taking actions to do that.
Below, I have attached an image of my own mock-up of a self-reflection chart. These can be personalised in any way depending upon your specific conditions, lifestyle factors, or personal preferences.
“So what does self-reflection have to do with travel anxiety?”
It was a tool which I used to see the possible triggers which may have caused spikes in different emotions or behaviours, yet it also allowed me to recognise potentially beneficial factors for the same emotion/behaviour.
Therefore, by incorporating this information into daily activities, and by discussing them with those around you, you can help to feel as fulfilled as possible – and can always encourage future, and routine self-reflection. It also allows you to see the little victories and memorable moments which happened; because they’re just as important as any other victory.
Overall, I feel like my holiday was greatly benefited by utilising the steps and incorporating the mindsets and attitudes which I have covered in this post. As always, I am in no way claiming to be a professional (far from it), therefore please don’t refrain from discussing your symptoms and how they affect you, with a medical professional. I would definitely recommend making an appointment with a GP if you haven’t already, as it can serve as a starting point for different routes of therapy; if it is needed – or access to helpful medication.
I simply use this blog, and will continue to do so in future, and hopefully (fingers crossed) relatively soon, to share my personal experiences throughout my mental health journey, as well as other topics which are close to my heart; in efforts to portray my journey throughout a difficult time, as well as provide them for others who may be going through the same/similar situation.
Because it’s always comforting to know that you are not alone in your struggles. You are very much connected, even in ways which you may not realise. Don’t be afraid to speak your truth, find your feet, and stand up for what you believe in, and what you want for you.
Sending love and hugs,