Recently I took a social media break, which is basically a fancy way of saying I needed to allow myself to breathe easily again. I lost a friend and the culmination of what felt like 101 situations came to a head and I completely burned out. Then one day I woke up and felt the heaviest I’ve felt in months. I got up, had a shower, got dressed, burst into tears and then proceeded to crawl under the covers and shut out the world for an entire day.
While there are limitless resources on destinations and packing – the truth is it just isn’t sexy to talk about coping with anxiety while travelling. But just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.
Being a perfectionist I find it very difficult to step away from things at the same time as also finding it very easy to just do nothing (but then feel incredibly guilty after the fact). Yup the two can live side by side. Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats for Anxiety: The Musical.
The realities of anxiety while travelling
Ordinarily, when going through a mental health slump you’re surrounded by your home comforts, friends and excellent Internet speeds for Netflix. When you’re travelling there’s this added guilt of I should be out seeing things and fuck – where am I going to be living tomorrow? While it sounds like a very first world problem, wow for real is this girl crying while she’s out travelling the world living a life many can only dream of – truthfully it is crushing.
Although this isn’t my usual let’s take on the world kind of post I think it’s equally important. I’d like to think I’ve always been very honest on here and adamant that travelling is not a solution to any mental illness. In addition to pre-travel anxiety symptoms, while actually travelling you’re far more likely to be exposed to situations that make you anxious. Missed flights, unplanned disruptions and lack of sleep to name just a few (and I mean just a few). Of course, 90% of the time the good outweighs the challenging – but it still exists. We can’t just throw a sleep mask and neck pillow on and pretend it doesn’t. Trust me I’ve tried.
The silver lining is that going through this experience has enabled me to come on here and share it with you. To let you know shit does happen. Even when it appears someone’s life is sunshine and rainbows or pina coladas on beaches (although there is still a lot of those).
Taking a step back
I found it challenging to go on social media or come on here to write and share happy times when I simply did not feel happy. It wasn’t as though going on social media and looking at other people’s lives was making me feel bad. It was purely the fact that I didn’t want to put on a facade. I didn’t want to lie, but I wasn’t ready to share how I was feeling.
Despite the fact I know *consistency is king* and, oh yeah, my entire business is on social media this was absolutely the right choice. Allowing myself, to be honest about how I was feeling was the first step towards working through it. I held my breath and prepared to watch my blog/follower numbers dwindle, but honestly, things hardly changed – praise the lord for Pinterest automation.
Funnily enough, despite all this, I did a lot (and I mean A LOT) of writing. Journalling how I was feeling either on my phone notes or scrawling thoughts into notebooks when I got the chance. I actually prefer pen and paper because you’re less likely to edit what you’re thinking it’s essentially writing down your train of thought. As a writer, there’s always this temptation to use your words to paint a picture, to rework them to make the vision come to life. This way you’re just throwing the paint on the canvas. There’s no pressure for it to be art. It just is.
Slowing it down
I also spoke to my friends, which considering time zones can often be a challenge. That being said it’s also therapeutic to write everything you’re feeling at the time knowing it may be a while until you get a response. It’s easy to catastrophise, especially when you’re travelling solo and are relying on your own company. Hearing their voices was important too.
Slowing down feels so foreign to me and to you it might feel that way too. How can you stop? How can you possibly be feeling this way when every moment is so precious? But travel is not a vacuum or a new dimension. Everything exists on the same plane and on that plane there is a range of emotions and you will still feel them all to some degree. On some level.
That might not necessarily make you feel good – but hopefully, it will comfort you to know. So if you’re looking for permission, I’m giving it to you now, particularly if you’re travelling long term. Not every day has to be ‘Instagram-worthy’. Take a moment, in fact, take a lot of moments. Walk yourself to the shop. Buy yourself an ice cream. Go to the cinema. Get a massage. I don’t care if you’re in the most beautiful city in the world – watch that TV show. Remember you can still be a high vibe person without being happy all the time.
Allow yourself to feel, but don’t let yourself get lost. Come back to me. Come back to you.
We’ve got this.
Headspace – A useful app reminding you to take ten mindful minutes each day
Insight timer – An app that provides a library of free mediations and guided practices
Calm – An app that helps to calm anxiety and aids with sleep
Mind – A mental health organisation with a ton of helpful information and support
What about you guys? Have you ever struggled to deal with anxiety while travelling? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments!
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