Traveling is one of the greatest opportunities that most people have. The chance to see another part of the world is something to cherish.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a stress-free event. Quite the opposite, in fact. There are so many details and so many things to do and see that it can cause a huge amount of stress.
In the midst of all that stress, it’s important to support your mental health. There are a few simple ways that you can do this, and most of them work whether you’re in the planning stages or already on the move.
Most of them involve working with your schedule and showing yourself compassion, but some are more concrete and have more to do with the connection between your body and mind. Here are a few simple ways to support your mental health while traveling:
Don’t Overbook Your Time
The most important thing you can do for your mental health while traveling is at once the hardest and easiest thing that you can do. That is to leave downtime in your schedule.
While it might be tempting to sign up for every single tour you can, or to pack every minute of your day with adventure, that’s also a sure way to burn yourself out.
Instead, choose to give yourself some downtime. This will let you relax and process all of the new sights and experiences you’ve encountered.
It will also give you time to reconnect with people back home, check to make sure all of your gear is in good condition, and just relax. You can always choose to exercise or start a new book, of course. But it’s important not to underestimate the role that rest plays in your mental health.
Maintain a Healthy Gut
If you’re looking for a more concrete mental health safeguard, you’ll want to keep your gut health in mind. Thanks to a connection called the Gut-Brain Axis, your gut health has a direct impact on your mental health.
Recent research has even gone so far as to indicate that gut bacteria are involved in the production of serotonin and dopamine. And as anyone with mental health issues will tell you, those are incredibly precious chemicals.
Traveling delivers a one-two punch to your digestive system. You’re more likely to eat processed food or fast food, since you’re on the run so much, and most fast food chains are familiar enough to stop at when you’re tired.
When you do eat local food, you might find that some of it doesn’t agree with you. Either way, you’ll want to take a few more precautions to safeguard your gut bacteria.
Fermented foods are a good way to protect your natural gut bacteria. Luckily, they’re common in many different regional diets.
But if you’re not sure about your access to them—or if you will want to eat them—then you’ll want to invest in some probiotics before your trip. A good probiotic supplement will help keep your gut healthy while you’re on your travels.
A healthy gut is a happy gut, which means a healthier and happier you!
One of the biggest stressors while traveling is not knowing where you’re going to stay or how to get where you need to go. These problems are fairly simple to solve if you know the local language or have access to the internet.
But this won’t always be the case. Planning ahead, then, is the easiest way to avoid this additional stress.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to plan out every minute of your trip. That would fly right in the face of the first tip on this list.
But you should at least know which hotels at your destination are in your price range. Knowing the words in the regional language for terms you might need, like “airport,” “hotel,” “hospital,” and “help,” will also help in a lot of situations.
Other things you might want to look up are hospitals, restaurants, movie theaters, and shopping centers. You might not need to visit most of these places, but it helps to know where you can grab a quick bite to eat, spend time with the locals, and restock on supplies when you run low.
Have a Plan B Ready
Finally, you’ll want to have a backup plan ready. You don’t need to have a complete duplicate plan, of course.
But when you’re planning your trip, select a backup hotel in case your first choice is booked or something is wrong and they can’t honor the room you reserved. Likewise, know of a few places where you can rent a car if you’re going to be driving yourself. If you’re relying on a certain service, find another well-reviewed one in the area in case your first choice doesn’t pan out.
There’s a good chance that you won’t need the backup plan, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. And this goes double when you’re traveling to a place with a primary language you don’t understand.
In these situations, it’s also a good idea to know where the grocery stores are so that you can get your own food if need be. The last thing you want to do is leave your well-being up to chance while traveling. It’s an easy way to add stress to your trip that you just don’t need.
Traveling is a wonderful experience. If you’re lucky enough to see the world, make the most of your time, but don’t sacrifice your mental health to do it.
Take time to plan ahead so that you know what you’re getting into, you know how to take care of yourself, and you know what to do if one set of plans falls through.
More than that, take care of yourself physically. You don’t want to get sick while you’re somewhere you don’t know well.
It’s hard to enjoy a new place when you’re stuck in your room the whole time or so stressed you can’t enjoy the places you’re visiting. By taking a few steps to support your mental health, you’ll be sure to enjoy your travels.