Here’s how to look after your mental health while traveling, experts say

While some people find travel therapeutic, others may experience significant distress from it. Even if you're going on a tropical vacation, traveling can be stressful and put a strain on your physical and mental health. Juggling flight or rental car reservations, making sure you get to the terminal on time, finding time to grab a bite to eat or take a break, and unforeseen last-minute changes can all contribute to travel-related stress. Everyone experiences anxiety or stress when traveling, but this is especially true for those with mental health issues, especially when changes to your daily routine throw your mental health out of balance.

“Mental health issues like anxiety, PTSD, or depression can be helped by setting guardrails or limits around how we spend our time, who we spend it with, and trying to eliminate daily worries,” says Shannon Thomas, a licensed therapist Thomas, author of Healing Hidden Abuse , tells Bustle. "Traveling can throw off all plans—even if the purpose of the trip is for fun. When we travel, we face countless challenges ranging from small to large."

Establishing a routine is an extremely important act of self-care for people living with mental illness, and there is no doubt that traveling can negatively impact this. Here's how to travel if changes to your daily routine are disrupting your mental health, according to mental health experts and avid travelers who live with mental health issues.

Thomas explains that maintaining a healthy sleep schedule while traveling (similar to your regular schedule) can help reduce stress while traveling. "Allow some flexibility in when you go to bed and wake up, but resist the temptation to throw all your normal times out of whack, which can really disrupt your mind and body. A two-hour shift from your normal time can still allow you to have fun night and sleep time - but this time frame shouldn't put undue stress on your mind or body," she explains.

Additionally, Thomas says, "Keeping blood sugar stable and staying hydrated can help limit triggers that may occur when exploring new areas or when time passes." So, be sure to pack some nutritious snacks and drink while flying or driving. Enough water. Thomas suggests it's a good idea for anxious travelers to utilize coping skills like listening to music or bring earplugs to tune in.

"When you travel a lot, you need to have a whole arsenal of things to help you get through it—especially when dealing with mental illness," Sydney, a mental health advocate who travels frequently, tells Bustle. She explains that she uses a few tricks to help her cope with the chaotic schedule of her travels. "When it comes to medication, I set multiple alarms. When it comes to my mental state, I write every hour. Even if it's just a little bit. That way, I can keep track of how I'm doing mentally."

Additionally, Maddalena, an admissions counselor who travels frequently, says using travel apps can help eliminate the stress of travel and schedule changes. "TripCase has been a godsend for my travel apps. I can enter everything - flights, hotels, rental cars, meetings, restaurants - and it allows me to easily keep track of all the different addresses, confirmation codes, instructions I'm managing and notes,” she explained. "I love it and it helps me relieve a lot of my anxiety and executive dysfunction by having everything in one place."

All in all, Thomas says the key to combating travel and scheduling anxiety is understanding time and how to spend it. "Being aware of the passage of time outside of our daily routines will become a foundational skill and allow us to pay close attention to our eating and sleeping schedules. Even if we change our routines when we travel, understanding the passage of time can help improve our lives Quality. "That feeling of being out of control happens all the time," she said, adding a word of advice: "Write down every step and take the list with you when you travel. This may seem unnecessary at home, but we become more easily flustered. When we travel, we forget what makes us feel healthy and good about ourselves. "

While some travel stressors, such as delays or cancellations, are unavoidable, you can use coping skills or tools to maintain your daily routine while traveling. If creating a schedule is part of maintaining your mental health, try to understand how travel affects you - and plan ahead to maintain your health.