Holidays can be hard
Going on holiday is seen as a fun, exciting escape from regular life right? However a holiday can actually be a very stressful and challenging experience, especially for those of us struggling with our mental health. Personally I have had some terrible experiences, but over the years I have been able to identify what it is that I find so distressing about holidays, and more importantly, from this I’ve been able to implement some things to help me cope… and hopefully get some enjoyment out of the holiday!
So firstly, for me, it’s important to think about what might be challenging about the holiday or a potential strain on my mental health, so that way I can see what I can do to help myself. Some examples of things that make it hard for me:
- Being away from my support system, both family/partner and also mental health professionals
- The stress of the build up, anticipation and organising everything
- The uncertainty and anxiousness of change, new things, new places etc and potential risks
- Your brain comes with you wherever you go! Not being able to run away/escape my struggles and worries despite being in a beautiful place
- Flying/travelling can be very draining, stressful and anxiety provoking
So although some things are out of my hands, I’ll then consider what is in my control and what I can do to give myself the best chance of managing my mental health and enjoying my holiday. For example:
- Being organised so I feel prepared and minimise stress. I write lists before I go to keep track of everything, such as things I need to do (ie collect prescription, buy toiletries etc) or a packing list
- Refer to or create my ‘crisis’/bad day plan before I go. This might mean taking a crisis plan I have for home, and building on/adjusting it to fit a holiday situation, considering what risks holiday might present, how I might be able to identify bad feelings escalating, what ways I can keep safe and manage my emotions in a new environment. I even take a crisis card with me, which has my important details on and how to help me. There’s some helpful advice about creating a crisis plan here
- Take a mini comfort box and distractions. I make sure I take books and earphones, download things on my iPad to watch/listen to during travel time, take lavender oil for sleep, magnetic stones to keep my hands busy when I’m anxious…. Things like this. Whatever might be soothing, distracting or a comfort away from home. If you need some inspiration check out Pinterest
- Speak to my GP/care team, so we can develop a coping plan, address any risks/obstacles together and just generally be able to talk through my worries
- Get travel insurance. Always better to be safe than sorry, and it helps put my mind at ease
- Research a bit where I’m going, familiarise myself with the place and find something that I can look forward to and get excited about, whether it’s a fun activity, a nice beach or a new food to try
- Don’t place too many expectations on myself, go with an open mind and remind myself before I go that it’s MY holiday for MY enjoyment. Despite what I may see other people doing on social media (which is never a good place to compare), I just need to be kind to myself and do what I feel comfortable with. If one day that means staying indoors all day watching TV then so be it.
Do you have any tips for making the most out of your holiday, even when it can be challenging? Let us know in the comments below.
More information and support on stress and anxiety on MindMate.