With all the attention our physical health gets every day from advice blogs and lifestyle articles to Instagram photos, it's no surprise that there are plenty of tips and resources around to take care of your diet and exercise while on holiday. But what about our mental well-being? I'm hearing a whole lot of silence on that topic which is s rather strange, as it's pretty much guaranteed that you will experience a certain degree of stress on any trip. Whether it's packing the right things, to overcrowded beaches and sites, getting to the right place at the right time or just trying to fit everything in, it's worth keeping in mind that travel is meant to be enjoyable.
Travellers could be doing a whole lot more to take care to check in with themselves and find new ways to manage stress while on the road. This holds doubly true if you sometimes struggle with unfamiliar environments and meeting new people.
Here are some simple tips to keep calm and carry on during your trip:
- Know yourself
It's always useful to take stock of yourself and think about how you usually react to stressful situations. How do you feel if you find out your flight has been cancelled or your suitcase has been lost? If you're of a more nervous disposition, acknowledge it, and start thinking about techniques such as breathing exercises that usually work for you when you feel a freak-out approaching.
Alternatively, bring someone along who knows what makes you tick. As great as solo travelling can be, some of us will always be more comfortable travelling with company - have a think about whether this is true for you. It's also worth exploring booking your trips through a travel company, such as Topdeck, that provides hassle-free group travel that enables young travellers to visit multiple destinations to tick off their bucket lists at each stop, whilst meeting new like-minded people along the road. Going on a group trip or tour where someone else is doing the planning and coordinating for you certainly also helps to give you peace of mind.
One of the most common ways that travellers increase stress is by trying to fit in too much into too few days. This is often typical for North Americans travelling to Europe or other people who are going further afield: they've come all this way, so now they have to see all the things, right? More often than not, this will leave you exhausted and worn out fast. Slow down and savour each part of your journey to leave more room for actually enjoying your destination.
Same goes for budgeting: be realistic about what kind of expenses you can afford, draw up a budget if possible, and you save yourself a lot of worry.
Mindfulness is one of those words that many of us have a vague understanding of but no real clue on how to apply it in practice. Truth is that there are few times when it's easier to apply the principles of mindfulness than when you're travelling - it's all about the whole "be present in the moment" feeling that every travel agency poster has been telling us about for decades. You're travelling to forget about the worries of everyday life anyway, aren't you?
So how do you go about it? One fun way to apply mindfulness principles on your holiday is through the Topdeck travel app, which has started offering bespoke guided meditations by world-famous meditation expert Biet Simkin. This provides a structure for you to meditate in order to absorb and reflect on your experiences while travelling. With various meditations suited for morning, daytime or evening, the various recordings provide young travellers with the chance to check in with themselves and return to that "wow, I'm actually here" feeling, even when their feet hurt, it's all a little overwhelming, or your travel companions are driving you nuts. Inhale, exhale...
A lot of peace of mind can be achieved by the simple act of planning. Doing as much research beforehand on your destination, making checklists, and double-checking all maps and necessary documents will save you a lot of trouble once you've landed. Preparation ahead of time goes a long way for reducing anxiety. Getting enough sleep is what I've found makes the biggest difference. Travel sometimes forces us to navigate airports at horrible o' clock, but even 4-hours-of-sleep-me is way better at coping with issues than 1-hour-of-sleep-me. Jet lag can do mean things to an already unamiable brain.
Having confidence in yourself as a grown up is also key to your travelling experience. If you have the ability and processes to cope with unexpected events and stay calm whilst on the road, you can pretty much deal with anything. Travelling is stressful, but the bumps in the road need not ruin your trip. Take care, wherever life takes you.