Wednesday 2nd November is National Stress Awareness Day and whilst we normally associate travelling and short breaks abroad with relaxing sea views and endless sandy beaches, stress abroad is actually worryingly common. Whether you're a gap year student half way around the globe, or you've headed over the water for a European getaway, feeling stressed can completely defeat the freedom found when travelling. So, what do you do when you've gone away to give your mind a rest and that's the only thing not happening?
Take a break! You've taken some time out to recuperate and re-energise so do just that. All of us are guilty at some point of planning an itinerary so full that it resembles our over-packed, over-stuffed, have-to-sit-on-it-to-close-the-zip suitcase. Forget squeezing in everything and give yourself some space. Swap those several museum visits for a sunrise yoga class instead. Climb a mountain, a hill, find a quiet park and meditate. Gather your thoughts, breathe and take everything in. Submerge yourself in your surroundings.
Talk to people. Share your load. Talking through your problems will take a huge weight off your shoulders. If you're feeling homesick, facetime your friends and family back home. If you're staying in hostels or communal accommodation, make someone a cup of tea or coffee and have a chat; no one declines a good cup of tea! Chances are they've felt the same and will give you a helping hand. We all need a friendly face to rant to, moan to and set the world to rights at once in a while.
Treat yourself. Especially if your budget backpacking, people are less inclined to talk about the financial struggles of long term travelling. When you're watching the pennies it can mount to a huge pressure and it can often leave you feeling stressed and unsettled. I spent several days living out of a Brazilian bus station and several more days taking overnight trains through India to save a few pounds. I was left feeling tired, anxious, stressed and longing for home. The first time this happened, when I was in Brazil, I soldiered on and just carried my burden. The second time? We treated ourselves to a mouth-watering Indian meal, laughed the evening away exchanging bad backpacking stories and woke up the next morning with a content, weightless feeling. Don't be afraid to indulge once in a while, after all, you're there to enjoy yourself.
Learn the language. Whether it's trying to communicate a medical issue or simply trying to ask for direction because you're lost, language barriers can make tempers fray and waves of frustration can crash over you. Don't panic, there's a simple solution - learn some key phrases of the local language! Not only will it broaden your mind and teach you something new, it'll make the simple things, such as getting public transport or asking for directions, completely stress free. You can also show off your new language skills, alongside your tan, when you get home.
And most of all, don't feel guilty! With 'what does your Monday look like' pictures featuring hot dog legs and sunny skies becoming a reoccurring feature across our social media feeds, whatever the time of year, it can become easy to feel like you have to keep up with the persona. Don't be afraid to admit that something hasn't gone to plan. You'll be surprised at how many other people have felt like you or are willing to help. I once posted a very desperate plea for funds to pay my hostel bill after numerous card thefts/ bank fiascos and a whole host of global friends outstretched their hands and came to my rescue.
My parting words of wisdom? Don't forget that one of the best ways to combat stress is to prepare. Make sure, before you start out on your adventure, that you've checked what vaccines you need, visa information and any laws or customs that might affect your trip. The @FCOTravel twitter and facebook page offer a whole range of advice ranging from travel checklists to how to deal with mental health problems abroad. Be sure to check them out to keep your travel plans as stress free as possible.