Coping with depression on the road
Depression is a taboo subject even for those in Western countries where mental health is becoming a more acceptable topic of discussion and is recognized as a condition for which the sufferer should be supported and treated. However, when you’re far from home, wandering all corners of the world, travel is not a barrier against depression and recognizing the symptoms while you’re on the road can be a scary thing.
The first thing to do when you notice the persistent feelings of unhappiness, lethargy, hopelessness and exhaustion is to breathe deeply and give yourself a break. If you’re on a hectic travel schedule, don’t be afraid to relax for a few days – no sight-seeing, no blogging, no commitments to anyone but yourself. Sometimes the stress and roller coaster of emotions while traveling can wear you out and it’s important to give your emotional self time to catch up with all the touring you’ve been doing.
If you’re hanging around one place for awhile, seek out comfortable, reassuring places to spend time – even if this means hitting up your favorite guilty pleasure pizza joint a few times in a week, that’s OK. Sometimes giving yourself room for comfort can help you relax and figure out what’s been going on emotionally.
If it turns out that this not a temporary period of feeling down, reach out to someone you trust. At the very minimum, it’s important to have one person you can contact when you’re feeling bad, whether that’s to vent, seek advice or just have a warm body come sit beside you until you are feeling better.
While it is difficult to find a psychologist or psychiatrist on the road, it’s not impossible. Major cities, especially Westernized ones, are likely to have some kind of mental health resources. If not, more and more doctors are willing to have therapy sessions over Skype, and some offer a sliding scale for pay rates, so it can be affordable and easy to access from wherever you are.
If you are prone to depressive episodes and are typically on medication, it is a good idea to stock up before you start traveling. Some countries are better equipped to deal with mental distress than others, and it’s reassuring to know that you have a mechanism of coping with depression when it hits.
More importantly than anything is to not beat yourself up about having emotional difficulties while on the road. Some may think that there is nothing to be sad about while traveling, but changing locations does not make deep-seated problems go away. Be gentle with yourself and make your happiness and well-being your number one priority. All those sights you want to see will still be there when you’re feeling better.
And try to be aware if you’re burning yourself out. Excessive fatigue and stress can lead to depression, so be proactive about getting the rest, exercise, nutrition and care you need to maintain your physical and emotional health.