It’s the middle of the summer and burning up, at least in Arizona, which means a lot of people are trying to hit the road for a cooler destination. Even if you’re not taking a vacation, you might be traveling for your job, or preparing to move to a different residence or to visit family and friends.
And whether you realize it or not, traveling can actually impact mental health for better or worse.
Deborah Legge, a licensed mental health counselor said in an email that whether travel is embraced or avoided, it is a “break from the norm” and can impact our moods.
“For some, getting away can help to decrease the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression,” Legge said. Others can see an increase in symptoms due to stress, feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed due to leaving the familiarity of home.
“Loss of sleep that often occurs when we travel can contribute to increased problems with mood stabilization (as in bipolar illness),” she said.
For people who enjoy traveling in general, it can enhance their mood to be in a new climate and to see distant family and friends. Travel can be a “healthy way to unplug and recharge at the same time,” Legge said.
“When you are truly away, you are more likely to enjoy your downtime in a guilt-free way; you are more likely to allow yourself to relax,” she added.
However, when people are forced to travel (like for a job or moving) they could experience stress, anxiety, irritability and overall negative emotions, Legge said.
Sometimes even when people are excited to travel, the process can be stressful. It can involve driving for hours, maneuvering though airport security, and worrying about flight safety. You may find yourself hurrying to get places on time (especially during holidays and bad weather).
“Fortunately, these annoying factors usually have a fleeting effect on the overall experience, so what we remember is the good time away with family and friends,” Legge said.
Here are a few of Legge’s tips for keeping your mind, mood and emotions healthy during your future travels:
1) “Plan ahead. As best you can, plot out the details of your trip.