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carefree traveling: how to reduce stress on the go
by Julia Thomas
Travel: it’s a word that brings up a wide range of emotions. Travel can mean fun, excitement, exploring the new and the different, or getting away from the humdrum of everyday reality. Even this year, there are many exciting events in the U.S. worth traveling to attend. Yet, travel can also mean stress, anxiety, and emotional distress. It isn’t always comfortable stepping outside your usual routine. Fortunately, there is a way to deal with stress on the go. It’s called BetterHelp, and it’s a mental health tool you can take with you anywhere.
Recognizing Travel Stress
You might be very aware that stress is intruding on your journey, even before you leave home. Or, maybe you feel there’s something a little off, but you can’t quite put your finger on what it is. Anytime you’re traveling or preparing to travel, it makes sense to check yourself for symptoms of stress. Here are a few of the signs of stress a counselor can help you recognize.
Stress affects your body:
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Changes in appetite or sleep
- Muscle tension
Stress affects your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors:
- A feeling of being overwhelmed
- Worrying constantly
- Feeling you’re worthless or not up to the task
- Racing thoughts
It’s easy to pass many of this first list of symptoms off as a physical side-effect of travel. After all, if you’re keeping later hours or exerting yourself in ways you aren’t accustomed to, you’re probably going to feel tired. If you’re driving for longer hours than you usually do, your muscles are naturally going to get a little tense. Sleeping in a different bed might change your sleep patterns and eating at excellent restaurants might boost your appetite. So, for many people, it isn’t always clear whether the problem is physical or emotional.
One way to tell the difference is to focus on the second set of symptoms. How are you feeling about where you are, where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there? Are you worried about reaching your destination?
Another clue is noticing when the symptoms from both lists crop up. Are you most tense when you’re looking for an unfamiliar highway exit? Do you lose your appetite when you think about the next leg of your journey? Do you toss and turn in bed at night with your thoughts churning on what might happen at your next stop? If so, you might be experiencing stress.
What’s Triggering Your Stress?
The thing that many people don’t realize about travel stress is that it often has sources that go beyond or run deeper than the novelty of going somewhere different. There is usually an immediate trigger that causes a stressful situation. Some common ones include:
- Running late for a flight or dinner reservation
- Driving in unfamiliar territory
- Difficulty finding a hotel with vacancies
- Severe weather
- Not knowing local customs or language
- Conflicts with people you’re traveling with
- Heavy traffic
- Trouble finding restrooms
- Getting lost
- Losing your wallet, phone, or documents
- Reconnecting with old friends who might have changed
What’s the Reason Behind the Trigger?
The thing about all these stresses is that there’s a more significant reason behind the immediate discomfort of that stress. It isn’t just about getting lost or getting stuck in a traffic jam. Those things might not bother you if you had a different mindset. Here are some reasons why these types of problems might seem so stressful to you.
You want to be perfect.
Travel is rarely perfect. There will be times when a flight is running late, when there are no taxis around, or when you have to wait an hour to be seated in a restaurant. The idea that everything will go smoothly from start to finish of your trip is unrealistic. A therapist can help you sort out your realistic expectations from your perfectionistic ones. Then, if you let go of the need for every detail to run like clockwork, you may find it much easier to relax and enjoy yourself.
Your relationships with your travel companions were already tense.
Relationships that are already unsettled can become even more tense when you add the stress of traveling. Dealing with relationship problems while you’re on the road can be difficult, especially if no one is traveling with you who can offer objective insights. That’s where an online therapist comes in. You can connect with them even while you’re away from home to check your perceptions about the relationship.
You have a habit of negative self-talk.
The things you say to yourself have a significant impact on the way you feel and how you handle travel stress. If you’re telling yourself you’re not smart enough to navigate the trip or strong enough to engage in your planned activities, you’re sabotaging your ability to do it. When you talk to your therapist, they might help you uncover those negative thought patterns. Then, they can teach you to recognize that you do have a choice in the thoughts you keep and the ones you discard.
How Online Therapy Can Help
When you’re away from home, you can’t check in at your local counselor’s office. But with a counseling platform like BetterHelp, you can access counseling services through text chat or videoconferencing wherever you are. You can get the help you need to regain your perspective, ease your fears, and deal with relationship issues. Then, no matter how far off the beaten track you go, you aren’t alone. You can deal with your travel stress, improve your mental health overall, and be ready to enjoy a new day on the road.