Mental Illness Doesn’t Take Vacation

We all know the holidays can be chaotic. Family vacations, shopping sprees, and holiday parties are about to take over our lives.

Unfortunately, mental illness doesn’t take vacation.

I learned this on my honeymoon last month. I was pumped. We went to Jamaica and I was ready to let loose and party.

Until I wasn’t.

What I didn’t factor in was that my anxiety and depression wouldn’t take a vacation. We were in a new place, just married two days prior, and ready to start our lives together. There was a lot going on in my brain. The entire week before had been spent doing last minute preparations for the wedding, hanging out with friends and family that came to town to celebrate with us, and not sleeping as I was so excited.

Needless to say, I got to Jamaica and crashed. Hard. That first day part of my brain was screaming: go get a beer, jump in the ocean, dance all night, eat a massive steak! And the other part was whispering: curl up in bed, turn off the lights, and succumb to your exhaustion and high state of anxiety.

Luckily, we were able to do a bit of both: a nice dinner with some wine, then having a relaxed night in our room.

I thought after that first day, my anxiety would just fly away back to Milwaukee and be waiting for me when I got home.

Wrong again.

I am blessed that my mental illness did not run my vacation. We did everything we wanted and had the time of our lives. But it did pop up several times and I did have to slow down twice to give my mental illness some R&R before jumping back in!

Now, travel and holidays and your anxiety or depression spiking is inevitable. BUT there are actions you can take to make it more bearable.

  1. Tap into your senses!
  • Smell: Do you have a favorite tea you love smelling? Or maybe an essential oil? My go to is lavender so I took a lavender pillow spray with me.
  • Taste: Have a favorite snack or drink that helps calm you down? Pack this! I am a salty person so I like taking a small back of pretzels with me when I travel. I am also a huge tea drinker so I make sure to have tea with me (or check to make sure the place I am going has tea).
  • Touch: This one can be a bit trickier but is still possible! Take a smooth object like a rock. Touching it can help calm anxiety. Or maybe get a bit more personal and take your favorite shirt or sweatshirt!
  • Sound: Be sure to download your favorite tracks to your phone so you can listen to them whether or not you have internet!
  • Sight: Take a favorite picture with you 🙂 I always carry one of each of my pets.

2. Find a safe place: This is very important. If for some reason you need to get away to breath or just have a moment, it is best to have a game plan. It could be the room you are staying in or possibly even outside. Take the dog for a walk or just do deep breathing exercises. The holidays and travel are very overwhelming, just take the time you need.

3. Journal: It could be as simple as a travel journal or as complex as all of your minds wanderings. It doesn’t matter, but writing keeps your brain more clear!

4. Talk to someone you love: If you are visiting family or going on vacation, make sure someone knows what is going on. It could be a parent or significant other. If there is not someone at the location you are going who you are comfortable telling, ask a close friend to keep their phone close in case you need them.

5. Try not to overthink it: Don’t go all zombie apocalypse trying to prepare for every situation. The idea of having a panic attack while traveling or the holidays can be scary but there is only so much you can do to prevent it. Enjoy the time with your family or friends!

Having your mental illness pop up at the worst times is just something you learn to live with; however, packing it up and dealing with it over holidays sucks a million times more than normal because you tend to be out of your element and surrounded by people or in a new place.

Just remember, you got this!

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