7 Self-Care Tips for Traveling Solo with Anxiety and Depression8 min read
I haven’t been forthcoming throughout the years regarding my struggle with depression and anxiety. Depression has been a consistent theme throughout my life while manifesting into severe weight gain as well as hermit-like tendencies. I would appear and disappear as quickly as the sun would rise and set. At first, I thought, maybe this is just me being an introvert. However, in actuality, it was a bit of both: depression and anxiety. Often I would become anxious at the thought of being in a room filled with people while sustaining forced shallow conversations. It was a mess. But here I was, I had to develop 7 self-care tips for traveling solo with anxiety and depression.
7 Self-Care Tips for Traveling Solo with Anxiety and Depression
I once had someone say to me, “You can’t possibly be that depressed. You’ve maintained your weight-loss, and you go to the gym. Someone who is that depressed can’t possibly be able to do those things.” Many high functioning individuals suffer from depression. It creeps up on us the way the common cold does, however, it feels like our bodies are moving in quicksand. You’ll find us canceling appointments with friends, being late to work, or laying in bed for days without reaching out to the outside world.
Furthermore, I’ve never been alone. My son lived with me until he turned 18. I was always distracted by work or school and even romantic relationships. Here I was traveling solo for the very first time. I was not alone for my trips throughout parts of Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. After dealing with a terrible finite breakup abroad, I was left to figure it all out alone.
I recall one day driving to the Eastern Market area of Washington, D.C just to explore. At that point in my life, I was experiencing much apathy. I had lost interest in everything, and I felt nothing. There were no tears, only distractions. Apathy is a real bitch. It turns you into someone who can’t feel. There were many times that I had to force interactions with others as a result of my profession. However, most of the time depression and apathy kept me stapled to the walls of my home. Eventually, my feelings caught up with me during this solo trip. I had no one around and nothing to get in the way of me feeling.
Chiang Mai was my first solo trip.
I boarded the plane excited about visiting the northern part of Thailand. There were so many great things that I heard about this area that I was itching to visit it. I chose a hostel that wasn’t too social. After all, I am a self-proclaimed introvert. Solitude is important to me as well as quiet time. However, when I sat on my bed for the first time, the loneliness crept throughout me the way a disease runs rampant destroying cells in the body.
Granted, I was dealing with the recent separation, and I felt thousands and thousands of miles away from anything that felt remotely familiar. There were two occasions in which I had a complete meltdown crying fit. I planned on exploring the nightlife of Chiang Mai, but instead, I stayed in my room crying my eyes out.
I sat at the edge of the bed, and these judgments began circling my head. Subsequently, the words loner and loser circled my head. At times, I felt as if people were watching me. It felt like they were judging me for being by myself. But I knew this was all in my head. The two out of four days that I was in Chiang Mai, I only left my room to eat, other than that, I stayed in. It felt like I was facing myself for the first time and I was on the verge of self-destructing.
I allowed myself to experience those feelings. It was paramount that I did. Often, we suppress those feelings through various avoidance behaviors. Rather all it does is perpetuate our stunted growth. It retains us in this loop.
“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” Carl Jung
While abroad I had to finally develop a self-care plan that would allow me to combat my depression and anxiety to enjoy these beautiful countries that I was visiting. How did I do that? Below are 7 self-care tips for traveling solo with anxiety and depression:
1. The first thing to do is remove yourself from whatever toxic situation(s) that is weighing you down. If you’re not around anyone that is uplifting you or if you don’t have that support system that can do that for you, then it’s especially important for you to find one. I let go of what was making me feel so terrible inside.
2. Begin a meditation practice. Meditation is extra hard for people who suffer from anxiety. The thought of sitting down with one’s own thoughts is quite scary. Meditation forces you to become aware of those thoughts without latching on to it. It removes you from the loop while giving you more control of your thoughts.
However, be mindful of starting in chunks, i.e. five minutes, ten minutes, and so forth. Meditation is about building not jumping all the way in. I use the Calm app for my meditation practice. It’s perfect for both guided meditation or silent meditation.
3. Start jotting your thoughts in a journal. Don’t focus on doing this every day, however, get in the habit of brain dumping. Our thoughts are overwhelming with depression and anxiety, that having a journal to dump all of those thoughts into will bring much relief. Free your thoughts from your mind and let them run wild on the page. Just the process alone will feel liberating.
4. Go for a walk. In Southeast Asia, I began a walking practice, and it has helped me quite a bit. Working out, in general, is an excellent way to combat anxiety and depression. The release of endorphins elevates your mood consequently allowing you to feel better. It also keeps you busy. Therefore, you’re not focusing on your thoughts. Walks are meditative.
5. Spark up random conversations with people. It’s scary for us introverts, but a quick conversation with someone can do wonders to your mood. People are often friendly abroad and will engage with you. Often people want to know why and what are you doing in this part of the world. Typically, if I can, I would spark conversations with people.
6. Let go of the judgments and any limiting beliefs. However, allow yourself to fully experience whatever it is that you are going through. Our thoughts can hurt our spirit, and it’s up to us to recognize this.
It’s our responsibility to challenge the reality behind those thoughts. People travel solo quite often, I began reading blogs about these people, and I no longer felt alone. Moreover, anxiety and depression isn’t a rarity.
In fact, 6.8 million adults suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder with women twice as likely to be affected than men. As of 2014 15.7 million adults suffer from depression, I’m sure that number has increased since then. Therefore, you’re not alone. Despite these statistics, one can overcome anxiety and depression. In many cases without the use of medications.
7. Lastly, self-talk helps tremendously. I often wake up and have to give myself a pep talk and remind myself about my purpose. Not only do I remind myself of my purpose, but I also have to accept where I am now with all that I have. Practicing gratitude has allowed me to appreciate life. Traveling to different countries has also expanded my gratitude practice. During the day or some mornings give yourself a pep talk, it may seem silly at first but trust me it does wonders.
Given these points, I understand none of it is easy. It depends on where you are on the spectrum of your anxiety and depression, but with practice, however, one can conquer it. These methods have helped me to take more control of my thoughts and feelings. Of course, I’m still a work in progress, we all are.
There is no arriving, meaning there isn’t a place that you get to because once you get there, you keep going. The learning of Buddhism has helped me to understand that life is and will be full of mishaps and challenges. Most importantly, it’s how we react and respond to those mishaps and challenges. If you want to travel the world, and you’re waiting for a friend that can’t seem to get their life together to join you, guess what you may have to travel solo.
Many of these tips aren’t innovative. However, they work if you work them. I am proof that they work. Often, we have to remind ourselves that there aren’t any shortcuts to improving the self. It’s a daily conscious commitment.
Life is too short to place it on hold because we fear the unknown, or we allow depression and anxiety to take control of the wheel. I wish you much success, love, and light on your journey to conquer yourself. I hope these 7 self-care tips for traveling solo with anxiety and depression are helpful. What are some of the things that you have learned while traveling solo? How have you managed your mental health abroad?
Lessons that I’ve learned:
1. My life will only change if I face all of what pains me and scares me.
2. Life will move with or without me, I must participate in my life every day.
3. I hate fear. However, I appreciate it at the same time. It reminds me that there’s so much of myself that needs to grow.
4. Being alone and lonely aren’t simultaneous. Honestly, both are okay.
5. Judgments are that little devil on my shoulder that is trying to steal my joy. I have to be active in noticing it and teach myself to minimize those voices.
6. I am 100% responsible for all of my emotions and for everything that happens in my life.