Mental health is extremely important while traveling (especially if its for a long time) and for me that means being able to meditate. This is by no means a “Everyone Should Meditate” post (even though I am a firm believer that everyone could benefit from it… but that will be reserved for another day). I personally struggle with anxiety and depression which tends to get worse at times when I travel for an extended period of time. Now this is in no way because of travel, but more because of what my priorities are while I am traveling. It is easy to not exercise, not meditate, and eat unhealthy while traveling. Coupling that with always being in unfamiliar and at times stressful situations can make my anxiety flare up, which then causes my depression to come creeping along behind it. This tends to make for a perfect storm of anxiety and depression if I don’t practice self-care and learn to understand the signs. Everyone’s anxiety and depression are different and are triggered by different things, so these tips may not be of any help to you. It is important to figure out what does and does not work for you! These are just a few things that have helped me better manage anxiety and depression, because mental health should not be something that stops you from traveling. It just means that you need to be more aware of what is going on with your body.
It took me a long time and a lot of therapy for me to figure out exactly what triggers my anxiety and depression, but I now know how to read the signs and can work to turn it around.
While it doesn’t always work, for me meditation, exercise, and eating healthy make a huge difference in my mental health. However, on the road these can easily be pushed to the side in favor of sleeping in, going out with new friends, tasting delicious new foods, and going sight seeing. While these are all amazing things that I love to do, if I never take a break from them and block off time for some self care then I end up in staying in bed all day, too anxious and depressed to go out and experience the new city I am in. So here are some of my tips for self care while on the road!
1. Schedule, schedule, schedule!
Schedule your exercise and meditation time. Set an alarm or a reminder to go off when you should start exercising or meditating. This makes it so much easier because it is way to tempting to “forget” to meditate or exercise. An alarm going off gives me no excuse and even if I don’t end up meditating, at least I was reminded through out the day and will practice mindfulness in smaller ways.
For me, I like to go for a run or do yoga or whatever exercise I feel like doing right when I wake up in the morning. This jump starts my day and lets me wake up on a good note. It also lets me explore a city while most people are still asleep. Running in the morning shines a whole new light on a city and it allows me to get my bearings a little bit better by exploring some side streets.
I also like to meditate immediately after I finish working out. Normally I will find a nice place to stretch for a little while and then begin my meditation.
Doing this all in the morning may not be everyone’s preference, but I find that this is the best time for me to do it all. I start out my day much more centered and relaxed, and I find I tend to make healthier decisions if I start my day like this.
2. Choose a picturesque place to meditate
I like to make sure that my run always ends at a park or a scenic location. Its typically pretty quiet in most cities when I finish a run in the morning, so it is easy to find a place a little tucked out of the way to meditate. I find that when the scenery around me is beautiful and peaceful, I am more centered and focused while meditating. It also just makes it more enjoyable!
Sometimes I will also bring a small scarf with me while I run, so that I can sit on something when I am meditating and not directly on the grass. I always get itchy when I do this and having the scarf makes it easier to focus.
3. Choose a realistic amount of time to meditate
I absolutely hate 45 minute meditations. On a good day I am able to do 20 minutes without getting antsy. I know there are people out there who can meditate for long periods of time, but I am not one of them. If I start setting unrealistic goals for the day then I just end up frustrated and annoyed.
I have found an app that I really like to use called Headspace. It has a variety of lengths and types of guided meditation, so I can choose one based on how I am feeling that day . If it is a good day, I’ll choose a longer one, but if I know its going to be difficult I’ll choose a ten minute one. Either way I am not frustrated and I feel relaxed for it.
Always remember that even if you are having trouble focusing, you are in a beautiful place and this is the time to just sit and appreciate where you are.
4. Be kind to yourself!
It is easy to get out of the habit of meditating and exercising while traveling, so if this happens don’t beat yourself up! Everyone struggles with blocking out time to meditate, so never feel bad if you skip a few days. Just jump right back in and keep going! Even if you only end up meditating once every two weeks, it is still better than never meditating.
Meditation while traveling poses some unique challenges, but the most important thing to remember is to approach everything with an open mind and kindness. Remembering this will make your travels a much calmer and beneficial experience.
If you have never meditated before, I encourage you to look into it! Here are some links to other blogs that post about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness that I have found particularly helpful in my journey:
My favorite app to use for guided mediation is Headspace. It has all different lengths and types of meditations and is perfect for trying out a few different ones in order to figure out what fits your lifestyle best.
I will be doing a post in the future about my journey with meditation and mental health, so look for that in the next few months! What are your experiences with meditation and traveling? Have you ever tried it?