Traveling can be fun and exhilarating, but it is not the magic bullet against depression for many people.
The fact that traveling does not help is known by people who have depression, who often share their experiences with others facing similar struggles. In addition, there are support groups out there for people with depression. For example, check out this list compiled by ADAA. Using this resource, you can get in touch with reasonably sane people and provide you with information and support to help guide you through your travels.
Millions of people travel each day for work, vacation, or both. For millions more, the freedom to travel is elusive. As many as 15 million Americans are seriously depressed. Depression can make it difficult to leave the house, let alone book a ticket out of town. Travel may not be an option for them. In a world that primarily aims to improve quality of life, it may seem odd that travel is on a list of depression treatments. It might even seem contradictory. But a review on the subject finds that, indeed, for some people, travel does not have a beneficial effect. Instead, it can harm some with specific characteristics.
Don't flee to other countries
The problem isn't so much that you're unhappy; it's that you're not dealing with it. So if I'm sad and I go to Florida, the problem is still there. And there's a good chance I'll end up back in New York unhappy again. And if I go home, I'm sad there. So by not dealing with it, I'm creating the very situation that caused me to go in the first place.
The best way to deal with being unhappy is by being happy — and the best way to be satisfied is by dealing with the issues that are causing you unhappiness. Once you've dealt with the things that make you unhappy, you'll be in a better position to appreciate all the things that make your life worth living.
Traveling can make symptoms worse
Chronic depression is not cured by travel, no matter what people do. The notion that a trip can cure depression is a myth. For people with a common form of depression called dysthymia, travel may temporarily relieve symptoms. But dysthymia — the mildest type of depression — tends to recur.
Also, symptoms may return after a trip is over. In one study, people with dysthymia took a two-week vacation; 90 percent felt that their symptoms had improved, but 26 percent experienced depression return within two weeks. Some people with chronic depression find that travel exacerbates their symptoms. They may become irritable, angry, or hopeless during a journey or develop an anxiety or panic disorder.
Understand why you need or want to escape
Traveling can be a pleasure, but it also has the potential to add stress to your life, especially if you're planning to travel solo. So it's worth asking yourself why you want to escape. Is it to escape from everyday life? Is it to get more distance from a relationship? Is it to meet new people? Is it to explore a new part of the world? Is it to escape from your responsibilities? Whatever your reason for traveling, it's important to remember that traveling alone will amplify all of these factors.
So if you're looking for ways to cope with whatever is upsetting you. Getting away from it all might not be the best plan. Instead, find meaningful ways to fill that void or hole that you think travel might fill. That could mean trying an activity you haven't done in a while, hanging out with positive people, connecting with the world around you through social media, or volunteering your time for a cause or movement you genuinely believe.
Identify the source of discomfort and pain
Let's say you're in a relationship and everything seems fine, but you still have the feeling something is not correct. Taking a flight to an unknown destination can make a person feel better in the short term because they feel like they're in control of their lives again. As a result, they tend to romanticize about meeting someone new or escaping. Escapism is part of the human condition, even if it's not healthy.
Why? Because with most people, the natural source of discomfort lies within themselves. It's not the person sitting next to you with noisy kids who's the cause of your pain. It's your fear of conflict and communication with strangers. Traveling is an easy way out, so it can be tempting to think you've solved the problem when in reality, it's only taken the pain away from you temporarily.
If you're feeling anxious, stressed, and frustrated, you may be struggling with your anxiety. If you're feeling depressed, you may be struggling with depression. If you're feeling stressed, you may be struggling with stress. On the other hand, your anxiety could be a sign of something more profound. It could be that there's something you need to deal with for the moment. Take the time to figure out what's going on so you can begin the process to heal.
Change the behavior and thoughts which cause pain
The first step to overcoming anxiety is being self-aware of what you are feeling. These are some of the most common thoughts that come up during anxious moments. They are easy to relate to and can become harmful if you don't deal with them correctly. For example, when was the last time you did something nice for yourself? Okay, maybe "self-care" isn't your thing or doesn't feel right, but that's okay. It would be pretty hard to care about yourself if you didn't have self-awareness.
As with most things, you are knowing is half the battle. Easier said than done, you say. How do you find out what's going on for you if no one else can tell? Dive into your own heart and mind, and think of how you feel about situations where you're feeling anxious. Please get to the bottom of it and learn a whole lot about yourself along the way. A happier person is a nicer person.
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