7 life-saving tips to maintaining your emotional health abroad
Depression is a silent killer. Often, we don’t realize that depression affects high-functioning individuals as well. Depression doesn’t discriminate. I discuss the 7 quality ways to improving your emotional health while abroad.
30% of women are depressed in the United States.
54% of people perceive depression as a weakness.
41% of women are too embarrassed to ask for treatment.
80% of individuals are untreated for depression.
92% of African-American males don’t seek treatment.
15% of people will commit suicide.
30% of people who are on antidepressants says it actually helps.
51 billion dollars of lost revenue in productivity for businesses.
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. You’re not alone, and there’s nothing wrong with you. Below there are 7 quality ways to improving your emotional health while abroad.
I’ve never openly discussed my depression and anxiety. Although, as a social worker, I understood the depths of depression, however, depression didn’t “look” like me.
Every day I went to work, and every day I went to school. As a mom, I made sure we did activities together. My son had birthdays, I made most if not all of his meals, and I gave him all of the attention that he needed.
When in fact, I confused hermit-like tendencies with introversion. When it was depression. One minute I’m present, spending time with friends, and the next minute no one would hear from me.
Depression manifested into severe weight gain. At a point in my life at 5'4, I weighed a whopping 230lbs.
Above all, the loop consisted of depression-anxiety-depression. The lack of results towards my personal goals would transform into anxiety. Therefore I would then feel depressed, and the cycle continues.
Anxiety made it difficult for me to connect in social situations which then led to depressed feelings for having difficulties connecting.
Before traveling abroad, I finally connected with a therapist. She helped me a great deal. If depression and anxiety have a seat at the table, then I urge you to bring in a well-qualified therapist to sit in between all of you.
Traveling abroad challenged my emotional and mental state. It forced me to develop 7 self-care tips for traveling solo with anxiety and depression.
7 Quality Ways To Improving Your Emotional Health While Abroad
My ex-girlfriend said, “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.” By that point, I had lost 70lbs.
Besides, she failed to realize that many high functioning individuals suffer from depression. It creeps up on us the way the common cold does, and our bodies feel like as if we are moving in quicksand.
You’ll find us canceling appointments with friends, late for work, or laying in bed for days without reaching out to the outside world.
Often, we are in social situations on the outside looking in.
Furthermore, I’ve never been alone. My son lived with me until he turned 18. As a parent distractions were inevitable.
Combine that with work and romantic relationships you forgo the real issues that you need to work through.
One day I parked my car near Eastern Market in Washington, D.C. Feelings of apathy overwhelmed me. I lost interest in many things because I felt nothing. There were no tears just distractions.
Apathy is a real bitch. Under those circumstances, it turns you into someone who can’t feel. I started acting. Instead, I pretended at work and anywhere else that needed more than I could give.
However, most of the time depression and apathy kept me stapled to the walls in my house. Our feelings resurface when we suppress them. Eventually, now or later you must confront them.
Your life will demand that you deal with it. Regardless, escaping isn’t an option. You don’t ever escape. That’s what happened to me during this solo trip to Chiang Mai. I had no choice but to confront my demons.
Despite everything I traveled.
Chiang Mai is in the northern part of Thailand. I met tons of travelers who mentioned that this area is a must visit.
The hostel that I stayed in isn’t known for socialization, which worked perfectly for me. I’m 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 invaded me. I felt cornered.
Many thoughts circled my head. A recent separation gave me grief, and I felt thousands and thousands of miles away from anything that felt remotely familiar.
I had a total meltdown. A crying fit; twice in my room crying my eyes out.
Judgments circled my head like vultures. It felt weird to travel solo. The words loner and loser circled my head. At times, I felt as if people knew of my loneliness.
Were they judging me?
Then feelings of abandonment engulfed me. Took me back to childhood days. Anxiety is irrational. On the verge of self-destruction, I had to face my fears.
The most profound wisdom that I received came from my therapist and a retreat that I attended. Both said, feel everything.
Don’t avoid feeling. Feel every bit of feeling that’s inside and sit with it, without judgments.
It’s important to allow yourself to process what you’re experiencing. If we neglect ourselves the ability to feel we’ll remain stuck the loop of depression and or anxiety.
“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” Carl Jung
It was time to develop a self-care plan. Not having a self-care plan is why I burned out and quit my job. Below are 7 self-care tips for traveling solo with anxiety and depression:
1. Remove Yourself
Eliminate anything that is toxic and weighing you down. Stop making excuses for whomever or whatever it is. As a matter of fact, see the situation or the person for what or whom they truly are.
Don’t confuse a support system with toxic connections. In other words, be intentional with whom you associate with. People will drain you of your energy.
Often, it’s not intentional, however, be mindful of your energy. Let go of whatever is making you feel terrible inside.
Begin a meditation practice. Meditation is extra hard for people who suffer from anxiety. However, the thought of sitting down with your thoughts is scary.
Meditation forces you to become aware of those thoughts without attachments. Long-term it helps to remove you from the loop while giving you more control of your thoughts and emotions.
Because this is an intense process, I suggest chunking your time. Start with five minutes, ten minutes, and so forth. Think of meditation as building a house, one brick at a time.
The Calm app has helped me with my meditation practice. It’s perfect for both guided meditation or silent meditation. Choose whichever method is best for you.
Journaling is a great complement to meditation. When your thoughts are too overwhelming for meditation, then journal first.
It will help free up space in your head. Do a massive mind dump. Try not to focus on journaling every day, however, get in the habit of brain dumping.
Often, when we begin a new habit we do too much in the beginning, and we can’t sustain it. Therefore, we’ll lose our resolve.
Take it one day at a time. Free yourself from your thoughts and let them run wild on the page. Just the process alone will feel liberating because we carry way too much inside of us.
4. Take a Walk
Go for a walk. In Southeast Asia, I began a walking practice. I’ve noticed an increase in mood.
The release of endorphins elevates your mood consequently allowing you to feel better. In regards to anxiety, exercising allows you to feel safe when feeling symptoms of anxiety.
For example, while working out your heart rate increases, you sweat, etc. Beginning a regular workout regimen will help ease both anxiety and depression. It also keeps you busy.
Walks are meditative. Exercise is a healthy distraction. Please note this is a long-term solution and not an overnight quick fix.
5. Have A Conversation
Especially if you’re prone to hermit-like tendencies. I’ve noticed when I spark up conversations with random people, I feel good afterward.
People are often curious while you’re traveling abroad. It’s a bit easier to have these conversations than maybe in your home country.
A quick conversation keeps you stimulated, and it makes a great story.
6. Release Judgements and Limiting Beliefs
Allow yourself to fully experience whatever it is that you are going through. Experience all of the judgments and limiting beliefs, then analyze whether or not any of it is true.
Our thoughts can hurt our spirit. It’s up to us to first recognize this so that we can make changes.
It’s our responsibility to challenge the rationality behind our thoughts. People travel solo quite often. I began reading blogs about these people because I wanted to know that there were others with similar stories.
This is where journaling and a therapist will come in handy.
Gratitude helps you to feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve your health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
As a result, gratitude also helps you to connect to something larger than yourself — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.
You can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude.
It could be as small as saying thank you to something or someone each day. This is a long-term practice. As time progresses, you will feel a deeper sense of connection with yourself and everything around you.
Lastly, given these points, none of which are easy. Because it depends on where you are on the spectrum of your anxiety and depression.
However, I firmly believe with an open mind, that you can inch your life forward.
As a result, these methods have helped me to take more control of my thoughts and feelings. It’s still in the beginning stages. I’m still a work in progress, we all are.
Seeing that nothing that I’ve suggested above is brand new. Often, it’s important to remind ourselves that there aren’t any shortcuts to improving ourselves. In that case, it’s a daily conscious commitment to living an intentional life.
With this in mind, there is no arriving. There isn’t a place that you get to because once you get there, things change, you adjust then march forward.
Buddhism is helping me to understand that life is and will be full of mishaps and challenges. More importantly, it’s how we react and respond to those setbacks and challenges.
Our reaction can either be rooted in suffering or acceptance.
For the simple reason, life is short. The longer we wait, the more we miss out on living. I wish you much success, love, and light on your journey to conquer yourself.
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