07 Jun Travel and Depression
Picture © Judy Ben Joud | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Travel – just the thing to soothe and heal you when you’re down, to rejuvenate you, to delight, thrill, inspire and excite you. That’s the idea anyway. But how you feel before you go away can determine how much you benefit from your break.
For many people a break away from the usual routines – and especially travelling abroad to somewhere new is a wonderful experience. If you’re feeling fed up or tired this might be exactly what you need to give you a boost.
If you’re truly depressed though, travel may lift your spirits, perhaps for a while – or it may not.
People become depressed for many different reasons and there is a real difference between feeling low in mood and clinical depression – where the function of the brain changes. It can be extremely hard to ‘get going’ when you are depressed, and you cannot just snap out of it. Depression may occur as the result of a trauma, or it can build up over a long period of time. Here’s what some people who experience depression have said about travel:
“I need to have something to look forward to and plan for. A trip abroad gives me that.”
“Travelling helped me to get over my mum’s death. It helped lessen my pain, and gave me a new focus – a fresh sense of perspective. I felt much more able to cope when I got home.”
“It was exciting, but I missed my regular routine. I found that really hard.”
“Travelling may help, but it doesn’t provide a cure.”
“Travelling’s great, and gets you away from everything – but it’s exhausting.”
“Going away pulled me out of depression, but I found my problems were waiting for me when I got back.”
“Travelling gives me a great lift. I know I run away from my issues, but travelling gives me the strength to deal with them somehow. My whole outlook changes for the better, and I seem to think differently when I’m away.”
“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” – Lillian Smith
If it’s your fellow traveller who is depressed, particularly if he or she is your partner, I think it can be helpful to keep a few things in mind:
- Travelling to new places together can help you to reconnect, and could possibly save your relationship. It can be a fantastic experience. On the other hand…
- You may have a wonderful time whilst you are away, but find that the familiar depressed behaviour starts again as soon as you get home. If so, at least you can be fortified by the experience of your trip, so that you’ll be better able to deal with this.
- Sometimes the person takes their depressed behaviour on the trip with them. Decide not to let this spoil things for you though. You can still have a good time yourself, and yet be compassionate. Remember, they cannot snap out of it, and the trip you’d hoped to enjoy together may just be a step too far for them right now. But you can still take advantage of the lovely things on offer whilst you are away. Allow yourself to do so without feeling guilty, because your own wellbeing will ultimately benefit not only you, but also the ones you love.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
Caroline Carr is the founder of Let the Sunshine In – a website which helps people connect with their bright side, even when their partner is depressed. She is a life coach and hypnotherapist, a teacher of Laughter Yoga, and the author of Living With Depression and How Not to Worry.