For those with less natural resilience than others, traveling a long distance and visiting a new place can burden the mind. Past studies have demonstrated that difficult commuting conditions can noticeably decrease job satisfaction and that long and frequent trips may even triple the chance of developing certain mental disorders. Luckily, experts have also weighed in on some useful strategies to avoid excess stress and anxiety.
The heavy baggage of traveling
In a 1990 study conducted by Raymond W. Novaco, Ph.D., and fellow colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley, the researchers noticed that increasing physical obstacles during a commute were associated with greater amounts of ailments and aversion. In addition to higher rates of work absence due to illness, travel impedances were significantly related with chest pain, commuting satisfaction and job change. These hurdles and hindrances mainly consisted of various forms of traffic, from jams to congestion.
International Travel Health Symposium of 2000 also brought attention to the various psychological consequences of frequent international travelers. The World Bank evaluated over 10,000 health care claims that involved visits to physicians, psychiatrists or psychologists. Men and women who commuted four or more times a year were three times more likely to experience mental issues. Serious problems were primarily anxiety disorders, adjustment disorders and acute reactions to stress.
In addition, previous research endeavors by the bank found that more than a third of nearly 500 survey respondents reported high to very high degrees of travel-related stress. Social and emotional worries such as the impact on family relations and feeling isolation were responsible for the most stress. Other sources of anxiousness included possible health issues and one’s workload upon return.
An on-the-go survival guide
In a 2013 interview, Clinical Psychologist Joseph Cilona, Ph.D., outlined a few important guidelines that can ease the stress of weary travelers. He advised that people make extra preparations for worst-case scenarios, recognize elements that are or are not in their control and plan well-needed distractions along the way.
Lisa McKay, M.A., of the Headington Institute broke down the main stages and sources of stress for traveling humanitarian workers. They included leaving one’s home, physically transitioning to a new location, culturally entering that location and re-entering one’s home. To combat these psychological threats, McKay also listed helpful advice to cope with stress at different stages of taking a trip:
- Prepay your bills and address other important obligations you will be absent for.
- Collect contacts and obtain instructions to help handle medical emergencies.
- Anticipate your needs for when you return such as having food in the house.
- Leave plenty of time for reaching destinations and allow yourself to slow down.
- Protect your health; do not neglect basic self-care.
- Manage and organize your expenses appropriately.
- Give yourself a spiritual check-up and access what feelings are different.
- Create personal time and space to unwind from the travel experience.
- After some time, debrief your experience with a counselor or people you trust.
Sovereign Health of California is a behavioral health treatment facility that recognizes the many situations and circumstances that can evoke disordered anxiety or panic. If you, a friend or family member is dealing with serious levels of stress, do not hesitate to contact our 24/7 helpline online or by phone to speak with a consultant. Our care plans are specialized to one’s exact needs.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer