How vacation can make you depressed, and what to do about it

One of the issues I have had with my depression is traveling. I go to Harrisburg very frequently as part of my job, and many of those are overnight – I’m probably away from home something like 40-50 nights a year (easily the worst part of my job, and that has nothing to do with depression!). It was hard to get used to. That being said, at this point, I’ve spent so much time in Harrisburg, it’s almost like a second home. I have the same hotel (and usually the same few rooms), same basic routine, and it’s made life relatively easy.
Now, traveling to a new place, particularly when I am alone, remains a struggle. A new routine, a new city, make life very hard. For me, that happens from time to time, usually as part of a convention or hearing. I have found that it’s best for me to keep the same basic routine. I try to be back in my hotel room by 8-9, putz around for a bit, go to sleep by 11 and wake up early enough to get to the gym. Having a standard routine no matter where I go is really helpful, as it gives me a sense of comfort and normalcy, no matter where I am.
While I know I’m not the only one with travel anxiety, the idea that others could share my periodic troubles on family vacations were new to me. But, to my surprise, when I googled “vacation depression,” I found a ton!
Anyway, after doing some research, here are the best tips that I could find, along with some of my own thoughts.
  • First, and this is just me stalking, stick to your routine. Get up around the same time. Keep a normal bedtimes. Try to keep at least one meal you eat similar to what you’d eat at home. A sense of routine can avoid a shock to your body.
  • Go easy on yourself. Remember that vacations aren’t about expectations or THINGS I HAVE TO MUST DO RIGHT NOW NOW NOW – they are about relaxing, unwinding and a break from the stresses of normal life. If you suffer from depression, this may mean that you still suffer – and that’s okay. That’s who you are. Give yourself permission to be in pain and don’t berate yourself for it.
  • Choose a vacation that matches your personality. Placing pressure on yourself to go on a vacation you think you’re “supposed” to go on will only add to the depression you’re feeling. Instead, select a destination that will allow you to get what you want out of the vacation. Going somewhere you can’t fully enjoy or a place that makes you feel inadequate will only make your depression worse (via WikiHow)
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others. Many people with depression fall into the trap of comparing others’ vacations to theirs. You may look at the vacationers around you and wonder why you’re not enjoying yourself as much as they are. Placing pressure on yourself to enjoy what you think you should can make you feel worse. Instead, realize you probably aren’t seeing the bigger picture (via WikiHow)

There’s more out there, and if you have any tips, I’d love to hear them. Leave them in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “How vacation can make you depressed, and what to do about it

  1. I love this piece – my partner is on vacation in Hawaii with family and called me last night feeling guilty for struggling with depression today while in such a sunny, beautiful place. It made me curious about the experience of vacationing while experiencing any type of mental health struggle. Anyway. This was a helpful article 🙂


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