Holidays are meant to be enjoyable occasions where you get away from it all, relax or take in some new sights. However if you have a mental illness they can be far from enjoyable and instead trigger negative thoughts and anxiety.
I recently went on holiday and found myself bathed in anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Therefore I thought I would write a bit about them and some of the ways I coped.
My first anxiety was about packing. I always find it highly stressful and convince myself I am going to leave something absolutely essential behind. I also worry about what I am going to wear each day as, for me, I have to have it planned in advance. To help ease this anxiety I made mental lists and set out my clothes before packing. This helped me see that I had everything and planned my outfits. You could also make actual physical lists to overcome this stress.
My next anxiety came over leaving the house. I was convinced something bad would happen to it while we were away. I have this same fear sometimes when leaving the house for a few hours but leaving it for days it was multiplied. Part of my anxiety was managed by the fact we had someone coming in to water the plants so the house wouldn’t be left for a whole week. Another way I dealt with it was checking thins were secure prior to leaving. It just gave me peace of mind.
The journey was the next anxiety provoking aspect for me, especially e fact that we would have to find places to stop along the way. This was fairly simple to overcome by lookin at the route prior to leaving and seeing what places were available.
Eating out always causes me anxiety and on holiday this is usually something we do a lot of. My anxiety centres around different things related to eating out; from finding a place to eat, to what’s on the menu, to whether we’ll get a seat. All these things race through my mind and twist my stomach in knots. One way we tackled this was to look up eating places before we went out for the day, but some of the anxiety I just had to bare and use strategies to not allow it to take over. There will always be some unknowns.
Finally, a big anxiety for me was linked to toilets. I have a huge issue with using other peoples toilets and public toilets are near on impossible. So how did I deal with being away from my own toilet for a week? I struggled as there was no easy solution and I had to force myself into the situation and use coping strategies to control the anxiety and negative thoughts.
So overall holidays offer many triggers and pressures. I hope by sharing my issues you will feel less alone with your struggles. I hope if you have a holiday planned you enjoy it but remember it is also OK to not be OK. If you have any tips for dealing with holidays feel free to share in the comments.