An Online Psychologist Can Maintain a Traveller’s Mental Health

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It’s never a bad idea to keep your online psychologist on speed dial when traveling. Traveling in general is associated with rest and relaxation. You visualise the white sandy beaches of Bali or the brilliant lights of Broadway. But travelling can put a lot of strain on your mental health, especially if you already have a history of mental health struggles.

Travelling can open the door to completely new sources of stress or even revive old anxieties. Some of these stressors/triggers could be:

  • Loneliness
  • Leaving the familiar along with family and friends behind
  • Unexpected expenses
  • Difficulties during transit
  • Navigating a new culture
  • Navigating a new language
  • The social strain if you’re traveling in a group
  • Jet lag
  • Feeling like you’ve lost control in the unfamiliar

Travel can actually be so taxing that even those who have not had prior mental health challenges can suddenly find themselves trying to manage their mental health. These are some of the mental disorders that can sneak up on a traveller:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

This mostly occurs when the illusion of a happy and care-free holiday is shattered. Even if we are incredibly cautious individuals in our every-day lives, we can sometimes throw caution to the wind when on holiday. And we generally don’t think about possible accidents or threats in our immediate environment. This is because of a subconscious assumption that nothing bad can really happen to us when we’re on holiday. Unfortunately this is not the case. In fact, what might’ve been a small incident in our country of residence (such as a broken arm) can turn into an absolute nightmare in a foreign land. Not even to mention big disasters such as the tsunami of 2004. It’s absolutely no wonder that events such as these can cause PTSD. These symptoms are easily picked up on by an online psychologist and can include:

  • Feeling numb and detached
  • Becoming listless or irritable
  • Feeling like you can’t cope with life
  • Experiencing flashbacks or reliving the event
  • Having uncontrollable memories or hallucinations
  • Showing hyper-vigilant reactions to normal every-day stimuli
  • Suffering from ‘Survivor’s Guilt’ where you can’t rationalize why you survived when so many others have not

Jerusalem Syndrome

If you are planning on visiting the promised land you should be aware of the Jerusalem Syndrome. Due to the fact that Jerusalem has so many religious connotations to certain religions, millions flock to the city in order to experience the divine and walk in the footsteps of their religion’s holy people. To say that a trip such as this for any religious devotee has incredible meaning and expectations attached to it would be an understatement. So about once every three days psychiatric institutions in Jerusalem report someone suffering from Jerusalem Syndrome. This entails:

  • Having religiously-themed obsessive ideas
  • Delusions
  • Other psychosis-like experiences

Culture Shock

Yes, it’s an actual mental affliction and not just a popular saying. And it’s probably the most common of all mental afflictions. Due to its subtle symptoms you might not even realize that you have a case of the good ol’ culture shock before you speak to your online psychologist. This can hit at any time during your travel (so not necessarily after your arrival as many believe). Maybe it dawns on you when you discover that they call traffic lights robots or your hotel only serves Korean dishes (none of which you find tasty). Or maybe you’ve been living like a local in the country as a digital nomad traveller for many, many years without incident only to suddenly discover how annoying the Aussie accent is. Whatever the trigger, Culture Shock can lead to an array of symptoms such as:

  • Rejecting the host culture and turning to stereotypes of your own culture like suddenly eating at Pizza Hut seven days a week
  • Irrational anger towards the host culture
  • Homesickness
  • Becoming physically ill as your depression suppresses your immune system
  • Helplessness and loss of vigour
  • Resentment to the host country by feeling seduced or tricked into coming by portraying itself to be something it’s not

Reverse Culture Shock

This mental health afflictions sticks its head out only once you’ve arrived home and the symptoms are just as subtle as normal Culture Shock. Travel can broaden your horizons mentally and open your eyes to a lot of things. This is incredibly beneficial and crucial in terms of personal development and growth, but it can also sometimes lead to Reverse Culture Shock. That is when home starts feeling stranger than the world out there. You may have seen incredible poverty or you may have theatre hopped the entire West End and experienced arts and culture on an entirely new level. If you’re not quite sure whether you might be suffering from this affliction, check whether you are displaying any of the following symptoms:

  • You’re feeling demotivated since you find your home’s comfortability and it’s familiarity easy and unchallenging
  • You’re feel guilty and become overly frugal, aware of every cent you spend and every mouthful of food you take because there are others who do not have what you have
  • You find yourself craving the cuisine of that specific culture of the country you’ve visited
  • You view your holiday destination through abnormally rose-coloured glasses once home and all your responsibilities hit you
  • You’re constantly finding yourself criticising your own country in the company of others i.e. calling it “uncultured”
  • You find yourself constantly comparing your country to your holiday destination and you’re very verbal about it to others i.e. “the dal is much better in India”

Stendhal Syndrome

London Bridge, the Tower of London, Big Ben, the Tate Modern, you can go on and on naming the tourist attractions in just one city. There’s so much to see and so much to do in such little time that it can be overwhelming. Cue Stendhal Syndrome. This syndrome occurs when travellers stress themselves out by attempting to see as much as possible whilst visiting a city, especially when the city is famous for its art galleries and museums. Most cases of Stendhal Syndrome is reported in Florence, Italy. Symptoms vary from those similar to a panic attack to much more extreme:

  • You start to have trouble breathing
  • Your heart begins pounding
  • You become dizzy and confused
  • You find yourself disoriented
  • You’ve begun hallucinating

As you can see it’s very clear that you don’t need to have a mental health disposition prior to traveling for your travels to impact your mental health. But what if you already have a mental health diagnosis? This can become quite challenging when it comes to emergency psychiatric care, a support system and your own physician. That’s also why we recommend that you regularly check in with your online psychologist when traveling, especially if you’re away for long periods at a time. But we do have a few tips on how to prepare for your trip when you already have a mental health concern:

Look At Possible Factors That Could Impact Your Mental Health With The Help Of Your Online Psychologist

Will you be facing jet lag or possible disruptive sleep? Will you constantly be worried about business back home? Is the place you are traveling to perceived to be generally safe or can it be dangerous? Will you be taking financial strain? Ask yourself all these questions and more to identify potential triggers.

Have All Your “Little Helpers” At Hand Including Your Online Psychologist

You know what you need in order to manage your fear of flying or curb the need to rearrange the furniture in your holiday home. Whatever your specific mental health challenges are, you know what tools you have in your psychological toolbox in order to keep these under control so ensure that you always have them at hand.

Ensure That The Timing Is Appropriate

Is it a good time to take this trip? If you’re in the process of switching medication the answer is no. If you’ve just been released from hospital the answer is no. Was there a recent and unexpected traumatic event such as a death in the family or a break-up? Then the answer is no. If you’re not sure that you’re in a good place to travel bring it up during your chat with your online psychologist.

If you are currently finding yourself in a position where you’re traveling and need to talk to a professional, you are welcome to contact our expert online psychologist at Personal Online Therapy on info@personalonlinetherapy.com or by filling in the contact form below.