Traveling With Holiday Depression
Experts share tips for dealing with holiday blues away from home.
Travelling With Depression: Setting Goals
Muskin recommends setting goals for your vacation. "Start by thinking about
the pleasures you are going to have on the trip. And then set goals for
yourself and your family. Ask yourself and your partner," he says, "what it is
you want to bring away from this trip."
Make sure the goals you set are attainable. For example, Muskin says, if
you're going fishing, is your goal to catch the largest blue marlin in the
Gulf, or is it to sit back, relax, and enjoy the outing with your partner or
your kids? "If you have something you want to bring back from the vacation," he
says, "especially if that's shared by other members of your family, you can
stay focused on that and not get caught up in other things that really don't
People with holiday depression can calm inner turmoil and anxiety by
thinking ahead and planning, says Elaine Rodino, PhD, a psychologist in State
College, Pennsylvania, and a fellow of the American Psychological Association.
If you are traveling, she says, plan to do it as easily as you can. Pick travel
days when there are fewer people traveling. Choose flight times so you can be
at the airport when it is less crowded. Check weather alerts ahead of time, and
check with the airlines to find out what their refund policies are in case of
travel alerts. "That way you can avoid being stuck at the airport for 18 hours,
which can make someone who is already depressed feel as if they are going over
the edge," says Rodino.
Rodino also says it's important to get extra sleep and good nutrition before
the trip and to plan to take food with you.
And think ahead, Rodino says, about where you're going and what's going to
happen when you get there. "Are you going to see family and other people that
you don't feel comfortable about being with? Think ahead and plan to spend more
time with people you do feel comfortable being around."
When It's More Than Holiday Blues
An important part of setting goals and making plans, Muskin emphasizes, is
anticipating the fun of the trip. "But sometimes people are in such a deep funk
they can't imagine any fun. When that happens, it's worth talking to your
partner about," he says. "Or talking with a close friend or a pastoral
counselor or maybe even seeing a mental health professional."
Not being able to imagine enjoying anything is a sign your depression may be
more serious than holiday blues. Seek help and treatment. "Clinical depression
is an illness, and it's treatable," says Muskin. "But for some reason, people
don't want to admit they need help. That's dangerous." To get around the idea
that asking for help is a sign of weakness or causes embarrassment, Muskin says
think about how even the greatest athletes need coaches. "Tiger Woods has a
coach," he says. "The greatest of the great aren't embarrassed to say they need
help. It's the normal people who won't ask for help. And that's all a pastoral
counselor or a mental health professional is. Someone who helps."
Being clinically depressed doesn't mean you can't go on your trip. But it's
important that you keep doing what helps you feel better. Grusd suggests
carrying a small card on which you've written down your strengths and what your
coping techniques are -- whether that's taking a walk, listening to music,
drinking a glass of water, or calling a friend. Then look at the card often to
remind yourself that you can deal with your depression. Maintaining the same
routine you follow at home, including taking any medications you normally