By No Vacation Required, on October 2, 2020

Travel and Mental Health in 2020

Mental health (noun): A person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.

Sample Use: “All this pressure seems to be affecting his mental health.”

That’s the Sample Use that comes up when you do a Google search for Mental Health. Google must be tapping into the 2020 vibe, because there is no doubt that we’re all experiencing a lot of pressure in this tumultuous year. And all that pressure has the potential to have a negative impact on our mental health. Heck, the (totally understandable) inability to travel freely, alone, has us feeling moody and claustrophobic.

Given the strangeness that is 2020, we wanted to talk about mental health, and  also tell you—our fellow travel fanatics—how you can keep the adventure attitude alive, as we all focus on complying with COVID-19 related mandates.

October 10, 2020 is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Mental Health Day. Given the uncommon amount of pressure we are all experiencing, it’s perhaps never been more important to collectively pay attention to this day and what it represents for citizens around the globe.

“World Mental Health Day is an opportunity for the world to come together and begin redressing the historic neglect of mental health,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “We are already seeing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s mental well-being, and this is just the beginning. Unless we make serious commitments to scale up investment in mental health right now, the health, social and economic consequences will be far-reaching.”

Each year, this special day emphasizes something significant. For 2020’s World Health Day, the WHO is asking for an increased investment in mental health. And the organization’s statistics justifying this year’s focus are staggering:

  • Around 1 billion people are living with a mental disorder.
  • A person dies every 40 seconds by suicide.
  • In low- and middle-income countries, more than 75 percent of people with mental, neurological and substance use disorders receive no treatment for their condition at all.
  • Countries spend just 2 percent of their health budgets on mental health.

The World Health Organization adds to that the fact that billions of people around the world have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s a large portion—if not all—of humanity.

It’s important to know that if you, or someone you know is struggling, there is a way out. Take a moment to check out the World Health Organization’s Resources for mental well-being.

Perhaps you’re wondering, like us, what you can do on a day-to-day basis to care for your mental health? Well, here’s some good news! There are lots of simple actions you can take—some so “common sense” that they are actually easy to forget (like bringing water on a hike)—to improve your own mental wellness, as well as the mental health of your loved ones and members of your community. Here are some options!

Move your body. Physical activity can have a real, profound impact on your mental health. In fact, the American Psychological Association suggests that exercise can improve your mood and reduce anxiety. Most of us are aware of that. What you might not know, though, is that you don’t need to become a cross-fit champion or gym rat/gym bunny to reap the mental health benefits of exercise; a light cardio workout, like walking, is all it takes. Even as avid hikers and runners, we’ve found casual walks around our neighborhood to be shockingly effective at elevating our mood during this difficult year.

Check in on your neighbors. In a time when social distancing is one of the best ways to protect ourselves from COVID-19, it’s important to remember that isolation can have a very negative impact on mental health. So, here is some more good news… there are lots of ways to remain socially connected while we’re physically distanced. The simplest: increase gestures of gratitude and affection. Send a cheery text. Drop some flowers on a neighbor’s door. Mow your neighbor’s lawn or shovel snow off their walk. These small acts of kindness remind those around us that they are seen and cared for.

Tip big. As frequent travelers, we have long seen tipping—especially when encountering service workers in less affluent parts of the world—as a form of direct altruism. During the pandemic, we have found tipping to be a fulfilling way for us to show our gratitude to essential workers. Tipping big, when you have the resources to do so, not only provides some direct support to those who are taking a risk to serve you, it just feels good. This is a rare case in which money can buy you happiness.

Shut out the noise. Our increased time indoors and away from the crowds has not translated into less “noise.” We are inundated with content—news, social media, TV, games, etc.—and all that content can have a very negative impact on our mental health. There’s good news though… A simple moment of silence each day—we’re talking as little as a few deliberate breaths—is a powerful way to quiet the mind and can have a direct positive effect on your mental health.

Plan a getaway. Expedia’s Vacation Deprivation study responses show that traveling promotes general well-being (93%), gives us a chance to hit the “reset” button on stress and anxiety (91%), improves our attitudes (86%), and helps us switch off from work (83%). Isn’t it refreshing to learn that something you already love to do can have such a positive effect on your mental wellness? We all know that planning travel and anticipating a trip is one of the best parts of the entire travel experience. Well, COVID-19 may have us literally grounded, but it can’t keep us from planning and dreaming. And having something to look forward to can be hugely beneficial to your mental health. Plus, when the time is right, you’re going to be ahead of the game in terms of being ready to book that trip (and you can jump on all the deals that are inevitably going to show up).

For those of us that can’t or aren’t ready to travel, we’ll be able to return to our favorite spots—Orlando, Los Angeles, Las Vegas—soon. In the meantime, there are travel options available to all of us that remain relatively safe (when traveling responsibly and adhering to local guidelines, of course).

Port Townsend, Washington (by Kentaro Toma on Unsplash)

Over the last few months, we’ve found ourselves taking more trips to close-by destinations. This means a lot of minimal touch-point day trips to nature and some well-researched overnights. Getting out in nature has been immensely beneficial for us—the fresh air, the exercise, and the stillness has all contributed to a sense of mental well-being. But we’ve also recognized a stronger connection to the Pacific Northwest, our home, than we’ve ever felt before. Becoming better acquainted with our fellow Washingtonian’s in Poulsbo, Port Townsend, and Leavenworth—to name just a few—has given us a more expansive view of community, which has also had a positive impact on our mental health.

Whatever action you take and whatever you determine works best for you, just be sure that you are making your mental health something that you check in on regularly. View it as any other essential life component. We’ve got to remain strong during this period, and we’ve got to watch out for one another.

Join us in giving extra attention to mental health and in advocating for the ideals of World Mental Health Day on October 10.

What steps have you taken to care for your mental health and the mental wellness of those around you? Share your tips!

Featured photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash