How to cope with depression when you are on vacation?

In this guide we are going to discuss the concerns related to coping with depression when you are on a vacation. 

How to cope with depression when you are on vacation?

If you are in the middle of a vacation, one that you have planned meticulously and have been looking forward to, it can be harrowing to find yourself not enjoying any moment of it. 

Here are some things you can do to cope:

  • Acknowledge the reality of your diagnosis
  • Accept the fact that your diagnosis impacts your experiences
  • Be realistic as you plan your vacation days
  • Stick to health habits

Travelling can be a stressful experience, from arranging transportation, lodging, planning activities, it can become more tedious than relaxing if not planned with caution. 

You might be wondering why, while your friends and family are having such a good time, you are unable to get out of bed and look forward to the plans you have for today. 

Vacations or short travels for people with a mental health condition can be especially difficult because of the symptoms of their conditions which may make it difficult to be spontaneous or even to relax. 

Travelling and mental health

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has highlighted that travel can bring about mood changes, and cause anxiety and depression related symptoms or it can worsen symptoms in people with existing mental illness.

The CDC also mentioned that travel and vacations can also bring about uncharacteristic behaviors such as violence, suicidal thoughts, and excessive drug and alcohol use.

The International Association for Medical Assistance for travellers defined what is known as “travel stress” which could be one of the causes of why you might be struggling with the symptoms of depression during your vacation.

It defines travel stress as,

“Travel stress is related to the situational pressures, anxieties, or challenges of travelling.” 

While you might be able to manage the stressors in your home environment because of which you can manage your symptoms and live productive lives, the IAMAT noted that these stressors 

“…can become more difficult to manage when you are in a new or unfamiliar environment.”

People diagnosed with depression can become even more overwhelmed than the usual traveler because living with a mental health condition in an unfamiliar location and situations can make you run short of your ability to tolerate these challenges. 

Your travel schedule can impact your sleep routine, the food might not agree with you, there may be a large number of people you will have to interact with or there might be a large number of people in your group you are forced to socialize with which might add up to your discomfort and annoyance. 

All of these stressors, though it might seem inconsequential to many, can be extremely difficult to overcome if you have depression. Your sleep and diet can impact the symptoms of your depression, making you more irritable.

If you have a negative perspective of looking at yourself, others, and the world- cognitive distortions which many people with depression have- you might start to notice that your anxiety and depression is getting the best of you.

Here is a story of Meg Grant who experienced depression while on vacation and her take on the guilt she experienced because of it.

Causes of depression during vacations

While travelling has been found to reduce stress and depression over all, it can be a challenging experience to many who have a diagnosed mental health condition. Let us take a look at what causes mental health conditions to aggravate when you are on vacation.


You might be feeling exhausted and depressed due to stress related to the new routine, to the people around you, or the fact that you do not seem to have much control in this new place.

It could also be stress that you have carried on to vacation with you such as work related stress that seems to be showing up on your mail inbox or family related issues that you have not resolved yet.

You could also be stressing over the fact that you are stressing. Or that you are apprehensive about your mental health condition which is making you all the more cautious and hypervigilant.

Vacation is not your kind 

Perhaps you are more of a mountain side trekking kind of vacationer rather than the beach partying kind. It could be the weather that is affecting you or the hectic schedule of a predetermined tour. 

The lack of motivation and disappointment you might be experiencing could simply be because this type of vacation is simply not your idea of fun.

Not enough down time

Lack of sleep or not enough rest can negatively impact an individual’s mental health and well-being. If your schedule is not allowing you enough rest, it could be time for you to consider skipping a few things on the list for a much needed nap. 

Unrealistic expectations

It is quite common for people who go on vacation to be disappointed, especially if you have been looking forward to it for a long time. You might feel sad when you realise that things are not how it was presented or how you pictured it. It can turn into something deeper and more depressing if you begin to personalize this disappointment with various unresolved issues that you might have taken a break from to begin with. 

How to cope with depression during vacations:

The problem of depression that you are struggling with at the moment is valid, just because you are on vacation- in paradise- does not mean that you are not allowed to feel this way. It is almost unfair that you are unable to enjoy your time. 

While we cannot change the location, the people, the culture, or the stressors around you  because they are wholly out of your control, you do have the ability to do a few things that might make this experience a little less terrible. 

Here are a few things you can start doing right now:

Acknowledge your reality

Pay attention to what you are feeling- be it sadness, nostalgia, regret, or exhaustion. Pay attention to where you feel it in your body and the thoughts that arise because of these emotions. 

Acknowledgement doesn’t mean acceptance, not yet. We can start by simply saying- “I am feeling xyz right now.”

You can even take the step to acknowledge the stress, the disappointment, and the culture around you. Let your acknowledgement also include how difficult it has been for you without any judgment. 

Accept your reality

You are allowed to feel this way, you are allowed to struggle when most people are not because of the fact that you have the added challenge of managing your mental health and well-being while most people do not. 

Accept that this makes it difficult for you and that perhaps the kind of vacations other people have might not be for you. Perhaps 12 hour long itineraries are not exactly healthy or fun for you. 

Accept that it is okay to do things a little differently or be a little different from most vacationers. 

Be realistic

Once you have acknowledged and accepted, it is time to be realistic of where you are, the money you have put into this, and the time you have committed. 

While you can simply hop on the plane and leave, there is also the issue of wasted money, wasted time, and if you are vacationing with others, their feelings. 

If you think that you absolutely need professional support and need to go home asap- do it. You are most important here. If you think this is the best realistic option for you, pack your bags and head where you are most comfortable. 

If you think that you can manage to stay on or you want to challenge yourself to a good time, depression and anxieties be damned! Plan your itinerary realistically. 

Let your daily schedule include plenty of rest, good food, lots of hydrating fluids, and fun. It does not have to follow the beat of someone else’s drum. 

Let your schedule start at 10 am if it allows you to have the rest you need, let it only include a visit to the beach side if that is what you want to do. Let it be realistic in the sense that it falls in line with your present budget, time, and your sense of fun, 

Stick to your healthy habits

If you are someone who practices yoga on a daily basis, ask the hotel if they have a wellness center and a space to practice your yoga. Meditate as well. Eat a healthy diet of vegetables and fruits with plenty of water all the while allowing your treats like a dessert.

Do not skip your medication if you are on drug treatments and do not mix or engage in substances such as alcohol and other drugs.

Frequently asked questions

Why do I feel anxious on vacation?

Vacations, planned or unplanned, usually happen in unfamiliar places with an unusual schedule. 

These can leave you vulnerable to various triggers that you have no control over- these triggers can lead to an increase in your anxiety symptoms and aggravate your condition.

What does Travelling do to a person?

Traveling is one way to help someone learn about themselves. It brings a new set of issues and opportunities which can give you insights on who you are and what your abilities and limitations are as you handle them. 

While travelling can have a positive effect on you, you have to allow yourself to the ups and downs that come with it since coming across new cultures , new situations cannot always be easy. 

How do I stop Post-vacation blues?

Post vacation blues refer to the slump of sadness and low moods after a good vacation. It is a common phenomenon and can impact a person for days even weeks after they have a good time travelling. 

Ways to manage post-vacation blues:

  • Get into your normal routine gradually. Take time to go back to doing your chores and pace yourself as you take on new projects at work.
  • Consider the things that you love about your daily life- maybe the morning coffee you missed while on vacation
  • Incorporate the cultures you came across in your life- cuisine, clothing, way of life. 
  • Plan more short trips to keep you looking forward to new experiences.

What does post travel blues mean?

The post travel blues are a of many travellers who travel long term or short term. It is when you get back to your reality from an exciting trip, you feel this sadness come over you. It can make you feel like you want to go back to the exciting experiences you have had as opposed to what is at home. 

Usually, people who are less satisfied with their life can experience post travel blues.

How do I get out of a vacation mood?

The best way you can get out of a vacation mood- where you are unable to focus on your daily tasks or appreciate your reality- is by doing something equally exciting at home. 

The reason why you might feel sad to let go of your time while on vacation could be because you miss the excitement. So you could try out something as equally exciting closer to you- like rock climbing, hitting the gym, weekend camping trips, or sunday morning treks.

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