Travel can make my bipolar disorder worse. Knowing this can make me fear travel. It’s not that I don’t like travel; theoretically, I like travel. I’ve done quite a lot of it, actually – I’ve been to 12 countries. Nevertheless, the older I get, the nastier my bipolar becomes and the more my bipolar disorder is worsened by travel. There are good reasons for this but there are also ways to mitigate it.
How Can Travel Make Bipolar Disorder Worse?
Of course, each person reacts to travel differently. Nevertheless, I don’t think I’m out of line by saying that travel is exhausting and routine-destroying and those things tend to deleteriously affect all those with bipolar disorder. For me, this type of routine interruption and exhaustion make all the rest of my bipolar symptoms worse. I feel even more fatigued than usual. I feel emotional instability and teariness. I feel random physical pains. And on and on.
Usually I suck it up for the actual travel itself, and even manage to deal with it when I’m at wherever I’m going, but when I get home, I fall apart. And falling apart requires time in bed and a lot, a lot of tissues. How long I will be stuck in that state varies.
But Travel Is Good?
I know there is a common perception that people who travel are lucky and that travel is “good.” I don’t disagree, exactly, I just know it can be very negative for me, depending on how it happens.
I also know people with bipolar disorder who don’t want to travel shouldn’t let others talk them into it. If travel is going to make your bipolar disorder so much worse that you can’t take it, you should minimize travel and not let others make you feel guilty about avoiding it to take care of yourself.
10 Tips for How to Minimize Travel Making Bipolar Disorder Worse
This does not mean I think people with bipolar disorder shouldn’t travel – far from it. But if you do want to travel, you want to make it as painless as possible. So try these things so that travel doesn’t make your bipolar disorder worse. Whenever possible:
- Pick a flight that leaves at a reasonable hour and gets in at a reasonable hour. If you routine always gets you in bed by nine o’clock, don’t get in at 10 o’clock.
- This means no overnight flights unless you’re one of the lucky ones who can actually sleep on a plane. Bring earplugs, a travel pillow and a sleep mask to make sleeping easier.
- Hydrate well. Travel tends to make us consume less water and airports and flights will dry you out. Good hydration really can help you feel better.
- Don’t drink alcohol on the plane or elsewhere. Alcohol is never good for a mood disorder. Don’t knock yourself off balance with alcohol before you even get to where you’re going.
- If you have flight anxiety, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to give you something for it.
- Adjust to time changes early. Try to adjust to a new time zone when you’re at home a little bit at a time. Change when you get up or go to sleep by a few minutes each day trying to get on the new time zone.
- Keep your bipolar routine stable as much as possible. In addition to sleep times being maintained, which is critical, consider what else is part of your routine. For example, diet and exercise might be critical for you. We all slide on these things while on vacation, but it’s even more important for those with bipolar disorder to make them a priority.
- Always take your medications in your carryon in its labeled containers. The last thing you want is for security to not let your medications through or for your luggage to be lost and not have your medications.
- Make sure you have enough medication for your vacation, plus a couple of days. You never know when you might need to stay an extra day due to a flight delay.
- Stay relaxed. Travel poses lots of unexpected roadblocks so just breathe and know you’ll get to your destination (or home) eventually.