The Impact of Travel Restrictions on Mental Health

5 Minute Read

The current pandemic restrictions have impacted our ability to nurture our traveling mindsets. It impacts both the mindset of the traveler who seeks the adrenaline rush of facing the unknown as well as the individual who is looking for solace and a quiet release from the tensions of daily life.

The proverbial question, whether in therapy or not, remains “To what end”? Travel limitations can serve as a very real form of psychological prison whether an individual is escaping the ordinary either towards an adventure or away from a reality. We also may consider any psychological conditions that a person may already be experiencing. A person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) will very likely react to the same circumstances in a different manner than a person who is feeling depressed. When traveling is permitted, it may be now a source of tension as we attempt to navigate what feels safe.

Learn how travel restrictions may impact our mental health, and what we can do about it.

Discover what attracts you to traveling

My partner and I are both psychotherapists who have engaged in a great deal of travel. The first question to consider is what kind of travel primarily attracts you. Is it a week on a Carribean beach or high adventure? Perhaps something in between? For the two of us, adventure generally wins.

When traveling, do you long for adventure?

Focus on the good news

The good news is that while facing travel restrictions, not everything needs to be virtual. You can still travel and explore, you just may need to look in new places.

You can still travel and explore, you just may need to look in new places.
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Currently New York State parks are open for hiking, biking, and camping. More and more destinations are open, with the necessary precautions of course.

Plan for future travel

You can use this time to enhance your travel skill sets, explore your curiosity, and develop your traveling desires through online courses. Plan your travel itinerary so you’ll be ready once things open up. It may be helpful to consider that despite the current restrictions, these times of less travel can also serve as a vessel for reflection, contemplation, and future planning.

These times of less travel can also serve as a vessel for reflection, contemplation, and future planning.

Practice being open-minded

If you are able to be open-minded, prepare to be surprised. Some regular travelers have discovered the wonders that they would have missed had they not had the opportunity to change course in their thinking.

If you are able to be open-minded, prepare to be surprised.
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Some are even using this time as a form of Sabbatical from the usual demands of their life. Others are in the process of making major changes as they have used this time for reflection to align themselves more with the life that they want to live. See what options you have in your thinking and work from this orientation.

Find adventures in your own backyard

Our clients who usually “fly away” to different countries have discovered adventures in their own backyard – the camping trips, bonfires, outdoor cooking, and observing nature with its true colors. For the first time in our experiences with clients, they have talked about bird watching, sunsets they observed, walks, and hikes. They have discovered the Adirondacks and the Catskills for the first time. Become aware of nature and the possibilities. Rent a car or take your bike out of storage.

Become aware of nature and the possibilities.

Ask yourself to reflect and be present

Ask yourself – why do you travel? Is it to escape, and if so, from what, from whom, from ourselves? If the answer is yes, we need to look into our lives and figure out why we aren’t able to find an adventure in our own backyard. Do we stay present? Do we notice what is around us? Are we paying enough attention to our surroundings? The bottom line is “wherever you go, here you are..” and it is up to us to make our life happen.

Create the possibilities

We both are travel addicts and we travel at least two times a year to exciting destinations. Remember that “small” and seemingly “not important” trips can become the highlight of the season. This summer, we went camping under the stars with our dog, which was a great experience. If not for the limitations of international travel, we would not have discovered this adventure.

There is a life out there if we want to create it, but possibly, it takes more effort to create magic.
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It’s true that we did skip restaurants and bars but we experimented with fine home cuisine and drinks outside, picnic style. There is a life out there if we want to create it, but possibly, it takes more effort to create magic.

The bottom line of traveling

We can remind ourselves that there’s plenty of opportunities to experience life, even though it feels restricted lately. There is power in finding gratitude for being alive. This will pass and we should all be checking in with ourselves moment-by-moment to make sure we are getting our needs met.

Your Turn: How will you remind yourself that there are still limitless possibilities for adventures amidst travel restrictions? Share what helps you cope in the comments below.

Peter E. Gradilone

Peter is a Licensed Psychotherapist at Clarity Therapy. He works with adults and adolescents and draws from cognitive, spiritual and analytical perspectives to help people reach their full potential.



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