Contributed by: Jane Sandwood

Going on vacation recharges and renews people, at least on a short term basis, according to the American Psychological Association. However, if you’re battling a mental illness, the thought of vacationing may seem less appealing, since you may be concerned about the potential stress involved. As is the case with all goals, planning in advance is arguably the best way to feel in control and excited about your upcoming getaway. These considerations may help when you’re planning your next adventure – either on your own or with the people you love.

Choosing A Relaxing Destination
Most Americans spend around 90% of their time indoors, despite the plethora of studies that show the healing effect (on both physical and mental health) that time spent in nature bestows – one study showed that being in a green or blue area for just 20 minutes lowers stress hormone levels significantly. If you have your sights set on Asia, a calming ocean-based destination like Bali may be ideal. Bali is famed for wooden villas with gorgeous views, as well as for its laid back, windswept vibe. If you can, try booking a home overlooking the sea. Swimming is a great way to unwind and take care of yourself, so bring a range of sporty and relaxing swimwear for the occasion. Bali is also renowned for its gastronomy, comprising of fresh fish and seafood dishes and spicy vegetable dishes that can help promote gut-brain health.

Destination Eating Well
If you’re on a budget, apartment-style accommodation or a resort whose rooms have kitchen facilities may be the best way to ensure you enjoy healthy meals daily. As mentioned above, there is an important link between the food you eat and how you feel. One study undertaken at the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (2019) showed that low levels of specific gut bacteria are linked to depression. For better gut health, try to prepare a host of fiber-rich meals while you’re on vacation, since a high fiber diet is known to promote a healthy gut microbiome.

Going With The Flow
Some people find that package-type vacations can be particularly stressful as they pack too many activities into too short a space of time. While making a list of must-visit places on your next holiday will help you plan and organize in advance (some places require advanced ticket purchases, for instance), it is vital to leave a few spare hours every day, so you can make plans in accordance with your mood. Often, you discover new places you’d like to see more of when you have already arrived at your destination, so giving yourself time to do what is most fulfilling on a given day is important. This will also allow you more flexibility if there are days that you need to rest and recharge.

Staying Active
Exercise is known to reduce stress hormone levels – especially if you undertake holistic exercises like yoga and meditation. These ancient practices can be enjoyed outdoors as well as in, so why not avail of the beautiful surrounds while you’re on vacation and partake in them for at least a few minutes a day? Mindfulness meditation in particular can wake you up to the beauty of ‘the present moment’ – an ideal state to be in while you’re visiting beautiful places worthy of being remembered for a lifetime.

If you have a mental illness and you are planning a holiday, try to make it as easy on yourself as possible. Advanced planning, choosing the right destination, and making time to cook and exercise can help ensure things don’t veer too far from your routine. If you’re feeling particularly stressed, take a forest bath – a practice that’s big in Japan and that simply involves visiting a green site and opening your heart and mind to the amazing sights, sounds and textures that surround you.