With Summer here, many of us are ready to get out of town, if we haven't already. For those of us with chronic illnesses, traveling can be a bit tricky. But we shouldn’t have to miss out on the fun, even though our definition of fun might look different than others. Here are a few things that can make traveling with chronic illness less stressful.
And, I mean waaaaayyyyyyyyyy ahead. If you have a chronic illness, you know how much your body and mind rely on routines. Traveling takes you out of your routine (on purpose). Write down all the things that keep you functioning on a daily basis, from medications to stretching, and make a plan for how to bring these into your vacation. List every item you’d like to (and need to) bring with you and start pulling a few things out each day in small increments - pretty soon, you’re all packed with time to relax before you leave!
And, listen to your body. Depending on the point you are at with your illness, you may or may not know your physical limits of traveling, but you do know how you feel. If you start to realize that you’ve overdone it, or know that while a 15 mile hike sounds fun (does it, really?), a 5 mile walk would be just as enjoyable and less taxing - say so! Many chronic illnesses are invisible, so it’s important to remind our travel partners that even though we look “fine,” we might feel extremely “not fine” on the inside.
Include recovery time
It is important to include recovery time (this looks different for everyone) each day of your trip, but also after you return home. If your body takes a few (or several) days to get back to baseline after a vacation, let yourself have as much of that time as possible. Don’t schedule anything “big” for right after you return, and look for ways to ease back into your job (of course, not possible for everyone) and daily responsibilities. Included in this recovery time would be asking for help. Before, during AND after a trip can be a time where we might need some extra support from family, friends, and healthcare providers!
Traveling with Chronic Illness [Downloads]
We’ve made it easy for you to plan your next trip using the Chronic Illness Travel Planner, Speaking Up for Yourself & Chronic Illness guide, and calendar event templates to easily schedule recovery time! Just tell us where we can send it.
Chronic illness, anxiety, depression, and other emotional or physical symptoms can be exacerbated by everything that goes into traveling, so making sure to care for your needs is extra important. If you want help navigating and reducing these symptoms, reach out for support! Ask your partner, family, friends, healthcare provider or professional for the support you need and deserve. You’ll have a better experience and feel good about yourself, too!
Kendall Hagensen (MA, LMHC, R-DMT) is the VWS Clinical Director and a Somatic or Body-Oriented Mental Health Therapist and trained in EMDR, which means that she utilizes our innate mind-body connection as a tool in counseling. She specializes in, and is passionate about, working with adults of all ages living with Chronic Pain and Medical Illnesses. These almost always have a psychological component, whether it be a new diagnosis or chronic condition. Using EMDR, body awareness, breath-work, movement, as well as talk therapy, Kendall works with clients to manage pain and develop a healthy relationship with their illness. Kendall’s practice expertise also includes anxiety and stress management, depression, and career issues.
To schedule a therapy session, email or call Kendall.