Although many people find that their OCD symptoms improve while on vacation, for others the stress of travel, the change in routine and the loss of control over their environment can cause their OCD symptoms to get worse. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your vacation.
- Consult with your mental health care provider before your trip. In particular, it may be useful to troubleshoot how you will handle situations likely to trigger your symptoms. For example, if you experience obsessions and/or compulsions about contamination, how will you handle using the cramped airplane washroom on an 8-hour flight? Putting effective coping strategies into place prior to your vacation may make all the difference.
- Ask yourself whether this is the best time to take a vacation. Have you just started cognitive-behavior therapy? Are you trying to get your medications sorted out? Are your symptoms at an all-time high? Timing is everything – if you are unsure whether this is a good time to get away consult with your mental health care provider.
- Travel with family and friends with whom you are comfortable. The beginning of a three-week European vacation is probably not the best time to let a friend or family member know that you’re struggling with OCD. Likewise, it may not be advisable to spend two weeks at a cottage with a friend who loves to remind you that your symptoms are “all in your head.” Choose to spend time with friends and family who are supportive and understand the challenges you are facing.
- Keep your prescription medications with you so that you won’t have to worry about replacing them if your luggage is lost. If possible, bring extra medication in case your return travel plans are delayed.
- Try to avoid excess consumption of alcohol and/or recreational drugs. Although it may be tempting to let loose while on vacation, alcohol and drugs interfere with many prescription medications including those often prescribed for OCD. As well, alcohol and drugs impair sleep which can reduce your ability to cope with stress – a major trigger of OCD symptoms.
- Try to work in some daily exercise. Not only is exercise great for the body, it’s great for the mind. Exercise reduces stress and can help take the edge off of your symptoms.
- Try to book an extra day or two off to allow your body to recover from the rigors of travel. Returning to the stress of work jet-lagged or exhausted may set the stage for an increase in your OCD symptoms.