“Happiness is not a place- if it was, it would be very crowded”. My dad always told me this whenever I was stressed about what to do next in my career, educational decisions, relationships, and more. One of the coping mechanisms I use to combat this stress is to travel. Sometimes I convince myself this place will heal me, but in reality, it is just a distraction.
Stress doesn’t escape you – no matter how far you travel. Depending on many factors such as the length of your travel, type of travel, who you are traveling with, relationships you left behind, and what season of life you are in, this stress can impair the fullness of your experience away from home…if you let it.
So how can I manage the stress of my life, especially while traveling?
1. Don’t let it consume you.
The beauty of our minds is that we have cognitive control over our thoughts. When negative thoughts come, we either chose to let it consume us or we can command it to leave us. Whenever we look in the mirror and there is a voice telling you that you aren’t good enough, you can chose to speak positivity louder. When we make a bad grade after studying for hours and all we want to do is melt into a puddle of inadequacy, you can chose to speak hope louder. When we feel overwhelmed with the shame of our decisions and it seems to haunt us wherever we go, you can chose to speak freedom louder.
We must take control of our thoughts, because these directly impact our direction. Stress tends to isolate us, but we can fight back knowing we are not alone in this struggle. Either the stress of not being enough (pretty enough, strong enough, smart enough, likable enough), our to-do list, or pressures from the outside can win, or positivity, hope, and freedom can win. And EVERY INDIVIDUAL gets to declare the winner.
2. Find what sets your soul on fire.
It could be brewing your own kombucha, riding horses, working at a coffee shop, spending time with a certain individual, or antiquing.
This requires some sort of self-searching and reflection. Sometimes it can even be outside of one’s comfort zone. Typically, it is one thing that makes you fully present. It is all consuming- no stress, issue, brokenness can interrupt.
Travel is what sets my soul on fire- it is what makes me happiest, what makes me feel most at home, and what makes me feel most like myself.
3. Get it done.
Find a way to incorporate your passions and little happiness in your everyday life. If your passion is gardening, cut out an hour or two in your schedule every week to volunteer at a local farm or spend time in your backyard. If flowers make you happy, make it a point to buy flowers every Saturday at the Farmer’s Market, for example. If what sets your soul on fire is traveling, make a list of your top three places you have always dreamed of going and give yourself a one-year time limit to visit them.
I like to call this PREVENTATIVE self-care. Self-care is sometimes assimilated with face masks or binging Netflix with a half-gallon of Mayfield mint chocolate chip ice cream. But self-care could be part of your daily routine- not just WHEN you are stressed. Maybe a morning stretch routine or a night-time journaling. Find your “calm” and incorporate it into your day or week!
Learning to manage stress is how we can navigate through life, through experiences, and through relationships and still find happiness and growth. This is a process and not everyone is perfect, but as we seek out experiences and moments that can uplift us from the negativity, we will be able to see life more beautifully through a lense of fullness and gratitude.