Travelling and good mental health

There’s a temptation at times of depression or anxiety to wish you could “up sticks” and escape, travelling to some far-flung corner of the world to get away from it all.

Ironically, people who travel a great deal as part of their job can find the opposite problem.

If your career keeps you constantly on the move, staying in a series of drab hotel rooms and living out of a suitcase, it can really take its toll on your mental health. Not least as work related travel can be a lonely business. Far from your loved ones and all that’s familiar, even mingling with colleagues and contacts can leave you feeling isolated.

The same applies to young people whose parents travel a great deal for business. Going “on the road” with your folks can look glamorous from the outside. However, being disconnected from your peers and constantly waking up in new places can become a source of anxiety.

You may have time zone changes and tiredness to cope with, on top of unfamiliar surroundings and the stress of dealing with lots of strangers.

Yes of course travel can be restful, relaxing, exciting and a fabulous source of stress relief. But when it’s a constant process, then it’s important to take steps to build and protect your mental health.

The team at Merino Hospitality have gathered together some helpful ideas for regular travellers, especially the parents of young people.

Mental health tips for travellers

Be aware that attitude to mental health varies from country to country. The services available – and your ability to access them – could be severally limited in some locations. Britain is getting better!

Some medications used in the treatment of mental health conditions are prohibited in certain countries. Make sure to bring enough of your medication and a doctor’s prescription to show that you have these drugs legitimately. This can also help medical professionals to suggest a viable alternative if necessary.

Plan out your journey and accommodation with care but include various contingency plans to maintain a feeling of being in control. Having a clear plan can help young people feel more stability too.

Select accommodation that offers you opportunities for complete peace and quiet. Where you can “reboot” in a comfortable and “home-like” environment. Also, having reliable help on the end of the telephone line 24/7 can be a huge source of reassurance when you are in a new place or feeling tense.

No matter how packed your travel schedule is, it’s recommended that you leave time to do the things you enjoy. If you are in London for example, Merino Hospitality’s serviced properties are central and put you near stunning parks and open spaces, relaxing cafes, art galleries and gyms. Some “me time” is vital for everyone, including some space for teenagers to let off steam safely.

It’s also recommended that you establish a good routine – making sure to eat healthy food and hydrate yourself at regular intervals. Not always easy with teenagers, but well worth the investment of time and energy!

Celebrity Culture – and How Stars Can Tackle Bullying

Much has been written about the way the media can distort young people’s perceptions of what is normal and acceptable.

There’s a prevalent view that the rich and famous have a lot to answer for, in creating impossibly high standards for appearance and lifestyle. The argument is that the pursuit of physical perfection and matching media portrayal of what is “ideal” has led to serious self-esteem issues in the young.

These body image issues have then potentially stimulated more bullying amongst impressionable young people. They deflect their own insecurities by physically or emotionally abusing anyone identified as “ugly” in some way.

There’s no denying that self-image is a serious issue amongst young people from across the Globe. And fear of being picked on by bullies is leading to extreme behaviours, including for example growing use of steroids and tanning injections, and of course the rising statistics on eating disorders.

Celebrities who show what’s behind the facade

At Merino Hospitality, we regularly host visits from celebrities from across different fields, including movie and pop stars and sports personalities. Though its true that young people inevitably measure themselves against their idols, it’s wrong to imagine that the celebrities themselves perpetuate this by promoting impossible standards in appearance.

In fact, many of the people who stay with us work hard to dismantle the myth of perfection and promote acceptance of all that is normal and natural. Many of them are very aware of their position as role models and work hard to encourage and support healthy attitudes amongst young people. Including supporting anti-bullying campaigns, and projects to promote greater diversity and inclusion. They donate their own time and resources to show safe and healthy ways to get fit too, for example.

Celebrity social media to defuse unreachable ideals

Other celebrities who stay with us use their social media to show their fans and the public a true projection of their life and appearance. Such as posting photos of them waking with “bed hair” and falling asleep looking gormless!

It’s very relevant that social media can be used as a positive force of change. Cyber bullying is real and social media can be a platform for keyboard warriors and trolls.

However, when you see your favourite celebrity bemoaning a large pimple on Instagram or making fun of their lack of fitness on Facebook, it’s a force for good too. It serves to deflate the myth that perfection exists and shows that much of the image we aspire to is smoke and mirrors, not real life.

This all helps to show young people that everyone has their flaws and their rough days. Which can go some way to boosting their own self-worth and feelings of being “normal”. Hopefully, it equips young people to stand up to bullies too. Because they realise that life is a celebration of what is real; not hollow, idealistic values.

Meredith O’Connor

As mentioned, some celebrities take this even further, and take a firm and vocal stand against unrealistic body images and the serious issue of bullying.

This includes pop stars such as Meredith O’Connor, someone who has used her talents and fame as the perfect platform to challenge bullies and inspire the younger generation to “stand up” and speak out.

We applaud Meredith for her dedication and commitment, but we also thank all our other celebrity guests for the roles they play in showing young and old that acceptance of others (and your own flaws) is more important that aspiring to be someone you are not.

Real Men (and Boys) Cry

No modern employer – and hospitality company supporting business and leisure travel – can afford to ignore a global issue that is increasingly in the news.

Male mental health and the culture of bullying that exists among boys.

For too long, the prevalent view has been that “real men” don’t show emotions. In fact, when males cry or generally get upset, they can expect a barrage of verbal abuse.

Have you ever been told to “stop crying like a little girl” or to “stop being so gay”? Insults that are not only highly sexist and homophobic but also largely redundant. Because awareness is growing that showing emotion is a positive and healthy thing!

Suppressing emotion on the other hand, is storing up problems and not tackling them head on. It’s a defence mechanism that men develop to fit in with outdated social norms, and to avoid the mockery of their peers.

However, there are several excellent campaigns now to overturn these attitudes in the UK and show men that it’s “okay to not be okay”. That speaking up and getting help is not a sign of weakness, but an indication they are strong enough to take steps to tackle their problems.

Conversely, for all the work being done to improve access to male mental health support – and the campaigns to encourage men to seek it out – there is still an insidious barrier.

For every man who wants help, there are two more perpetuating myths and misdirection. Whose bullying language and actions drive the cause backwards. Some of them argue that their words are “banter” and that giving other men a hard time for showing emotion is just “horse play”.

Nevertheless, there is no “dressing up” this verbal bullying when the statistics on male suicide continue to rise at such an alarming pace. In the UK alone, 84 men take their own lives every week. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 years of year. Men aged 40-55 commit suicide three times more often than women.

Horrific figures, we’re sure you agree.

Travelling for work can put a tremendous pressure on your mental health. Which is why at Merino Hospitality we endeavour to offer our guests with their own safe haven away from home.

We also provide our staff with equality of opportunity to take a leave of absence when stress or depression are involved, as well as 24/7 provision of empathic counselling and robust tax, legal and medical information services, together with an easy-to-use online health assessment tool.

Nonetheless, we are also on the campaign trail!

Please take a moment to consider your own attitudes and the inadvertent way you may be perpetuating out-dated views on men and emotions. Are your “jokes” secretly hurting a person in your life?

Merino Hospitality believes its “okay to not be okay”.

But we also believe that it’s okay to accept who you are and what you feel, and expect others to do the same.

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