The Mental Health Challenges of Digital Nomadism - Deepstash
How To Become A Digital Nomad

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How To Become A Digital Nomad

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Digital Nomads And The Challenges Faced In Remote Work + Travelling

Digital Nomads And The Challenges Faced In Remote Work + Travelling

The digital nomad lifestyle is often characterized as one that offers a better balance between work and leisure. Many people assume that it will be better for their mental health than remaining trapped in the mousetrap of a corporate 9-5 existence.

While the digital nomad lifestyle can certainly help you lift yourself out of some negative routines and situations, and put you in a position to make more of your life, it also presents a whole range of new issues that can be just as challenging to your mental health.

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Mental Health Of Digital Nomads: Lack Of Routine

Mental Health Of Digital Nomads: Lack Of Routine

Unlike the problems of burnout, stress, and disconnection in the corporate world, which are now relatively well understood, the mental health crises of digital nomads are relatively unexplored territory.

Digital nomad lifestyle is where you can escape the boring and pointless routine or commute, work, commute, sleep. No routine feels good, but but things get out of control easily.

While you don’t want to fall into the trap of over-scheduling your life, introducing some routine can help you feel like you are more in control of your time. consistent morning ritual can be a great place to start.

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Loss of Self-Care Routines

Loss of Self-Care Routines

Self-care routines are notoriously difficult to maintain when you are on the road, and you are living in environments over which you have little control.

Without steady access to a gym, your fitness routine might fall by the wayside. Same with your food intake and sleep.

Digital nomads need to realize the importance of self-care and choose to make them a priority among the many things vying for their time and attention. We have written several articles focussed on the various areas of self-care that might be helpful including: staying fit on the road and how to get a good night’s sleep.

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Lack of Control

Lack of Control

Living in “borrowed environments” in which many things are out of our control can leave us feeling like we don’t really have a safe haven when we need to escape from the world and be on our own. It can also work to rob us of a sense of agency within our own lives.

Digital nomads often need to learn techniques for shutting out their environment and entering their own “mental” safe space, through practices such as meditation.

It can also be a good idea to take more control over the things that are within your control, like the positioning of your laptop and bags.

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Travel Burnout

Travel Burnout

One of the biggest mistakes that digital nomads make is to try and squeeze in too much. Many will try and cover twelve cities in the space of a month, while maintaining a full workload.

This exacerbates all the problems as you are never in one place long enough to establish new routines and start to feel comfortable.

Many travellers suggest that this type of rapid travel also makes them feel disconnected from the world that they are moving through, as they are only ever in one place long enough to dip a toe in the water. They never get to dive deep and truly understand where they are.

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Constant, Low-Level Anxiety

Constant, Low-Level Anxiety

One of the biggest causes of mental health issues in the modern world is constant, low-level anxiety caused by the pressures to “do it all”. These days we are all expected to excel professionally, to be perfect parents, and also play sports, be artistic, and much more.

These pressures trigger our stress hormones. But we evolved to experience stress for short periods of time in response to immediate forms of danger. The stress hormones release into our body for a limited period of time to give us the energy and focus to do what needs to be done to avoid the danger.

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All Kinds Of Pressure

All Kinds Of Pressure

  • Digital nomads often work as freelancers. This means an insecure income and a lack of safety net which can be an extreme stressor.
  • Digital nomads are also under incredible pressure to do well both professionally and personally. 
  • There are constant worries over things such as visas being denied, and not being able to access medical treatment when needed.
  • For digital nomads, even when you can afford to pay for it, good medical help is not always available.

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The Way Out Of Stress

The Way Out Of Stress

There is no easy way to avoid these inevitable stressors that accompany the digital nomad lifestyle, but proper planning can make a big difference. Good health insurance, investing for the future, and creating a financial safety net in case something does go wrong can all help to lift some of this pressure.

Self-care activities such as meditation and exercise can also help you to better manage the stress hormones that are flooding your body.

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Loneliness

Loneliness

One of the biggest challenges for digital nomads can be loneliness. While you make friends on the road, these ephemeral friendships don’t tend to “fill the void” in the same way as being physically close to your nearest and dearest.

Moreover, depending on where you are in the world, you may just feel generally isolated. Language barriers and distance might mean that you lack some of the passing daily interactions which help make all of use feel connected.

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Loss of Support Network

Loss of Support Network

It is important that digital nomads put effort into maintaining their long-term relationships back home to continue accessing that support network, and that they become more open to speaking out when they are struggling, rather than waiting to be asked.

Spending more time in individual places and letting yourself create deeper local friendships can also help significantly.

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We Don’t Talk About Mental Health

We Don’t Talk About Mental Health

Many digital nomads don’t talk about what is challenging them and assume that they are the only ones facing this challenge. It is not uncommon to think that there is something wrong with you that you can’t just be happy with your amazing life.

There is a bit of a stigma against digital nomads talking about the challenges of their lifestyle. When you are jet setting from one beautiful location to the next and sharing photos in some of the most beautiful and inspiring places in the world, few people want to hear you complain.

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The Challenge That We Need To Tackle

If anything, mental health can be even more challenging for digital nomads because it is not an area that is yet well understood, and there is also a stigma against digital nomads complaining about their mental health when they have such an apparently charmed lifestyle.

This is a challenge that we need to tackle as a community. All digital nomads need to be more open to talking about mental health challenges and normalizing the discussion within the community.

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