Pressing Pause Podcast episode 37 How to feel more at ease when you’re away from home
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m here to share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.
Hello and welcome to episode 37. In today’s episode I want to talk about how you can create a sense of home when you’re away from home, to help you feel less tense, vulnerable or overwhelmed, and more relaxed, secure and comfortable.
Because this time of year can involve a lot of travelling. Whether you’re going to see friends or stay with family or going somewhere else for Christmas, there’s a lot to think about, on top of finishing work or the Christmas shopping. Like what you need to pack, what you can carry, or fit in the car, checking transport routes, thinking about the best time to be on the move in relation to traffic or crowds. It’s a lot to sort out and keep in mind and when you arrive at your destination that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll instantly relax and the overwhelm will vanish.
When we're away from home it feels different because we're not in our own surroundings with our own comforts. Whether it’s Christmas or any time of year. However lovely a place it is, however lovely the friends or family or hosts are, and however glad we are to be with them, there can still be an underlying feeling of vulnerabiity because we literally don't have our own protective walls around us. And this can create an underlying feeling of stress that can bubble along under the surface or it can show up as irritability, overwhelm or controlling behaviour.
I’m lucky in that I have a lovely family, as is the family I married into, and I feel welcome wherever we go to stay. But this isn’t about the people hosting you and whether their guest room is of hotel standard or not, it’s about what you can do to help yourself feel more settled, relaxed and secure wherever you’re staying away from home.
I’ve always been an unpacker. As a teenager, when I went away to university, I would unpack my suitcases and boxes, make my bed, line up my books, pin up my posters and photos and put away my clothes the moment my parents drove away. While some of my friends would have unopened boxes weeks into the term. The reason I liked to unpack so quickly was partly a control thing, having disorganised belongings felt like an unnecessary stress, but it was mostly about wanting to feel at home. Having my familiar things around me created a sense of home in a tiny bedroom that, when empty, looked like hundreds of others in the halls of residence.
By creating a sense of home I was more able to relax, I felt safer, more secure, and it freed up space in my brain because I wasn't trying to make sense of this unfamiliar environment I was living in.
I've realised that in the 20 plus years since, I've been going through a similar routine any time I stay at a friend's or relative's home, in a rented apartment, a hotel, and even when I moved house. Being in our own home, whatever that looks like, gives us a feeling of safety and reassurance. When we’re staying elsewhere we may feel like we’re lost that comfort blanket, so creating a sense of home, away from home, helps us to feel safe, comfortable, more relaxed and better able to focus on who we’re with and what’s happening in this moment.
So, what you can you do to create this home away from home feeling? Well, it depends on where you're staying and for how long, how much space you have and your mode of transport to get there. I have a few suggestions for you to pick and choose from as suits you.
So, first of all, think about what you can take with you to help you feel at home, that makes sense with where you’re staying. This could include a beloved framed photo, your favourite scented candle or the pillow from your bed. Think about your bedtime and morning routines, it may need to be flexible depending on where you’re staying but are there elements that you can take with you to help you feel at home? Can you bring along your favourite toiletries or decant them into mini travel size bottles? Perhaps packing your slippers and dressing gown will help you feel more comfortable and relaxed. I take my slippers when I’m away for even just one night and I love it when family or friends staying with me bring their slippers, I feel like they’re making themselves at home and that’s how I want them to feel. If you always read before bed make sure you remember to take the book you’re in the middle of. If you’re a yoga devotee perhaps pack your mat just in case there’s space to roll it out in your room for your daily practice.
When I arrive at wherever I’m staying, if it’s practical, so if I’m going to be sleeping in a bedroom rather than on a sofabed or blow up mattress in the sitting room, I’ll take my, or our, bags to the room and quickly unpack a few things. I’ll put the PJs under the pillow and my book by my side of the bed, I’ll lay out our clothes for the next day so they can uncrease and get out the toiletry bag so it’s ready to use if I need to freshen up or whenever I go to bed that night. This only takes a couple of minutes and it makes me feel more settled and able to focus on the people I’m staying with.
You can also think about any particular food or drink you like, or need, and take that along with you. I drink decaf tea and most of my friends and family don’t so I try to remember to carry a packet with me. That way I know I can have the cuppa I like and there’s no pressure on whoever I’m staying with to provide it for me. If you know that going too long without food makes you hangry, pack some of your favourite snacks to nibble if you get peckish. So then if there’s a longer gap between meals you won’t stress about getting tired or snappy because you’re hungry.
Remember this isn't about rejecting what's offered by the host or ignoring the culture of the place you're staying, it's about bringing a familiarity of home with you so that you can create a sense of ease and comfort wherever you are. I’m pretty sure that if you’re staying with family or friends they would much prefer you to be relaxed than tense.
When you’re a guest in someone else’s home, of course you’re going to be fitting in to their routine or way of going about things. It can be quite enlightening to see how other people go about their lives and it can spark ideas for yourself too. Remember that you have a voice and if you’re not comfortable with something you’re allowed to speak up. Struggling on when you feel distressed or overwhelmed for the sake of keeping the peace or not hurting anyone’s feelings means that you’re hurting yourself. Think about how you can address the situation, in as clear, calm and kind a way as possible, which results in a solution that takes into account your needs as well as everyone else’s.
When you’re at home you’ll be doing things that help you feel your best without really registering it. Take a moment to think about what these things are and how you can bring them with you wherever you go. So if meditating for a few minutes every day helps you to feel calmer and more patient, find time to do that when you’re staying away from home. Or if taking a walk to get some fresh air and exercise helps you feel your best work out a way to do it. Perhaps you offer go to the shop or join the dog walk or you say that you simply want to stretch your legs and explore the neighbourhood.
There’s nothing that says that when you’re staying in a different place you have to abandon everything that makes you feel relaxed, safe and at home. So whether you can only carry one bag or you have a whole car to fill, whether you’ll be sleeping on a sofabed in someone’s living room or you have several rooms to yourself, whether you’re away for one night or a month, think about what you need to feel settled, secure and comfortable and how you can bring that with you to wherever you’re staying.
You want to feel relaxed, to enjoy yourself and be fully present rather than tense, stressed and in your head. And your family, your friends, or whomever you’re staying with, will want calm, happy you too.
So have a think about how you can create a sense of home away from home and if you’d like to share your thoughts I’d love to hear them. You can find me on Instagram as @gabrielletreanor or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
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Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.